FAO prepared to assist Iran countering $1 billion economic loss from land degradation

May 20, 2015 - 0:0

With the degradation of land and forest landscapes in Iran becoming increasingly a major issue due to the challenges of climate change and water scarcity, FAO has affirmed its preparedness to expand the assistance to the Ministry of Jihad-e-Agriculture in addressing this issue in a sustainable manner through an integrated national program involving local communities.

During his three-day visit (16-18 May 2015) to Kerman Province to oversee a project on the ‘Rehabilitation of Forest Landscapes and Degraded Land - RFLDL’ being jointly implemented in Rigan by FAO with the Forest, Range and Watershed Management Organization (FRWO) and with funding assistance from the Global Environment Fund (GEF), Serge Nakouzi, FAO Representative to Iran, was pleased to note the significant results being achieved through the project in rehabilitating saline soils and vast areas prone to wind erosion.
Nakouzi stated that this project exemplified how an effective partnership could yield the desired impact not only in safeguarding the invaluable natural resources of the country, but could also greatly enhance the livelihoods of local communities.
“Complementing the knowledge and capabilities already existing within FRWO and its Desert Affairs Bureau, FAO’s technical expertise has been catalytic in addressing major environmental and economic challenges faced by the local rural community in Rigan,” said the FAO Representative.
He added, “..this is exactly the ideal partnership required here in Iran, whereby global technical expertise supports national institutions to fill the existing gaps in capacity, that will enable us to successfully achieve the desired sustainable resolution of such issues and challenges in the long term.”
In a meeting with the Governor-General of Kerman Province, Ali Reza Razm Hosseini, Nakouzi discussed the extent of the challenge faced within the province in terms of land degradation, forestry rehabilitation, combating desertification, improving the livelihoods of rural communities and addressing water scarcity.
With regard to the latter issue, the FAO Representative informed the governor-general of the Regional Water Scarcity Initiative launched by FAO for the Near East and North Africa region and of the request that had been tabled by the government for FAO to develop a national program on water resources management, in recognition of the fact that some 92% of the water resources in the country are utilized for agriculture.
Acknowledging that FAO retained global expertise in the various disciplines and areas of the challenges facing the Province, Razm Hosseini requested FAO to lend its technical support to the province in its development of a comprehensive integrated program that also envisages greater engagement by the private sector.
The goal of the joint US$ 11 million RFLDL project is to restore the biodiversity and capacity of degraded forest landscapes and lands that would allow the local authorities and rural communities to deliver expected goods and services for sustainable livelihoods, food security and combating desertification.
Soil erosion including wind and water erosion is considered as one of the most important elements of land degradation in Iran. Of the total land area in the country, approximately 75 million hectares (ha) are exposed to water erosion, 20 million ha to wind erosion, and the remaining five million to other types of chemical and physical degradation. As a result, over two million hectares in the country have been rendered infertile and equally large proportions of land surface have been afflicted by high levels of salinity.
Soil salinity is also a major limiting factor in agricultural development within Iran. Soil salinization is more severe particularly in arid and semi-arid areas where an estimated 34 million hectares are affected by high levels of salt and of these 4.1 million ha of land are irrigated. About 50 percent of the irrigated area depends directly or indirectly on groundwater, including spring water.
The current annual rate of land loss due to waterlogging and salinity is about 0.5 million hectares per year. Increasing water shortages has led to digging of deeper wells resulting in water with higher levels of salinity. The annual economic losses due to salinization and land degradation have been estimated more than USD 1 billion.
FAO as the leading technical organization in the world on forestry and sustainable land management matters is prepared to be engaged in the Islamic Republic of Iran to assist with the resolution of these challenges.

(Source:   FAO-IR@fao.org)