Integrated Erosion Control

Integrated Erosion Control

Community Ownership as a Key for Success

Soil is one of the most important components of the ecosystems on earth. It plays a major role in determining the distribution of natural vegetation, crops, and even human settlements. Healthy and fertile soil contributes to nearly all aspects of human life - from food production to climate regulation. 

In Armenia, soil erosion might not seem a top priority issue, especially in rural areas where the residents have to cope with socio-economic challenges on a daily basis. However, the maintenance of good soil quality can play a large role in food security and the livelihoods of people as well as the proper functioning of ecosystem services.

Text : IBiS    Photo : GIZ

 

 

In the framework of the IBiS programme, the Integrated Erosion Control (IEC) component, co-financed by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), addressed these challenges on different levels. Showcasing integrated erosion control measures in high-risk mountain areas, influencing national policies and regulations for sustainable land use help the country to meet its obligations under the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD).

Ten communities were selected in Aragatsotn and Shirak regions for the implementation of local erosion control measures, such as afforestation and bioengineering. Among the important criteria for the selection of the sites were not only the technical dimensions related to the degree of degradation and soil characteristics but also the interest of the communities and their willingness to contribute. The sense of ownership and active engagement of local self-government bodies as well as community members turned out to be key factors of success in preventing land degradation. Thereby, it is very important to identify the “change agents” in the community who are able to take up good initiatives, set good examples, mobilize and influence their peers, and inspire positive change.

The territorial reform and the subsequent enlargement of the communities presented another challenge for the whole work. Some pilot communities became settlements within consolidated communities, and the former local self-government bodies were no longer in charge. However, the territorial reform also brought new opportunities. For example, in Aparan, the project started working with the municipality and could thus bring the ideas and proposals on sustainable land management to a larger number of settlements, resulting in wider impact.

With regards to afforestation, representatives of regional administration, local self-government bodies, national and international experts, and community members jointly assessed and selected potential sites for afforestation, following an agreed set of criteria. Of course, tree planting is a long-term process. In order to generate some short-term benefits for the community members, some fruit trees and berries were included in the planting schemes. In the framework of the project, approx. 650.000 tree seedlings were planted in small units on a total area of 200 ha. About 37 km of fence were built to protect the plantations. The work was implemented by around 420 local residents, including men and women, as well as youth. This is one of the first examples of community afforestation in Armenia. Considering the Government’s ambition to increase Armenia’s forest cover, such experiences provide important lessons learned. As far as the bio-engineering measures are concerned, the main objective was to support the rehabilitation of vegetation cover on degraded areas. Electric fencing was applied to prevent the grazing animals from entering the bioengineering sites.

Bioengineering measures proved to provide positive effects on vegetation cover already after one year.

Raising awareness and capacities on sustainable land management practices at different levels is considered a key success factor. Within the scope of IBiS, the Handbook on Integrated Erosion Control was developed, tailored specifically to the case of Armenia (available at https://biodivers-southcaucasus.org/uploads/files/5b6d79708896a.pdf). It provides concrete information on the activities and results achieved on the ground and gives step by step instructions on integrated erosion control for training institutions, farmers and local self-government bodies. Besides practical tips and tricks, the book also provides in-depth information on the different forms of erosion, the soil conditions in Armenia, and important aspects to consider for extending the practical measures to other parts of the country. Some of the methods and approaches are already replicated in other parts of Armenia.

Finally, a regional conference on Integrated Erosion Control was organized in Kazbegi, Georgia on October 2018. The conference was initiated by the IBiS programme in partnership with the UNCCD and the Regional Environmental Center for the Caucasus (REC Caucasus). The conference, with about 80 participants, was mainly aimed at the representatives of state and civil society institutions of the three countries of the South Caucasus – Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Contributions by selected international participants also allowed for input beyond the regional scope of the South Caucasus – such as the mountainous regions of Central Asia and the Himalayas. The aim of the conference was the regional exchange of knowledge and experience on sustainable land management and the development of strategies for expanding the implemented pilot measures even further. Land degradation was identified as an important challenge in the South Caucasus. The conference provided an opportunity to clearly connect practical measures and actions on the ground with the global agenda, such as the respective UN Conventions and the Sustainable Development Goals.

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