I.R. of Iran: Gareh Bygone Plain


© Thomas Schaaf
Gareh Bygone Plain, Iran

The study area, 1,070 ha of a degraded rangeland, is located near the Ahmad Abad village in the SW of Gareh Bygone Plain (GBP), at  1,150 m above sea level and 210 km South East from the city of Shiraz. The GBP is an extremely dry place with a mean annual precipitation of 243.3 mm. A few brackish seepage springs of little consequence provide the surface water used by the wildlife and some livestock.

As of September 2003, there are four villages in the GBP with a total population of 2,127. Mixed farming (raising wheat, barley, cotton, sugar beets, alfalfa, tomatoes, cantaloupe, melon and watermelon, and herding sheep and goats), plus a minor amount of citrus fruits, make the bulk up the population’s income. About 49.3% of the households comprise mixed farmers, 50.6% are herders, and 80% are service worker.

More than 58% of the irrigation water is supplied through underground resources. Therefore, the artificial recharge of groundwater (ARG) systems, has been strongly advocated in planning and implementing the floodwater spreading (FWS) schemes.

The Iranian project SUMAMAD project was initiated to study the role of aquifer management on the different aspects of desertification control through floodwater harvesting. Aquitopia (an aquifer management-based utopia) was a project proposed in phase I of the SUMAMAD project and consists of scientific studies, policy-relevant analyses, and activities for fostering sustainable livelihoods.

Project objectives

© Thomas Schaaf
Orange growing in the Gareh Bygone Plain, Iran

The main proposed activities in phase II of the SUMAMAD project include: to empower cooperative members to complete the Aquitopia project, to manage the project sustainably, and to benefit from its income-generating activities.

The main objectives of phase II include:

  • Building capacity among members of the four local cooperatives working in soil and water conservation;
  • Continuing research activities initiated in the phase I;
  • Implementing the newly proposed research activities;
  • Sharing the experiences of water harvesting and soil and water conservation for the sustainable development of drylands with other countries involved in the SUMAMAD project;
  • Encouraging the Iranian government authorities to fund the Aquitopia Project.


The effect of floodwater irrigation on the performance of jojoba

© Sayyed Morteza Mortazavi
Assessment of jojoba growth

As jojoba is a low water demanding species, it is assumed to have the potential to generate future income for the plain dwellers and inhabitants. A study was conducted to investigate the adaptation and performance of jojoba species under rainfed and floodwater irrigated conditions.

The growth assessments (seedling height, number of stems, crown diameter, and so on) were carried out in late summer 2009 and 2010. Plants in the control plot were at suitable conditions and growing well, producing new stems and leaves, while those planted in the low area and receiving a meagre amount of water on two or three occasions, did not perform well and most of them died. This result was unusual and may be due to some irregularities in the irrigation operations because of the severe droughts of the last two years, as well as the scarcity of accessible water in the region.
Soil samples have been taken and are due to be analysed. Some 50 lost seedlings were replaced in February 2010; the other seedlings lost in the severe drought of 2010 were replaced in February 2011.

In 2009, 162 ha of the floodwater spreading system was installed. This operation comprised of 38,117.76 m3 of earthworks and 2,631.2 m3 of masonry and hydraulic structures. In 2010, 120 ha of floodwater spreading systems was constructed. Surveying for this activity was performed by Fars Research Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Alternative income-generating activities

Agriculture is the largest user of global water supplies in many parts of Iran; it is a sector where employment does not necessarily ensure an adequate quality of life or working conditions. The project is assessing carrying out an economic evaluation of alternative income-generating activities for small farmers, especially in drought conditions, in order to prevent migration and the negative impacts on natural resources, as well as to increase the employment rate and welfare in rural areas.

Surveys were conducted using qualitative methods (PRA method, focus group method, and in-depth interviews with key informants), and quantitative methods (household survey through questionnaire administration).

The preliminary results show that the average population growth rate in the villages of the study area over the decade 1986–1996 was low (0.28 %), while the rate in the subsequent decade 1996–2006 was negative (-0.25 %).

Compared with the average population growth rate of rural areas in Iran—Fars province and Fasa city—the results indicated that out-migration from the study area towards urban environments or other districts was taking place.

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