Rangeland Benchmark Locations in MENA Region
Rangelands hold significant socio-economic and cultural value across vast dryland areas – providing multiple roles as sources of subsistence, food security, and income. Unfortunately, these regions also suffer from low productivity and increasing rates of degradation and desertification – threatening millions who depend on rangelands for their livelihoods.
Low and erratic rainfall – made worse by the impacts of climate change.
Extreme water scarcity – leading to low agricultural productivity.
High rates of soil erosion, environmental degradation, and desertification.
Water harvesting: the construction and maintenance of water harvesting structures – such as check dams, terraces and contour lines – are preventing surface run-off and the erosion of healthy topsoil.
Conservation agriculture: the practice of not plowing and leaving crop residue in fields for soil fertility, water conservation, and minimizing the loss of topsoil.
Drought-tolerant plans: introducing fodder and crops that can tolerate prolonged drought and water scarcity, including fodder species, barley, and wheat.
Modeling and monitoring: integrating climate models and scenarios to better understand how changing climatic conditions are affecting the hydrology of rangeland areas; and field-testing and monitoring effects on water availability and use.
Value-added production: promoting new knowledge on the processing and marketing of livestock products – to raise farmer incomes and enhance livelihoods.
Selected research activities and results:
At one site in Palestine – Thaherya - 67 hectares of rock terraces, check dams, and contour lines have been constructed, helping to significantly reduce soil erosion and collect an additional 81 m3 of water, benefiting wheat and olive production.
The Vallerani system, including laser guided contouring, direct seeding and a planting machine, was developed at one benchmark site in Jordan. The machine has proven effective in harvesting water in the Badia and haeen adopted by the Government of Jordan for large scale dissemination as part of its ‘Great Badia Restoration Program.’
Some 33 check dams have been constructed at the Majdyya research site in Jordan’s badia region – helping to reduce run-off and erosion, and increase the amount of soil moisture.
Some 10 hectares of contour ridges have been planted with the drought-tolerant fodder plant, atriplex
Assessing future scenarios for climate change in Tunisia has been taken forward: identifying available downscaled GCC models applicable to rangelands and crop production systems; developing scenarios for altered atmospheric carbon, temperature and rainfall patterns over a range of temporal areas; modeling production systems to identify the effects of altered conditions; and generating outputs to feed into an economic assessment.
The use of Normalized Deviation Vegetation Index maps allows a comparison of vegetation growth in different areas to better understand drought intensity and therefore target interventions more effectively.
In research sites, the placement of water harvesting structures is being aided by remote sensing – which provides invaluable information about slope lengths, slope angles, and watershed areas. Rainfall patterns, run-off, and soil profiles are also closely monitored – to ensure effective maintenance and repair following heavy storms and flash floods.