An approach ın Combating Land Degradatıon





Ozevren Erdogan ¹,

¹Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs/General Directorate of Combating Desertification and Erosion, Ankara, Turkey.

² Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs/General Directorate of Combating Desertification and Erosion, Ankara, Turkey.


Reducing desertification, where it occurs in developing countries is extremely important but may be difficult to achieve.  Often, reduction involves a commitment and education of numerous farmers and herd owners where land parcels are small and government manpower, with sufficient resources are limited.  When these factors occur, failure is prevalent where planning of a proper approach that meets given human and funding resources are jeopardized. Therefore, focused care must be provided to carry out an approach that helps insure given degraded land rehabilitation projects can be achieved.  The Integrated Participatory Watershed Rehabilitation Approach in Combating Land Degradation (IPWRACLD) represents this type effort.  It has similar strategies with UNCCD Ten Year Strategies which are to: a) create global benefits, b) improve affected ecosystem, c) improve the livelihood of affected populations and d) mobilize resources.  Strategies of IPWRACLD are: a) degraded land rehabilitation, b) livelihood improvement, c) human resources improvement, d) participation and sustainability at the all levels of participation and e) integration of all strategies.  Implementation of this approach and strategies should facilitate success for rehabilitating land and water resources because a bottom to top approach for planning, funding, project development, and monitoring has been embraced by local land owners, communities and all levels and agencies of government.

Keywords: land degradation, watershed rehabilitation, integrated participation


Desertification/Land degradation is a global issue, with serious implications worldwide for biodiversity, eco-safety, poverty eradication, socio-economic stability and sustainable development. Watershed and Land degradation problems increase with population and time. Management of land and water resources are complex and associated degradation issues appear endless. No single plan or program can cover all issues encountered because every land type is subjected to different natural, social and economic conditions.

Arid lands are fragile. As they become degraded, the impact on people, livestock and environment can be devastating. Some 50 million people may be displaced within the next 10 years as a result of desertification Reference even though this impact is not new this time in history.  Desertification has played a significant role in human history, contributing to the collapse of several large empires and the displacement of local populations around the globe.  However, the pace of arable land degradation is estimated at 30 to 35 times the historical rate reference.  Other points are:

•          2.6 billion people depend directly on agriculture, but 52% of the land used for agriculture is moderately or severely affected by soil degradation.

•          Land degradation affects 1,5 billion people globally.

•          Due to drought and desertification each year 12 million hectares are lost (23 hectares/minute!), where 20 million tons of grain could have been grown.

•          74% of the poor (42% of the very and 32% of the moderately poor) are directly affected by land degradation globally.

Successful programs and projects in land rehabilitation are scare because land rehabilitation is a complex and difficult task. Furthermore, the means to judge success are not consistent from one program to a next or from one generation project to one that succeeds it. For example, there are three generation watershed rehabilitation projects in Turkey. The first in the 1940’s and then 1980’s gave priority to protection of downstream assets and erosion control infrastructure using engineering solutions.  The Second generation watershed rehabilitation programs in Turkey as well as in other developing countries focused on natural resource management and poverty reduction in uplands, using farming systems and a participatory approach between grazing and land resources. Now, Turkey’s third generation rehabilitation projects are not just focused on natural resources management, poverty reduction and environmental pollution issues but have also initiated a global benefits approach similar to the UNCCD 10 year strategies.


Land degradation is driven by the many institutional, socio economic and natural factors. Like in most arid land countries, soil erosion and drought in particular are major issues in Turkey.  These are mostly caused by:

Natural Causes:

  • Drought climate conditions
  • High erodibility of soils and geographical features
  • Steep topography
  • Low land cover rate
  • Deforestation,

Social Causes:

  • Rural poverty
  • Uncertain land tenure
  • Limited employment opportunities
  • Poor social infrastructures

Economic Causes:

  • Low agriculture productivity
  • Inadequate silvicultural practices and management planning
  • Inconsistent marketing systems and poor market information for agricultural products
  • Insufficient support for the potential economic activities such as agriculture and eco-tourism,

Policy and Institutional Causes:

  • Inappropriate government policies
  • Lack of the required policies
  • Lack of coordination in and between agencies
  • Insufficient technical capacity and trained staff
  • Inadequate  attention  against using a participatory approach



Integrated participatory approaches to watershed management planning have been widely used with varying degree of success for reconciling the overlay of human activity on naturally defined watersheds. In Turkey, integrated participatory approaches were employed to establish micro-watershed management plans. The participatory processes succeeded where there were common purposes that were of interest to all or most of the population and stake holders. These processes promoted flexibility and promoted capacity building and genuine empowerment of income and livelihood incentives. Where communities could see economic benefits and were empowered in the planning process, they were willing to invest in long-term conservation.

The Turkey participatory process  shifts decision  power between the state and local communities, and also between different segments of the local community. Integrated participatory processes must be designed for the specific development and distributional outcomes intended. Participatory approaches impose a demanding set of requirements, political commitment and equitable rules, time for the process to mature, careful sequencing, inclusion of all stakeholders in the process, public agencies that understand the rationale and process of participation, and sustained capacity building at all levels for both stakeholders and public agencies.


The overall of this approach in Turkey is “To prevent further progression of the vicious spiral of watershed degradation and poverty of its people and to crate global benefits for future generations”.

In order to accomplish the overall goals, the following policies can be established.

  • Natural resources rehabilitation, management and utilization,
  • Livelihood improvement,
  • Human resources development


The planning process plays a crucial role in this approach. The plan for the watershed rehabilitation should consider the needs and decision process of private farmers, herd owners, local communities and all the stake holders. All stake holders will be affected by rehabilitation activities. Therefore, planning from the bottom up is necessary. All the stake holders’ problems, constrains and needs can be well reflected in a realistic plan using by integrated participatory approaches. Many land/watershed rehabilitation projects have failed because local communities were not included in the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation processes.

The following are some strategies that can be used in developing countries to bring local people or grass-root options into the overall watershed and land rehabilitation.

  • Include representative of existing local and national organizations and interest groups (such as farmers’ union, forestry and agriculture agencies, women’s organizations, cooperatives etc) in the each step of the activities
  • Identified focal groups such as villagers negative affected from watershed activities, farmers
  • Help local people organize soil conservation, watershed district to assist in planning as well as in the implementing the planned work
  • Mange surveys socio-economic conditions of people who live in the watershed,
  • Study local system and develop models for the local people
  • Establish team such as afforestation, range, irrigation, beekeeping, farmers etc. to reflect from time to time the implementation of the watershed plan

The characteristics of the respective areas of the catchment vary significantly in terms of the bio-physical and social features.  Therefore, specific programs and projects for these different watershed catchment should be identified during the planning period and include all different sets of stakeholders so a single plan for all areas does not exist. Specific plans must be developed to reflect the actual situations and need of the all different watershed catchment areas.


Summary of Proposed Programs and Projects for Coruh River Watershed Rehabilitation Project in Turkey
A.    Natural Resources Rehabilitation and Management
A-1  Multipurpose   (functional) forest management planning project
A-2  National parks and   protected areas management project
A-3  Nursery expansion and   improvement project
A-4  Soil conservation   projectA-5  Afforestation project
A-6  Rehabilitation of   degraded high forest project
A-7  Rehabilitation of   degraded coppice forest project
A-8  Energy forest   plantation project
A-9  Rangeland   rehabilitation project
A-10  Riverside Plantation   project
B.    Livelihood Improvement
B-1  Development of   livestock productivity program
  1.1 Breed improvement   project
  1.2 Transformed grazing   system project
  1.3 Mechanized hay   cutting project
B-2 Development of agricultural productivity program
  2.1 Irrigation   improvement project
  2.2 Greenhouse promotion   project2.3 Marketing   improvement project
  2.4 Fodder production   improvement project2.5 Fruits orchard   rehabilitation project
B-3  Development of diversifying income generating   program3.1 Apiculture promotion   project
B.4  Strengthening of support   system program4.1 Small scale mechanization   development-assistance project
C.    Human Resources Development
C-1  Training program
C-2  Awareness creation program
C-3  Research program
C-4  Demonstration program
C-5  Technical assistance program



Historically, land-watershed rehabilitation programs in developing countries have generally been focused on livelihood or natural resources degradation rehabilitation issues without participation of the local communities and the related stake holders. These specific stake holders are subjected to the results of a planning process and are usually the poor within a country’s population. To motivate these poor to act they must be encouraged to participate in all designated land and water conservation programs or projects. Governments must or can encourage them by providing special efforts of support by providing technical, social and financial assistance.


Turkey finds this presented approach key for solving natural resource degradation,  rural poverty and also supporting UNCCD ten year objectives at the field level.

Letters for Future