Understanding desertification in Turkey

By Duygu Kutluay

Introduction of cash crops and animal species is a strong tool to improve economic conditions in any locality.

However, income generation for local people via agricultural activities in marginal lands is critical under fragile environmental conditions due to the excess input requirement and the costs associated with establishing new crops.

In a sloping land, agricultural practices can easily induce erosion, which will decrease soil quality, irrigation in arid lands may cause secondary salinity build-up and overgrazing in pasture land may accelerate loss of biodiversity.

Farmers on the marginal lands of Turkey have to take into consideration the fragile environment (© TEMA)

Karapınar, located in the Konya Closed Basin in Central Anatolia, is a site covering all those conditions at the same time.

That’s why it has been a lab for studies on the conservation of marginal lands and sustainable local development since 1960s.

The introduction of crops and animals species can give an economic boost to Turkey (© TEMA)

The process has been guarded for years by the erosion monitoring station built in Karapınar that is still in operation. Hence various data are available, creating a sound base for further implementation and research.

CROP-MAL, Creation of Rational Opportunities for Conservation of Marginal Arid Lands, funded by Japanese MITSUI, has been implemented in Karapınar since 2009 as a follow-up project to DESIRE Project completed in 2008 which documented all relevant data on natural resources, social structure and the potential production capacity of the site.

Within the scope of CROP-MAL the project area has been expanded to cover the whole microbasin. This includes various land types typical to the site.

The context of the project has also been upgraded to cover capacity building and land management action planning like the production of a land management model.

The project aims to conserve the water and soil resources of the site, to introduce the tools for the sustainable use of those resources and, to combat and mitigate desertification with a multi-disciplinary approach in an area covering approximately 4100 km2 in Central Anatolia (Karapinar Microbasin covering Karapinar and the arid and semiarid zones of Eregli and Karaman).

The CROP-MAL project sets out demonstration areas for combating desertification (© TEMA)

TEMA is cooperating with Cukurova University, Department of Soil in this project to transfer the know-how generated in universities to the field and vice versa.

The project is basically structured on four main components:

Demonstration fields for the introduction of good agricultural practices enabling direct contact with the locals.

Farmer training and education to raise awareness.

The development of traditional crafts and local products for economic diversification to decrease the human pressure on soil.

Data collection, monitoring and analysis of water, soil, vegetation and climate sequestration and the production of a sustainable land management model.

As stated above, the project adopts an integrated perspective to the problem of desertification and land degradation in arid lands with a scientific sensitivity while taking into account the current political and social conditions.

The project also aims to increase community engagement and education (© TEMA)

Throughout the project, various scientific outputs have been produced such as desertification sensitivity maps, crop pattern maps, anthrospace tables indicating the dependency of the crops and the zones and analyses of change in water resources.

All of this has formed the basis for the sustainable land use model specifically designed for the CROP-MAL site.

The next step is aimed at producing a ‘community’ layer to complete the social and political dimension of the picture since experience has shown us what is critical to success is the level of involvement of locals and the commitment of local agents. Without this, change is not possible.

The final outcome of the project is expected by July 2012 with the development of the sustainable land management plan of Karapinar. The plan will help the decision makers to adopt the most effective strategy to achieve sustainable development in the site as a guiding reference.

Duygu Kutluay is the International Relations Officer at the TEMA Foundation.

More from Desertification Week:

  • How community engagement has helped drive anti-desertification projects in Iran.
  • All your questions answered about Desertification.
  • UNFCC Chief Luc Gnacadja calls for action on desertification at Rio+20.

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