Pilot Project in Georgia
Sustainable management of pastures in Georgia to demonstrate climate change mitigation and adaptation benefits and dividends for local communities
[The video is also available in Georgian]
The initiative aims to rehabilitate 4,064 ha of degraded pastures, about 300 ha of migratory route and introduce and implement sustainable pasture management practices among farmers and sheep-breeders in the Vashlovani Protected Areas.
This is to be achieved through activities conducted in pastures at different levels of degradation within and surrounding the Vashlovani PAs, which include:
- Rehabilitation of pastures and migratory route(s);
- Introduction of sustainable land management/pasture management practices;
- Improvement of livelihoods of the local population.
General description of background information
The project targets the pastures located in the Vashlovani protected areas (VPAs) (total area 35,053.7 ha) ha and their vicinity. Vashlovani is located in the south-easternmost part of Georgia in the Dedoplistskaro Municipality between the slopes of the Gombori Mountain Range in the north and the Iori plateau in the south. Vashlovani has rich natural, historical and cultural heritage. The Vashlovani Strict Nature Reserve and National Park form a contiguous area, with the Alazani River on its eastern border that is also the state border with Azerbaijan. Two Natural Monuments — Eagle canyon (Artsiviskheoba) and TakhtiTepha are physically separated from the Strict Nature Reserve and the National Park. The Alazani flood plain natural monument is attached to the protected territory. There is a wide variety of vegetation formations and ecological landscapes, which provide habitats for a large number of animal and plant, including rare and endangered species, and the genetic ancestors of many cultivated plants in the VPAs.
The combination of terrain, the natural processes and human interruption within the protected areas have created a variety of attractive landscapes. The VPAs form part of the Iori-Mingechevir (Mingechaur) priority conservation area defined in the Ecoregional Conservation Plan for the Caucasus and harbours many of the conservation area’s species (Panthera pardus tulliana, Ursus arctos, Gazellas ubgutturosas ubgutturosa, Aegypius monachus, Aquila heliaca, Phalacrocorax pygmeus, Pelobates syriacus) and species of special concern (Rhinolophus mehelyi, Myotise marginatus, Lutra lutra, Lynx lynx).The location of the strict nature reserve and national park adjacent to the border with Azerbaijan offers opportunities for transboundary cooperation in support of key species, in particular Panthera pardus tulliana and Gazellas ubgutturosas ubgutturosa. There are 35 species of the Red Book of Georgia distributed on the territory of the protected area. Among rare and threatened species there are found Emys orbicularis, Testudo graeca Aquila chrysaetus fulva, Ciconia nigra, Tadorna feruginea, Neophronperc nopterus, Haliaeetu salbicilla, Falco peregrinus, Aegypius monachus, Tetrax tetrax, Rhinolophus mehelyi, Ursus arctos, Panthera pardus tulliana, Gazellas ubgutturosas ubgutturosa. The ecosystem of semi-desert of the VPAs was and still is used for pastures. Furthermore, these pastures are located at the edge of a main road and near residential areas and therefore the ecological condition of the pastures are not satisfactory. The structure of the ground vegetation is destroyed; the population of many rare plants is reduced. The traditional pastures within the borders of what is now the Vashlovani national park are being degraded by excessive grazing by domestic livestock; the dogs used by the shepherds to protect their livestock cause disturbance of large mammals.
Cutting of trees for wood and the fires which are intentionally create for “improvement” of the pasture productivity increase even more the negative impact on any possible natural regeneration of the area and its plant species. Field research conducted in the past showed that ecological and phyto-sociological, floristic and living conditions of ground vegetation of the Vashlovani National reserve and the National Park in general (in total) are quite disturbed. It could be said that the vegetation structure on these territories is significantly demolished; different levels of degradation are observed. Moreover, soil surface is being eroded, ecological condition of pastures is critical due to the unsystematic grazing of too many sheep. Most recent studies confirmed that unsustainable and poor practices for pastures management resulted in different conditions and varying degrees of degradation of pastures. The territory of VPAs has been used by local people uninterruptedly for centuries for rearing livestock and for taking wild plants, mushrooms and wood. The grassland and semi-desert parts of Vashlovani have been heavily used as pastures. These pastures have by now degraded: the structure of the ground vegetation was destroyed in many areas; the population of many rare plants have declined. Many traditional pastures within the borders of what is now the Vashlovani national park have been subject to excessive grazing by domestic livestock. There is no population permanently residing in the area of VPAs.
The majority of the population residing on those territories is the nomadic sheep breeders from Tusheti that use the territories for winter pastures. According to a social assessment, the Tushetians are strongly attached and dependent on the environment. Sheep breeding is their traditional occupation and it is considered as the most profitable activity. 60% of the Tusheti population is involved in sheep breeding and this represents their main source of income. Users of the resources of Vashlovani protected areas, both historically and at present, are represented by nomadic Tush shepherds and horse breeders, cattle breeders, local community and other citizens of Georgia (scientists, hunters, fishermen, journalists). Based on actual data, the unsustainable use of pastures leads to deterioration of pastures, loss of vegetation and floristic diversity and respectively to land erosion and enhances desertification processes. Hence, pastures have to be gradually released from the current load and used in a sustainable way. Vashlovani protected areas are featured on the Emerald sites network.
The pilot project is funded by the European Union (€1 000 000) and co-funded by UNDP ($26 900), that is also implementing it on the field.