Just over 35,000 hectares of protected land in Vashlovani national park, Georgia, is vulnerable to climate change and under threat of desertification.
The park is also used for winter pastures by Tush shepherds (about 45 farms), who have been grazing their sheep on the land for centuries.
Unsustainable use of pastures within the territory has resulted in speculation that if extensive grazing continues, vegetation degradation will continue, quality of pastures and floristic diversity will decrease, erosion will increase and desertification will spread.
The verdict is that pastures need to be used in a sustainable way, so the Clima East project (funded by the European Union) is working to:
- Rehabilitate pastureland in the protected areas
- Introduce sustainable land management practices to farmers
- Increase the eco-friendly ways that they can make a living
If we introduce a sustainable pasture management plan, it is very likely that we will ask the shepherds to reduce the number of sheep that they graze in a particular area. But they’ve been grazing their sheep the same way for centuries, and I can just imagine they will look at us like we’re crazy!
We’ll be working closely with them, providing training and support to local farmers and sheep breeders on sustainable land use and grazing practices – so the request won’t come out of nowhere, but it still may be a hard sell.
The hope is that the farmers will manage the land in a way that is sustainable, helping to reduce the risk of anthropogenic degradation, and desertification.
We also want to convince some of them to gradually move to alternative pastures outside of the protected areas (uncertain land claim issues only serve to add complexity to an already complex issue).
We’re not only thinking about protecting the land, but also the farmers and those who live off the land.
Climate change is an abstract concept to most people – at least until you see it in your own life, in the present, with your own eyes. The problem is when that happens, it’s probably too late. So we want to get the shepherds and farmers on board before the beautiful National Park turns into a desert.
We already know that this is going to be difficult, and I think it can only happen if we can clearly show the benefits to the farmers and their families.
That’s why we were intrigued when we heard that UNDP wanted to explore behavioural science for development. We saw that applying principles of behavioural science encouraged people to be more energy efficient.
So before we start engaging the shepherds and farmers, we’re hoping to go in prepared with some approaches that will get them on board from the very beginning.
Can you help?
We’re looking for partners and advice, so please get in touch with us if you have experience working on behavioural change and sustainable land management in rural areas.
Or just let us know what you think! It’s bound to be a hot topic and we’re open to suggestions and opinions.