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Sustainable development of salt-affected rural areas through farmers friendly, integrated Haloculture system

Sustainable development of rural communities in salt-affected, arid regions by responsible utilization of the saline resources and capacity

Photo of Farhad Khorsandi
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Islamic Azad University, Darab Branch

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Other

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

None

Website of Legally Registered Entity

http://www.iaudarab.ac.ir/

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • Under 1 year

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

The city of Darab, Fars Province

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Iran

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Sangan Village (<1 km^2), Dashtiari District (5800 km^2), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sistan_and_Baluchestan_Province

What country is your selected Place located in?

Iran

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

I visited Chabahar County for the first time 3 years ago, as a consultant for expansion of Haloculture, a strategy for sustainable, economic utilization of saline resources. I was fascinated by the natural beauties and sceneries of the area, but I was struck by the widespread drought and salinity, and poverty, particularly in Dashtiari District. These communities are in urgent need for unconventional and modern plans for sustainable development, yet simple enough for the farmers to adapt and feel familiar with. Since my first visit, I was visualizing constantly a comprehensive development program based on the local available natural resources and social capital, in which farmers could take action with the least help from government agencies. Due to devastating effects of climate change, new adaptation strategies and capacity building programs is urgently needed to bring back the hope and prosperity in the region.

Although most of the villages in Dashtiari District are connected to water network, but the water is too salty for human consumption. So, the drinking water is distributed by water trucks (15 liters/person/day). About 1 year ago, a NGO started a humanitarian campaign named Tahora Humanitarian Water Supply Movement. They started a water desalination station in Sangan Village, through the donations they have collected. They receive saline well water from government authorities, and after desalination, distribute it by water trucks to 46 villages around Sangan. The full capacity of the desalination station is about 500,000 liters/day (500 m^3/day) of drinking water. But, the same volume of highly saline discharges is produced per day as well. Proper disposal of this brines has become an environmental concern, since they are discharged in barren lands around the village. Haloculture can turn this volume of unwanted saline water to a valuable asset for sustainable development of Sangan.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Sangan is one of the 166 villages of Dashtiari District. People of Dashtiari are Baluchi. Their traditional language is Baluchi, but they also speak and write in Farsi (Persian). According to many archeological findings, the history of Baluchistan dates back to 7000 years ago (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Balochistan). Thus, various traditional handicrafts, colorful clothing and assorted foods are seen in Baluchi communities. Handicrafts include carpet weaving, needle works, matt weaving, pottery and ship building. The foods of Baluchis, resemble Pakistani foods (spicy and somewhat hot). It includes various types of wheat breads, assorted meats, dairy products, rice, pulses, vegetables and spices. The long history and variations in Baluchi handicrafts and foods indicates that they are artistic, skillful and creative communities.

Sangan area is mainly a flat desert covered with various types of desert plants. The climate is hot and arid. Rainfall is low (110-120 mm/year), but the potential evaporation is very high (4000-4500 mm/year). Thus, salinity of soil and water is widespread. Traditionally, Agriculture and animal husbandry were the main sources of income in Sangan village. However, due to frequent droughts during the last two decades, which are the unfortunate consequences of climate change, water shortage has become so severe that farming has been abandoned in many villages. But, date palm trees and orchards are still a source of income and food for the people. Traditional animal husbandry (camel, cow, sheep and goat) is also a crucial source of income and food. However, unfortunately, due to sharp decline in agricultural activities, many people have turned to unconventional jobs for income (i.e. smuggling of gasoline, food stuff, etc. to and from Pakistan). The severe water shortage in the region, has had a detrimental effect on the drinking water supply of the local communities as well.

 Numerous interviews with local people reveals that their main concerns and demands are availability of drinking water and creation of jobs. An indigenous technology for drinking water collection and storage in the area is Hootak (Water Pit). It is a relatively large man-made or natural pit (sometimes as deep as 20 m), for flood control and collection and storage of rain and flood waters during the year. The water is used for consumption by human, livestock and wildlife. With severe shortage of drinking water people are relying on these Hootaks more and more, which are not enough in most cases. The global warming has had disturbing, direct and indirect effects on the economic, social and health conditions of the people in Dashtiari district. Thus, new adaptation strategies and capacity building plans are urgently needed to bring back the hope and prosperity in the region.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

1

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

70000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

2020 challenges

During the last two decades, frequent droughts and increasing temperatures, which are consequences of climate change, clearly has affected the local environment by accelerating the desertification process. The global warming has also negatively impacted the already scarce water resources of the area, by reduced annual rainfall. Providing the necessary drinking water for the population is a huge challenge at the moment. These negative consequences of climate change, has caused many villages in the area to abandon farming. This is a serious blow to the main source of income for the villagers. Thus, they relied more on some date palm orchards, which are facing yield decline due to water shortage, and livestock production, particularly camel and goat. Therefore, overgrazing of pastures decreased their yield potentials, and most of the nearby pastures are in poor condition. This all together, has caused a significant decline in economic condition of the local communities, their livelihood and job opportunities. In other words, the negative consequences of climate change, and the negligence of the authorities to understand these consequences and offer appropriate adaptation programs and policies, has led to widespread poverty and under-development in local communities, including Sangan village. The decrease in family income has negatively affected the quality of the diets and health of the people. In addition, increased poverty, gradually has led to increasing social disorders.

2050 challenges

Comprehensive capacity building programs, adaptation strategies and policies for economic development and creating new job opportunities are urgently needed for this area. If such actions are not taken by authorities, concerned private sectors, scientists and/or NGOs, the consequences will be severe in terms of environment and socio-economic conditions. Due to increasing harsh climate, lack of drinking water, lost job opportunities and growth of poverty, migration of local people to other areas will be the biggest challenge for the year 2050. The increasing trend in migration of people from villages to nearby cities for work and income, is already observable during the last 15 years by increasing number of uninhibited villages. However, I believe that this is a sign that mass migration of people from this region to other provinces and areas with better climate and more water supplies will happen, in the hope of better living conditions and job opportunities. The rich people and educated, skillful communities will migrate first, which will further contribute to poverty of the region. Mass migration of local communities from Sistan and Baluchistan Province, will have national security consequences as well. As the area is much less populated, the threat of increasing drug trafficking from neighboring countries will also be a concern, not only at national level, but also at international level as well.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Haloculture is proposed as the main component of my vision for sustainable development of Sangan village. It offers a multidisciplinary approach for adaptation to climate change, providing job opportunities and new sources of income in the light of new climatic conditions, produce basic needs of the community (food, water, energy), and environmental protection. Haloculture is a vision for exploiting the ecosystem potentials sensibly and economically to provide better livelihood and economic conditions in salt-affected, drought prone environments, such as Sangan village. Salt tolerant, desert plants can be used as new crops for revival of agricultural activities in the area, with great potentials for producing various agricultural commodities such as forage, edible oils, fruits, etc. At the same time, their cultivation greatly helps in restoration of degraded lands and environment. Therefore, my vision will address the current and future challenges of Sangan village and Dashtiari district in the following ways.

  • Revival of agricultural activities: crop production, animal husbandry, and aquaculture.
  • Restoration of degraded lands and pastures: with revival of agricultural activities, environmental conservation and combating desertification will have positive social and economic consequences for the local communities. Therefore, they will be participating in such activities willingly and with more passion.
  • New sources of income and job opportunities: various agricultural activities offered by Haloculture, will have a positive impact on the economic conditions of Sangan village. Obviously, with reliable and sustainable incomes, people can provide better livelihoods, better healthcare, food and diet, and education for their families.
  • With innovative technologies (Haloengineering), drinking water and energy requirement of the local communities can be provided. Recycling of graywater, rainwater harvesting, zero waste and better architectural designs of the houses, will greatly help in achieving these goals.
  • Restoration of degraded lands will have a positive effect on microclimate condition of the area.
  • With providing the basic needs of the society, that are water, energy and income to buy and provide healthcare, food and education, the threat of mass migration from these areas to other parts of the Province and the nation, will be greatly reduced.

The first, and the most important step in achieving this vision, in “capacity building” of the Sangan community. Long periods of drought, economic hardships and widespread poverty, definitely had negative effects on the psychological state of the people living in these areas. Thus, a cultural and capacity building program needs to be conducted first to rebuild and redeem the self-confidence, self-esteem and hope of the local communities. The main outcome of this program will be active participation of the community, both as individual and households, in Haloculture program.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

  • Sangan village will have a 10 ha, multi-purpose park named Paradise.
  • With new visions and positive attitudes, people will renovate their village by repairing or removing all the signs of poverty (broken walls and doors, half painted places, garbage dumping, etc.), and will plant a large number of beautiful, flower bearing desert trees in the streets and alleys in a well-ordered style.
  • Every household will participate in innovative projects for collection of rainwater and air moisture, and water and waste recycling. They will also participate in home based agricultural activities for extra income and fresh food supplies. Several programs will be introduced, such as small-scale aquaponics, greenhouse saffron production, and honey bee production.
  • Expansion of Moringa orchards around Sangan village as new cash crop. Seedlings will be provided by the nursery of Paradise Park. Moringa trees produce high quality, edible oil, which even have international market (10-50 $/kg). It is indigenous to the area, is heat and drought resistant, and well adapted to saline conditions. Expansion of Moringa orchards, will start and expand the oil extraction industry in the area. Moringa meal (the byproduct after oil extraction of the seeds), is a high quality animal feed, and will be another excellent source of income.
  • Restoration of natural pastures and expansion of new forage farms by using halophyte plants that produce good quality forages. Seedlings will also be provided by Paradise Park. These new, native forage crops produce high yields when irrigated with saline waters. With abundant forage and Moringa meals, livestock production will boom considerably, bringing stable source of income and food for the local communities.
  • With all these changes, Sangan village will be a new tourism attraction for Eco-tourists and scientists.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

A well-planned Haloculture program can greatly help in enhancing the social, economic and environmental conditions of Sangan village. Considering the social capitals, genetic biodiversity and natural resources of Sangan area, Haloculture is a visionary strategy for sustainable development of Sangan village. Haloculture is based on the environmental, economic and social needs of the poor-resource, rural communities in salt-affected areas. It is proposed as a holistic approach for (i) sustainable management and utilization of saline soil and water resources, (ii) combating desertification, erosion and dust storms, and (iii) increased agricultural production, and thus, new job opportunities and socio-economic improvements in the less developed regions. Haloculture is defined as the sustainable production of different agricultural and industrial products in saline environments (see also the figure). Agricultural products include diverse products from salt tolerant plants and animals (livestock, poultry, aquaculture). Industrial products refer to non-biological products, like fresh water, salt and energy.

The essential needs for sustainable development of human societies are water, energy and food. The salt-affected ecosystems possess different potentials and capacities that may be exploited for production of water and energy. Technologies that make this possible are more linked to engineering sciences, rather than to agriculture. Different aspects of engineering applications in Haloculture is entitled as Haloengineering.

The visionary and innovative Haloculture program which will be presented here, can be adapted and implemented with participation of the people of Sangan village, as a road map to the revival of their community. The vision of sustainable development of Sangan village by Haloculture, consists of the following stages (see also the figure).

  • Capacity building program: The first, and the most important step in achieving this vision, is capacity building of the Sangan community. The program should be motivational and aim at improving the psychological state of the community, such as self-confidence and progressive goals. The people of Sangan will be informed and trained on the details of Haloculture program. Establishment of a farmers’ cooperative comprised of all the households in Sangan, to implement the sustainable development program should be one of the achievements of capacity building program.
  • Allocation of saline water resources: Since a year ago, a water desalination station by a NGO (Tahora Humanitarian Water Supply Movement) has started in Sangan, which distributes 500,000 liters/day of drinking water to Sangan and 46 other villages by water trucks. The same volume of highly saline discharges (brines) is also produced every day. The original saline water from a well is owned by government authorities. This water is allowed only for urban uses and not for agricultural purposes. However, its salt content is about 2800 ppm, which is much higher than the WHO drinking water standards (<900 ppm). Thus, desalination is required for providing the necessary drinking water. The brine is the main source of water for Haloculture program in Sangan, which may be owned and managed by both Farmers’ Cooperative and Tahora NGO, to implement the Haloculture program in Sangan.
  • Start of the agricultural activities: It is always desirable to have an integrated Haloculture production system. This will enable the efficient use of the available resources, and will enhance the resilience of the system. Tilapia fish farming is proposed as the first agricultural activity for producing fresh food and income from saline brine waters. The discharged saline water from tilapia farms will be used in the multi-purpose, Botanical Garden of desert plants (Paradise Park). In addition, brines maybe used directly in Paradise Park for propagation and cultivation of salt-tolerant, desert plants.
  • Sangan Paradise Park: This is the public name for the multi-purpose, botanical garden complex in Sangan. In fact, Paradise Park is the heart of the project. Its main components are (i) botanical garden of assorted tree and pastoral desert plants, and (ii) research and development, training and extension services. Initially, 10 ha of land should be allocated for the park; however, the more area, the better. It is important that Paradise Park be built with the participation and efforts of the Sangan people themselves from the scratch, rather than waiting for officials to allocate budget and build it (if so approved). In this way, the people will feel more motivated to maintain and serve the park.
  • The main purposes and activities of Paradise Park complex are (see also the Sangan Paradise Park figure):
  • Public recreational facilities: Providing recreational opportunities and green spaces for the people of Sangan. The park area should be covered with gravels for beautification and hygienic purposes. This will have a positive impact on the spread of happiness among the people.
  • Botanical Garden: The seeds of assorted native tree and forage desert plant species shall be collected and propagated in the nursery. The seedlings should be planted in 500-1000 m^2 plots. The plots should be covered with gravel to save on the amount of saline irrigation water, and to conserve the rainwater in the soil. Selection and propagation of economic plant species for the purpose of expansion of commercial, large scale agricultural businesses, is the main outcome of the nursery and botanical garden sections. In addition, some flower-bearing trees should be selected for greening the village environment (streets and alleys).
  • Fish fingerling hatchery: The main purpose is to create a reliable source of tilapia fish fingerlings for expansion of fish farming in the region.
  • Renewable energy and water: Pilot projects for production of renewable energy (solar, wind and biogas) and gray water recycling, rainwater harvesting and water extraction from the air will be started.
  • Pilot aquaponics project: The main purpose is to train and extend aquaponics (production of tilapia + vegetables) among households as home-based source of fresh foods and extra income.
  • Community services: Paradise Park should provide community services to the people of Sangan area, such as expertise and services on renewable energies, fresh water collection, water and waste recycling, sustainable architecture designs, and home-based agri-businesses. Home-based agri-businesses can be aquaponics, greenhouse safflower production, honey bee production, and any other innovative ideas that any people has to offer.
  • Workshops and Market: The complex should provide spaces (small shops and booths) for processing and marketing of locally produced products (Moringa oil, Moringa nuts, dairy products, fish, vegetables, dates and handicrafts). The market could be running daily or on certain days of the week.
  • Research and Development: Paradise Park shall offer opportunities to those people or organizations that have any visionary and innovative ideas that could help in further enhancement of villager’s livelihood and income, and sustainable development of Sangan area.
  • Expansion of agricultural activities: This is the stage that will bring significant economic, social and environmental enhancement to Sangan village (Dashtiari district). Considering the traditional experiences of the local people and the market demands, Moringa orchards and forage farming should be expanded commercially (see also the figure).
  • Moringa orchards: Moringa peregrine is proposed as a new tree crop with excellent salt tolerance and low water requirement, for commercial expansion in the area. It is a native, halophyte tree, which Baluchi people are very familiar with. They use its seeds as nuts and extract the oil in traditional way for eating and cooking purposes. At least 100,000 ha of Moringa orchards can be established in this region, which is a very reasonable and conservative figure. Orchards should be established with 2.5 by 2.5 m tree spacing, in triangular pattern. Irrigation with saline waters would significantly increase the seed yields. Such well-planned and maintained orchards, should yield up to 3000 kg kernel/ha. The seeds contain about 35-55% very high quality edible oil.
  • Forage farms: Aeuloropus spp., Panicum spp. and Sporobolus spp. are proposed as new highly salt-tolerant grass forage crops, for commercial expansion in the area. They are native, halophytic grasses. Local shepherds graze their livestocks with these species in natural pastures around the area. However, these pastures are overgrazed and mostly in weak conditions. At least 100,000 ha of Moringa orchards can be established in this region, which is a very reasonable and conservative figure. The forage farms maybe irrigated with highly saline waters. These farms yield 15-30 t of dry forage/ha/year. Thus, there is a potential to produce at least 1-1.5 million tons of palatable forage per year in this area. This is enough for about 500,000-700,000 heads of sheep and goat. Hence, with ample amounts of animal feed available at reasonably cheap prices, expansion of commercial, sheep and goat production should be promoted in the area along with commercial forage production.

Product processing industries and marketing: Commercial, large scale Moringa orchards, forage farming and livestock productions can establish this area as a new agriculture center in the Province. At this stage, entrepreneurs, investors and the Farmer’s Cooperative can invest in various processing and converting industries, such as edible oil extraction and packing, Moringa nuts processing and packaging, dairy products and protein products production and packing. These industries will provide additional sources of income and job opportunities for the local communities.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • ResearchGate web site

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Photo of Archiebold Manasseh
Team

Very cool project! your sorting two major problems; afforestation and generation of clean water! all the best... Water is Life

Spam
Photo of Farhad Khorsandi
Team

Thank you so much ... Indeed water is Life....
Best regards and good luck to you.

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