Integrated Watershed and Sustainable Land Management to Help Build Resilience Among Local Communities in Tajikistan
A Brief Summary
Tajikistan often experiences flash floods, debris flows and landslides due to its mountainous terrain, putting the country on the list of highly vulnerable countries prone to natural hazards. During the 90s, Tajikistan had witnessed extensive deforestation alongside overpopulation, which led to the vast degradation of watersheds resulting in continuous flash flooding and debris flow from the slopes whenever heavy rain or snowmelts wreaks havoc in the region.
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The situation in the country has been exacerbating for the last few years due to heavy rainfall and drought caused by climate change, which will seriously threaten the local population and the existence of human lives. In Yori, a settlement in the lower Zarafshan valley, twelve people were killed by debris flow, and several households were destroyed in 2021.
To overcome the challenge, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Tajikistan initiated the " Building Climate Resilience in Agriculture and Water Sectors of Rural Tajikistan" project, supported and financed by the Government of the Russian Federation in 2019.
The project predominantly aims to scale down the risks of flash floods and debris flow from micro-watersheds to settlements in the valley by restoring micro-watershed ecosystems and identifying sustainable solutions for the concern. Consequently, an integrated community-led approach to micro-watershed was designed.
The community-led approach has the following:
Restore the vegetation cover by reducing grazing pressure with the help of fencing and changing herding practices.
Introduce "Gray" solutions that help stall the runoff with physical low-cost control measures such as bunds, gabion check dams, and contour trenches.
Come up with "Green" measures such as tree and shrub planting.
The villagers have massively contributed to the project by performing manual work. This "community mobilization" approach aims at building long-term capacity and commitment.
The project has been progressing, with the construction of more than 30 flow check barriers and contour trenches, fencing 1.41ha vulnerable areas and planting these areas with more than 400 species of diverse trees and shrubs, supporting the rehabilitation of two formerly constructed concrete dams and cleaning of debris.
The programme helps around 5000 individuals in four villages in the Penjikent and Ayni districts by utilising the local community's capabilities to keep prices down. The full benefits will only be realised over several years as communities gradually expand the number of physical structures and plants under the restoration plans. Maintaining current accomplishments and expanding implementation will drastically reduce debris flows and flash floods in the next years.
The project is an example of how we could deal with climate change with low-cost collaborative actions and support from communities.