22 Jun 2016 Story Climate change

Back to the Future: Rangeland Management in Jordan

Positive models of pastoral land management, including organized grazing and the restoration of indigenous plant cover, are being developed in Jordan.

A traditional rangeland management system known as Hima (“protection” in Arabic), in which land and key resources are set aside so that communities can conserve them and regulate their use, is providing some hope that degradation and biodiversity loss can be restored in Jordan’s arid rangelands.

Traditional grazing on rangelands in Jordan, which cover 90 per cent of the country, has declined in recent years due to climate change, industrialization, the attraction of urban settlements, land and water mismanagement, as well as lifestyle changes and population pressures, including from a large influx of Syrian refugees.

Jordan’s 6.3 million people are facing serious environmental challenges. Desertification and the resulting lack of fodder for livestock, have forced many of the Bedouin to abandon pastoralism and migrate to urban centres. Large-scale ground water extraction is depleting aquifers.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) began implementing the European Union-funded project “Securing Rights and Restoring Lands for Improved Livelihoods” in 2010, with field projects identified in Botswana, Jordan, Mali and Sudan.

In Jordan, the Hima project is implemented by IUCN-Regional Office for West Asia (IUCN-ROWA), in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and The Arab Women Organization. The project, which officially ended in 2013, is continuing to be implemented under government auspices.

It supports the revival of Hima systems in four villages (Duliel, Hashemeyeh, Bani-Hashem and Hallabat) within the Zarqa River Basin (around 100,000 people) to protect rangelands and recover biodiversity, and promotes the active engagement of women.

The River Zarqa, the second largest tributary of the lower Jordan river (rising in springs near the capital Amman), is polluted, and overgrazing and desertification in the area prompted local communities to embrace Hima as an adaptation strategy.

The project envisages:

  • Securing rights and access to land tenure
  • Improving governance of land and natural resources
  • Enhancing income generation

IUCN’s approach is based on stakeholder dialogue and participatory management. Stakeholders include land users from the local community, and government and non-governmental service providers that support the community. This participatory approach assists in organizing and guiding the stakeholder dialogue to take informed decisions that lead to concrete outcomes. The Hima process involves three main phases:

  • Scoping and strategies
  • Planning and implementation
  • Monitoring and evaluation

Target groups are community members from the four pastoral communities. The local Dryland Resources Management Committee in each of the four sites has seven to nine members (40 per cent women). The committees act as a networking hub for information and knowledge dissemination. The project is designed to impact most pastoral community members (both women and men).


What is UNEP doing?
“Pastoralism is one of the few land use systems that is found worldwide… that offers genuine win-win outcomes of economic productivity and environmental conservation… and must therefore play a central role in our sustainable future.” So says a joint IUCN-UNEP 2014 study titled Pastoralism and the Green Economy – a natural nexus? Status, challenges and policy implications

UNEP has been working with the World Initiative for Sustainable Pastoralism, IUCN, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development to bring the science of pastoralism onto the policymakers’ table.

UNEP’s other partners include FAO (UN Food and Agriculture Organization), ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute), ILC (The International Land Coalition), UNCCD (UN Convention to Combat Desertification), CIRAD (Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement), ICRAF (World Agroforestry Centre), GRID-Arendal, WRH (World Reindeer Herders association) and IRC (International Reindeer Centre), AU-IBAR (African Union – Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources), IDB (Islamic Development Bank), and WAMIP (World Alliance of Mobile Indigenous Peoples)

UNEP, jointly with IUCN, is organizing a side event on sustainable pastoralism at the United Nations Environment Assembly due to be held in Nairobi, Kenya from 23 to 27 May 2016. For more information contact [email protected]

UNEP is a founding Implementing Agency of the Global Environment facility (GEF) with the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and is the only GEF Agency whose core business is the environment. UNEP plays a key role in supporting countries to develop and execute GEF projects that fit within its comparative advantage.

In partnership with IUCN, UNEP is supporting the implementation of a new GEF-funded project in Jordan to strengthen capacity for the restoration and sustainable management of pastoral rangelands for the provision of ecosystem services and the protection of biodiversity. The project supports the traditional Hima pastoral system through strengthening local associations that implement communal rangeland management.

Government backing
Encouraging Hima systems in each of the villages requires tribal community meetings attended by government officials, directors of government departments and representatives of the Environment and Water Committee in parliament.
Government backing is crucial. The prime minister endorsed the project in the Amman Declaration on Innovating Hima, drawn up in 2014 and signed in 2015. The Declaration states:


Rangeland Himas provide a multitude of overlapping benefits including improvements in livestock production, conservation of biodiversity, maintaining habitat and connectivity for fauna and flora, protecting hydrological cycles, capturing atmospheric carbon, and reinforcing local culture. Rangeland Himas can therefore contribute to poverty reduction and economic growth as well as protection of habitat and conservation of endangered species, and they have benefits to people outside their boundaries and to the world as a whole. Revival of Himas has also been used to promote social justice and gender equality.

There is some evidence that improvements in rangeland biodiversity and fodder production can be achieved within as little as one year of establishing a Hima site, according to the economic valuation and biodiversity assessment conducted in the area.

Newly established Himas are positive examples of pastoral land protection and management; they can help with organizing grazing, restoring indigenous plant cover, encouraging better surface water management, and raising agricultural awareness, for example, about which plants are capable of surviving droughts and frost, according to IUCN.

In Bani-Hashem Hima land is being rehabilitated through natural regeneration, and indigenous plants are being restored to 1990 levels to contribute to improving living standards. With Ministry of Agriculture support, the local community obtained the prime minister’s approval to allocate 100 hectares of rangeland for use and management by the community.

To ensure sustainability, a tribal charter was drafted and signed by community members pledging protection from violations. The charter acquired official status by involving law enforcement authorities in its application, while a local committee was formed to coordinate the management of the Hima in line with tribal traditions.

“Tribal conflicts over natural resources have reduced, grazing seasons are better managed and indigenous biodiversity has revived. Solving overgrazing will no longer focus on livestock immobility, but rather properly managed grazing periods,” says IUCN project manager Fidaa F. Haddad.

Agents of change
Under Hima, women have a greater say in improving their livelihoods through securing managing rights and building relationships with government institutions.

The Bani-Hashem Hima embraces the belief that women are important actors of change and holders of significant knowledge and skills related to mitigation, adaptation, and reduction of risks relevant to land degradation. This makes them crucial agents in this area through information and knowledge sharing, which are necessary to improve community livelihoods. Women were included in local management bodies as founding members and sit on administrative boards.

Protecting the pilot area allowed shrubs and grasses to regenerate, restoring the land’s vegetation to 1990 levels. Even some indigenous species, such as Artemisia herba-alba, reappeared in the Hima site. A total of 36 native plant species were recorded in the site, mainly on the north-western slope, which receives the highest amounts of rainfall. After one year of activities and protecting their Hima area from herders (without using fencing), biodiversity benefits could be observed through the increase of biomass and restoration of indigenous floral species.

“The underlying aim of the project was to create greater sustainability of livestock rearing in the rangelands. Local communities will need to see tangible benefits from the project in terms of improved livelihoods,” says Haddad.

She continues: “Reviving Hima is a process rather than an action and whilst it is highly cost-effective, it is also highly demanding on skills – particularly skills for negotiation, participation and consensus building. Reviving Hima requires extensive dialogue between communities, government, and other stakeholders to reach agreement over policies and shared governance of natural resources at local, national and regional level.”