Establishment of Sustainable Agriculture in Lake Urmia Basin

In this project, with the help of the environmental conservation departments and the agricultural jihad organizations of Western and Eastern Azerbaijan Provinces,CIWP has tried to utilize the sustainable agriculture techniques, which are based on educating and engaging the farmers, in order to reduce the level of water consumption and the consumption of agricultural inputs, while maintaining the interests and income of farmers as a means to not only alter dominant agricultural paradigms and establish sustainable agriculture, but also supply a portion of the water rights of Lake Urmia by reducing water consumption in farms. The implementation of the sustainable agriculture plan in this project has been done in selected city districts in Lake Urmia basin.
The term ‘sustainable agriculture’ refers to the implementation of an integrated  plant and animal production system in order to reach the following long-term objectives:
•    Ensuring the food security of human communities;
•    Improving the quality of the natural environment by considering the economy of the agricultural sector;
•    Promoting the most efficient utilization of renewable resources and farm-based resources, while also considering the control of biological cycles;
•    Paying attention to the economy of farm activities and their economic outcomes;
•    Improving the living standards of farmers and the community as a whole.
With regards to the goals of sustainable agriculture and the conservation of natural resources, the pilot plan for ‘the participatory technology development’ (PTD) aims to internalize the process of the formation and evolution of agricultural technology in daily life and local communities livelihood. The realization of such a goal requires fundamental changes in structures, attitudes, methods, and interactions related to technology as well as its implementation and utilization. An approach such as the participatory technology development is based on the notion that the foundation of the process of development involves increasing control of the public over shaping their own lives. In fact, the development personnel and staff must be the ones participating in different capacities and different levels in the developmental attempts of rural families and communities. The participatory technology development refers to the process where development staff and employees work with rural men and women to facilitate the development and dissemination of agricultural innovations. The process of participatory technology development seeks to improve the interaction between research and expansion through altering their conventional roles in a way that the researcher relinquishes his/her ‘expert’ status to play the role of a consultant, while the promoter relinquishes the conventional role of transferring new technologies and messages to the farmers and assumes the role of the facilitator in the interaction between the farmers and the researcher. Farmers participate in the entire process, including the identification of farmers’ problems and issues, and searching, establishing, adopting, and evaluating the technologies, in particular, the smaller and weaker farmers who have so far been neglected in the decision making process. For the first time, the PTD project was implemented byCIWP in the third phase of the project in Malekan City District in Eastern Azerbaijan Province. Then, considering its satisfactory results, it was expanded to more pilots in Malekan, Miandoab, Urmia, Bostanabad, and Sarab City Districts.
Evaluating and monitoring the taken measures is one of the basic and necessary steps in any project to gain an accurate understanding of their extent of effectiveness. In this regard and based on the measures taken for the management of water and chemical pesticides consumption in the farms located in the pilot villages of the current project, the evaluation and monitoring of measures were done during the different phases of the project through a research study titled “Evaluating the Effectiveness of Various Techniques Implemented in the Farms for the Reduction of Water Consumption from Water Resources in Lake Urmia Basin” under the supervision of the Agricultural Technical and Engineering Research Institute and Tarbiat Modares University with the help of the Agricultural and Natural Resources Research Center of Eastern Azerbaijan Province as well as Urmia University. In this study, the effectiveness of various sustainable agriculture techniques, including reduced tillage methods, low-depth tillage methods, alterations in the dimensions of agricultural plots, utilization of genetically-modified seed varieties, and their effects on the family economy have been investigated.
Some of the achievements of CIWP in the process of promoting public participation in the restoration of Lake Urmia through the establishment of sustainable agriculture are as follows:
•    Number of covered local farmers: 12,000 people;
•    Number of trained local people (references): 1,800 people;
•    Number of participating local experts: 200 people;
•    Average increase in water productivity across farms: 49%;
•    Average decrease in the consumption of chemical inputs: 40%;
•    The number of local/national firms participating in the project: 30 companies;
•    Creating employment opportunities for 200 local experts;
•    Implementing 11 pilot projects through implementing the participatory technology development (PTD) approach.