The environmental and social threats posed by climate change are now recognized internationally, as are the implications it bears on all development initiatives. Recent studies reveal that Georgia faces critical challenges due to the frequency and degree of climate-influenced natural disasters, such as landslides, erosion, floods and the subsequent degradation of ecosystems and agricultural lands.
In order to counter the adverse consequences of climate change, including the intensification of natural disasters in Georgia, CENN, the Caucasus Environmental NGO Network, IUCN Member, has initiated a 3.5-year project “Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Mitigation”, funded by USAID. The objective of the project is to reduce the susceptibility of local communities in pilot rural areas of Georgia to negative climate impacts through post-conflict environmental rehabilitation, natural disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation.
Within the project, which began in 2009 and will conclude in 2013, three pilot regions have been identified: Samtskhe-Javakheti in south-west Georgia (Borjomi and Akhaltsikhe Municipalities), Adjara (Keda and Khelvachauri Municipalities) in the west and Kakheti (Sagarejo and Dedoplistskaro Municipalities) in the east. All of these areas are climate change hotspots in the Caucasus.
The main activities of the project include participatory disaster risk and vulnerability assessment, creation of climate change scenarios for the municipalities for 2020-2050, strengthening local capacities, establishment of issue-based coalitions to stimulate structured policy dialogue among the stakeholders, development of community-based climate change adaptation plans for the target municipalities and the implementation of demonstrative pilot projects.
For instance, in Sagarejo and Dedoplistskaro Municipalities, pilot projects on “Sustainable Management of Common Use Pastures” are being implemented. Unsustainable agricultural practices (e.g. the failure to employ traditional and modern agronomic methods, such as crop rotation etc.), the existing structure of soils and overgrazing of the common use pastures have collectively contributed to the escalation of exogenic denudation processes, and soil aridization, salination, erosion and degradation, which ultimately leads to natural disasters and reduced household incomes. Moreover, there is an absence of water supply for cattle.
In Sagarejo, in Tskarostavi village, 12 hectares of pasture were fenced off and two stock tanks for cattle were installed. Approximately 250 households currently have access to the fenced pasture and the stock tanks.
In Dedoplistskaro, where an artificial swampy bog previously served as a watering area for cattle, two stock tanks/springs were restored through the joint efforts of the local residents and administration, CENN, and the United Melioration Systems of Georgia. The stock tanks benefit approximately 450 households from the villages of Samreklo and Dedoplistskaro.
In both regions, experimental demonstration plots with a total area of 500m2 were identified and divided into 5 smaller sections – 100m2 each. One of the sections was used as a control plot, while various agricultural methods for the improvement of soil fertility and the condition of the pastures were applied on the remaining four sections. In both Dedoplistskaro and Sagarejo, different methods proved more efficient and productive.
Based on the results obtained from the pilot projects in Sagarejo and Dedoplistskaro Municipalities, sustainable pasture management plans were developed by each municipality.
The pilot projects have been very successful and resulted in improved land management, have facilitated the mitigation and prevention of land degradation, raised awareness among the local population on issues of sustainable pasture management, and have enhanced the quality and stability of life for the local residents.