Rangeland Use and Necessity of Diversification of Rural Households’ Livelihoods, a case study in the Mahneshan Township Rangeland Use and Necessity of Diversification of Rural Households’ Livelihoods,

Document Type : Research Paper



The environmental importance of rangelands and the dependency of a large proportion of Iran's population on these resources have challenged policy makers in recent decades to seek sustainably appropriate approaches for managing these resources. This needs the integration of human activities, livestock keeping and rangelands use. Rangelands are considered as an ecosystem for providing human livelihood needs, particularly rural households, but they are in a critical condition due to their excessive use. It is necessary to take strategies for reducing overpressure on these resources, because the continuation of this trend not only decreases their productivity, but it may threaten the livelihood of many users’ households. This paper is to investigate how a rural community uses rangelands. It is also to understand the necessity of their livelihood diversification for reducing overpressure on natural resources. Moreover, this paper aims to identify the factors affecting the degradation of natural resources and to provide strategies for their management.
Materials and methods
The study was conducted in the Ghozloo Village, located in the Mahneshan Township of the Zanjan Province, in the Northwest Iran using an exploratory, descriptive and explanatory case study. The qualitative data of this exploratory case study were collected using semi-structured interviews, participant observations and mapping technique, group discussions in focus groups, excursion in rangeland and farms, and the rapid rural appraisal techniques. Furthermore, the quantitative data were collected using structured interviews through a questionnaire technique. For the increasing the validity and reliability of the research, the triangulation approach was utilized to evaluate results based on different methods and from different aspects. The survey was embedded in the case study and a sample of 20 rural participations was interviewed. The results of this study can be considered for theoretical and analytical generalisability, though it is statistically limited. The qualitative data were analyzed using the coding and the content analysis of sentences and phrases through categorizing techniques. Quantitative data were also analyzed using the descriptive methods through the statistical software of SPSS.
Results and discussion
Research results show that about 2700 hectares of the study area is covered by rangelands, which are considered as the common properties of the rural community and are used in a collective farming system. The rural community was located in an area with 36 km distance from the main road and 56 km from the township centre. This remote area made the community isolated from the decision-making institutions and input and extension service providers. More than 50% of the rural household heads, as participants, were middle-aged with the education at illiterate or low-literate levels. Most of the youth had migrated to the urban areas. These issues may affect the adoption of new technologies to improve their livelihoods. Most rural households mainly depended on livestock holding without any significant diversification in their livelihoods. They had a small number of livestock per household, but the total number of community livestock was more than the rangeland capacity, over twice the capacity. This made overpressure on the rangelands due to excessive overgrazing as well as early and late grazing pressure. This has led to the degradation and biodiversity loss of the ecosystem. While there were alternative potential strategies in the area, such as cropping, orchard development and bee keeping, they were used at a very small scale with low productivity due to lack of enough knowledge of the rural households and lack of extension services in this area.
It is necessary to take appropriate actions for managing the factors can escalate unsustainable use of natural resources. One of these actions can be referred to the diversification of livelihood strategies to reduce dependency and overpressure on rangeland. There may be impossible to change the full dependency on rangelands to other activities due to the geographical location of the community, the constraints for linking to urban markets and the natural capitals available in the area. However, through diversification, it is possible to utilize alternative livelihood strategies as supplementary activities to reduce livestock number and overpressure on rangelands, increase employment, improve livelihoods and conserve natural resources. This approach is considered as a method for governing natural resources to use rangelands, arable lands and permanent lands sustainably. This perspective requires the support of external actors. For example, agricultural extension programs can facilitate the enhancement of human capacities, particularly knowledge and skills of households, as well as their social capital. The SWOT analysis shows that the main strengths can facilitate this perspective are availability of cropping, orchard plant cultivation, bee keeping and availability of water resources and rangelands. The main weaknesses are rural population illiteracy and low literacy, lack of enough knowledge for using the existing capabilities, and lack of access to required finance and inputs. Therefore, improving knowledge and skills and increasing their interactions with external actors, can enhance both natural resources conservation and livelihood diversification.


Main Subjects

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