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Integrated water resource Management by the implementation of improved Agro-Forestry concepts in arid and semi-arid areas in Latin America

Final Report Summary - WAFLA (Integrated water resource Management by the implementation of improved Agro-Forestry concepts in arid and semi-arid areas in Latin America)

Extended parts of Latin America are covered by arid and semi-arid lands, which are continuously degraded due to unsustainable exploitation of natural resources. The resulting desertification poses a threat to ecosystems and increases poverty among the inhabitants. Thus, integrated water resource management (IWRM) combined with adequate agroforestry approaches is necessary in order to enhance the sustainability of arid and semi-arid regions’ exploitation.

The WAFLA project aimed to coordinate the current research, technological innovation and social and policy development activities towards this direction. The project principal strategic objectives were the following:
1. establishment of permanent communication links between the involved stakeholders in Latin America;
2. coordination of current research and development (RD) activities in order to promote innovations and avoid overlapping and efforts' duplication;
3. determination and guidance of future RD activities, so as to fulfil the emerging scientific and technological needs;
4. identification of adequate management strategies and participatory policy options, along with development of recommendations for IWRM and region-adapted agroforestry implementation. The suggestions took into consideration the socioeconomic, technological, legislative and political requirements.
5. dissemination of the results, particularly among the farmers, and development of mechanisms for future knowledge exploitation by the authorities.

The necessary work was organised in seven work packages (WPs), which undertook different, yet interrelated, activities.

WP1 standardised evaluation criteria and identified several types of indicators and benchmarks of land degradation. Moreover, socioeconomic and legislative limitations were defined and best practices were selected. The WP also included evaluation of alternative crops and examination of traditional agroforestry practices. Finally, key actors were pinpointed and utilised dissemination patterns were finalised.

The regional recognition of the arid and semi-arid areas was performed under WP2, with the aid of a unified questionnaire, applied in all target regions. Detailed information was collected for the selected areas and the relevant best practices were determined.

In addition, WP3 characterised and evaluated agroforestry crops and products so as to develop a market information system (MIS). Two products were selected and prioritised, namely cashews and prosopis. Their characteristics were thoroughly examined, in order to create an institutional scheme for promoting their commercialisation and to propose the relevant MIS.

Activities regarding the mapping of current research were undertaken as part of WP4. Research efforts were identified and grouped according to thematic areas and strategies. Cooperation was established among institutions that operated in the same field of expertise and the formation of new clusters was encouraged. Agroforestry networks operating at regional and sub-regional levels were also identified, enhancing the potential for future collaborations and network solidification. Moreover, recommendations for future RD practices and cooperation strategies were formulated.

WP5 focused on policy implementation. A set of fact sheets that could be combined as different guidelines so as to respond to the needs of various publics was prepared. The guidelines targeted stakeholders and decision makers at a local, national and international level. Moreover, a set of three policy briefs and a distributable, electronic version of all documentation were prepared.

Relevant dissemination activities were undertaken as part of WP6. Workshops and seminars were organised at a local level. Moreover, detailed seminars addressed to the field specialists. The project final international conference maximised results’ dissemination, while the project website was notably valuable for outcomes’ presentation. Finally, the entire WAFLA elaboration was supported, organised and facilitated by the management and coordination activities of WP7.

The project evaluated agroforestry as being particularly suitable for developing degraded arid ecosystems in a sustainable way. It optimised land productivity by involving positive interactions between its components in time and space. Such practices were experimentally applied in various sites of Latin America during the past years and their promising results were taken into account for the WAFLA proposals’ development. Moreover, the project focused on reversing the unsustainable practices of water management, improving the efficiency of irrigation schemes and proposing alternatives to the irrigation of suburban areas with untreated wastewater. Local and regional initiatives were integrated in a multidisciplinary approach which combined traditional and contemporary knowledge and pointed out the necessary RD efforts. Thus, proposals of feasible mechanisms to enhance productivity as part of an ecosystem approach were successfully formulated.

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