Saturday, 15 July 2006

Technical Cooperation and Research Activities of NRD-UNISS in Northern Africa.

Claudio Zucca1, Giuseppe Enne1, and Franco Previtali2. (1) Centro Interdipartimentale di Ateneo NRD - Nucleo Ricerca Desertificazione, Università di Sassari, Viale Italia, 57, Sassari, Italy, (2) Dip. Scienze dell'Ambiente e del Territorio, Università di Milano - Bicocca, Piazza della Scienza, 1, Milano, Italy

The Desertification Research Group of the University of Sassari (Italy) was born in 1990 as a multidisciplinary research group focusing on Mediterranean desertification; since 2000 it has become Interdepartmental Centre NRD of the University of Sassari. Researchers and scientists belonging to different departments of the University are expert on several disciplines among which are earth sciences, hydraulics, hydrology, agronomy, forestry, economics, and animal science. Since its establishment, the NRD researchers have been involved in the study of physical, biological, and socio-economic aspects of desertification and land degradation in the Mediterranean. They have been involvement in several research programs financed, among the others, by the European Union, the European Space Agency and the Italian Ministries of Foreign Affairs, of the Environment, of the University and Scientific Research. NRD-UNISS is currently coordinating several international initiatives in the field of scientific research and technical cooperation in developing countries. Among the latter, a big initiative is now on going in Northern Africa. A participatory demonstration project on desertification mitigation and rural development was launched in 2002 in Morocco and Tunisia under MEDA-SMAP Program (Short and Medium-term priority environmental Action Program) financed by the European Union. The project is titlee “Demonstration Project on Strategies to Combat Desertification in Arid Lands with Direct Involvement of Local Agro-pastoral Communities in North Africa”. It is carried out in sensitive regions in Morocco and Tunisia with the coordination of the NRD of the University of Sassari (Italy) and the partnership of the local Agriculture Ministries. The project involves restoration of vegetative cover with drought resistant perennial forage species (gender Opuntia, Atriplex, Acacia, etc.) in highly degraded rangelands, to mitigate desertification processes and to improve rangeland productivity. The areas are located in regions characterised by rural poverty, food dependency and land abandoning; here urgent measures are needed to promote optimization of resource management in view of a sustainable development. This is a concrete demonstration project supported by the direct involvement of local communities. Successful actions already carried out in this field by the participants of the project, as well as by other Mediterranean Countries, has taken into account, re-elaborated and exploited areas, thus promoting North/South co-operation and exchange of knowledge. Some limited research is carried out in the field to optimize the spatial pattern of the plantations and to monitor their environmental impacts. Capacity building and awareness events are realized at different levels to improve the sustainability of the action. Participation of all stakeholders, especially local communities, is the key point in all the phases of the project and is strengthened by means of dissemination and sensitization campaigns and by training courses. Only if, at the end of the project, all stakeholders will own/share all choices made and the technology used, will interventions be "sustainable". The successful north African experience is paving the way to further initiatives in other UNCCD Annexes, namely Latin America and Asia, on desertification indicators use and development and on desertification monitoring. The realization of new networks is foreseen also through the application of new technologies (Remote Sensing).

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