Iran, Islamic Republic of Placeholder
Iran, Islamic Republic of

Despite unprecedented droughts, the Abolhassani have managed to cope with the lack of water, mainly by reinventing agriculture and elaborating a thorough plan called the “Coping with the Drought Cycle”.

About the Implementing organization

Name: Abolhassani Indigenous Nomadic Tribal Confederacy

Country: Iran, Islamic Republic of

Year of establishment: 2010

Type of organization: Community-based association or organization


The innovations by the Abolhassani have meant a substantial improvement in the situation of natural resources in this precarious desert environment. A look at the attached Figure (“Coping with the drought cycle”) shows that at all the crucial times when the rangelands are recovering and the cover plants flowering, the livestock are hand fed with agricultural products and residues, giving rangelands a much needed rest. Even in good years dependence on the natural vegetation is reduced. This gives wildlife in the area a chance to have better access to the same resources. The remarkable agricultural innovations have meant increased cash crops as well as improved income from the livestock with access to fodder from the new crops. Thus the most important livelihood and income value of these crops is in terms of improved livestock that brings in better income and secure livelihoods.

Nature Element

Grasslands / Drylands / Wildlife

Type of Action

Protection / Restoration / Sustainable use / Mainstreaming into sectors / Access and benefit sharing

Sustainable Development Element

Jobs and livelihoods / Food security / Water security / Disaster risk reduction / Peace and security / Climate action

Related Sustainable Development Goal(s)


Environmental Impacts

Pistachios are a high value cash crop in Iran. Some 7 hectares are planted to about 1000 trees yielding around 1.5 to 3 kg per tree, with a net income of some US$6,000 per year. Cotton is grown on 4-5 ha (2-3 ha in drought years) and produces about 7-12 quintals per ha (1 quintal (kharvar) = 100 mans = 300 kg) of cotton worth some US$3,000 to US$12,000 per year (gross). Watermelon is planted on 3-5 ha. The seeds amount to some 2-3 quintals and bring in about US$2,250 (gross) per year. Sunflower seeds take up 2.5-4 ha, and produce 1-2 tons per hectare (about US$1,500 to US$3,000 gross in total). Barley is of even greater value for livestock as high energy feed. It is planted to 12-15 hectares producing some 10-15 quintals/ha at US$0.30/kg or a total of US$13,000 to US$20,000 if it were sold at market value, but it is used entirely for livestock as supplemental, and in drought years principle—feed. Animals that are fed the fodder weigh about twice as much as those who are not.

Sustainable Development Impacts

The territory of Abolhassani confederacy is a high endemicity centre with remarkably high animal and plant biodiversity. An estimated 800 plant species have been identified, with more than 20% endemic and some still unknown species. There is an exceptional diversity of wildlife including the endangered Asiatic cheetah, Asiatic wild ass (onager), Iranian leopard, Houbara bustard, gazelles, and others. Wildlife is considered as a general indicator: when it is present, the weather is mild. This is a component of the reasons why the Abolhassani rarely hunt animals and respect the daily division of their water sources between wildlife and livestock—facilitated by the improvement of water supply and management system. One of the most effective signs of the resilience and adaptability of this indigenous nomadic tribe is that despite the worsened drought situation, their population has remained stable.


The Abolhassani have encouraged and helped many other tribes in the region to organise, join UNINOMAD and take control of their own affairs. This has been a win-win strategy, empowering the other tribes, while enabling the extension of the migratory routes, grazing lands and creating concrete mutual support systems, as well as strengthening the negotiating power for the tribes in the region, and the mutual sharing of experiences.


This successful story of participatory management of improved resilience and adaptation to climate change was taken up by both CENESTA and UNINOMAD. They and the Abolhassani have promoted this model nationally and among many other communities by organizing tribal leaders’ gatherings, and documentary videos, photo-stories, PowerPoint presentations and articles for both Iranian and international forums. The participatory video (PV) and other multimedia products have helped impact policy dialogues including a tribal summit meeting that was organised in December 2013 to bring tribal customary laws and views. The Abolhassani PV became a pilot project, in partnership with SGP, InsightShare and IIED project. Abolhassani representative’s participation in international meetings, such as the Slow Food Congress, Torino, Italy 2008. A workshop in Kabul, Afghanistan on community management of natural resources. The Abolhassani elder met the Minister and participated in a national TV programme.

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