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Home > Basin > Karkheh > Strengthening livelihood resilience in upper catchments (PN24)

Full Project Title: Strengthening livelihood resilience in upper catchments of dry areas by integrated natural resources management (PN24)


The economically remote communities in the dry environment of the upper Karkheh River Basin in Iran face low productivity and farming incomes with agriculture options constrained by lack of water availability and the vagaries of climate. The natural rangelands and forests on the hillsides along the valleys are threatened by the increased cultivation of sloping lands and uncontrolled grazing. Combined with insufficient human and financial capital in the research and executive sectors, degradation of the resource base has contributed to high poverty levels of rural communities in the region and rural-urban migration.

The Livelihood Resilience project demonstrated that better integrated management at multiple levels through participatory technology development, assessments of water, soil erosion and vegetation, and analysis of livelihoods, gender and policy, can improve the livelihoods of poor farming communities and increase the environmental integrity and water productivity of upstream watersheds in dry areas.

Research Highlights

Research highlights

  • Participatory Technology Development (PTD) research in Upper Karkheh River Basin (KRB) mobilized more than 30 male and female researchers, technology experts and extension staff and more than 140 male and female farmers in eight communities in Merek and Honam watersheds. Sixteen different technologies with potential for improving livelihoods and water productivity were selected and tested by farmers. Special efforts were undertaken to include technologies that attracted the poorer farmers and women.
  • The soil survey, natural vegetation assessment, land use and land use change analysis and the erosion field surveys provided data inputs for modeling and analysis of erosion in the benchmark watersheds. An agroecological zones map of KRB was prepared based on climate, land use, soil and land form.
  • Access to an irrigation water source was found to be a determining factor of rural household income; the gender survey found the women’s role in dairy production important.  Problems and needs assessments indicated that improving the livelihood of the women required: access to loans, especially for buying livestock and milking equipment, training in livestock breeding, handicrafts, and mushroom growing, and improved veterinary services.
Project Outcomes

Project outcomes

  • Developed appropriate methodologies for improving livelihood resilience and watershed management in dry upper catchments using a holistic approach through a collaborative, interdisciplinary group of international, national and provincial researchers, decision makers, extension staff and farmers from eight communities in the two watersheds.
  • Translated project experiences into principles for managing watersheds in upper basins and presented policy recommendations on participatory technology development, integrated watershed management, and chickpea production and marketing.
  • Stakeholders improved their own adaptive capacity to cope with the challenges in dry upper catchments through various approaches for capacity building and communication.
Publications and Outputs

Selected publications and outputs

  1. De Pauw, E., A. Mirghasemi, A. Ghaffari, and B. Nseir. 2008. Agro-ecological zones of Karkheh River Basin. ICARDA, Aleppo, Syria.
  2. Effati, M., M. Martini, A. Abbasi, and S. Soltani. 2010. Gender and Livelihoods in Upper Karkheh River Basin, Iran. ICARDA, Aleppo, Syria. (in review)
  3. Farahani, H. Oweis, T., H. Siadat, F. Abbasi, A. Bruggeman, J. Anthofer, F. Turkelboom, (ed.). 2008. Proceedings of the international workshop on improving water productivity and livelihood resilience in Karkheh River Basin, 10-11 September 2007, Karaj, Iran. ICARDA, Aleppo, Syria.
  4. Ghafouri, M., (ed.) 2007. International workshop on improving water productivity and livelihood resilience in Karkheh River Basin. Extended abstracts. 10-11 Sep 2007, Tehran, Iran. Soil Conservation and Watershed Management Research Institute.
  5. Milani, P.M. K. Eftekhari, S.H. Fatehi, and M. Sepahvand. 2010. Semi-detailed soil surveys of Merek and Honam Watersheds, Karkheh River Basin. ICARDA, Aleppo, Syria.
  6. Moosavi, S.B., J. Anthofer, M. Moazzami, S.M. Mobarakian, P. Garavand, Z. Rashno, S. Moradi, M. Moradi, M.R. Farhadi, M. Fakhri, T. Babaei, H. Azizi, S. Rahmani. 2010. Gathering Wisdom from the Field: Participatory Technology Development with Farming Communities in Honam and Merek Watersheds in the Karkheh River Basin. ICARDA, Aleppo, Syria.
  7. Porhemmat, J., M. Heydarizadeh, I. Veyskarami, H. Hessadi, B. Ghermezcheshmeh, A. Bruggeman. 2010. Water Resources and Runoff Modeling of Merek and Honam Watersheds, Karkheh River Basin. ICARDA, Aleppo, Syria. (in review).
  8. Rafati, M., M. Zad, A. Kalaei, K. Noori, A. Aw-Hassan, P. Valipour, M. Farhadi, F. Jahannama, A. Nemati. 2010. Livelihoods and Agricultural Policies in Merek and Honam Watershed in Karkheh River Basin. ICARDA, Aleppo, Syria. (in review).
  9. Sarreshtehdari, A., A. Van Rompaey, M. Ghaffouri. 2010. Modelling the trade-off between wheat production and soil erosion in the Karkheh River basin, Iran, Catena (in preparation).
  10. Turkelboom, F., M. Ghafouri, A. Bruggeman, and H. Siadat (eds.). 2010. Integrated Watershed Management Principles for Upper Catchments of Dry Mountain Environments, with examples from Karkheh River Basin, Iran. ICARDA, Aleppo, Syria (in review).
Final Report
Project Partners

Project partners


Project Lead

Project lead


For more information on Phase 1 outputs please contact Udana Ariyawansa.