Desertification is defined as the land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas results from different factors, including climatic variations and human activities.
Desertification issues are becoming of global interest. This is due to the accelerating rate of deterioration of natural resources particularly in developing countries and to the generally recognized contribution of desertification control and natural resources conservation and wise use to poverty alleviation in rural areas, and to general improvement of health conditions and quality of life. This global interest is growing to meet the needs for novel natural resources that could be utilised for human welfare.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is the second largest country in the Middle East . Most of the country is covered by arid and semi-arid lands in which the average annual rainfall is less than 250 mm, which is scattered irregularly both terms of time and area and potential for evapo-transpiration is many times more than precipitation.
Many geographers and ecologists consider the central plateau of Iran as one of the world's most famous and unique deserts, and the Lut desert, located in the South-Eastern part of the plateau, is the most arid and the hottest point on earth.
Desertification and drought affects the daily lives of a large proportion of Iranian society. Therefore, the National Action Plan (NAP) is addressed economic, social, cultural, and environmental aspects of the issue. Based on the long experiences gained during four decades of combating desertification activities, and the diagnoses and evaluation of these activities and review of the past experiences in Iran , appropriate actions are envisaged in the NAP process. These include promotion of the use of new technologies and techniques relating to combating desertification and better use of indigenous knowledge and technologies among others, and several research institutes and faculties on combating desertification exist around the country. One of the objectives of the NAP is to strengthen and improve the work of these institutions.
Natural resources in the deserts and dry areas support human societies ecologically, economically, culturally and spiritually. Despite its importance, however, ecosystems are being degraded and desertification increased at an alarming rate due to the impact of our growing human population and increasing resource consumption rates. The global decline of natural resources is now recognised as one of the most serious environmental issues facing humanity. Desertification control is also considered to offer formidable opportunities for poverty alleviation and improving health conditions in human populations. Recognition of the world-wide impact of the desertification inspired the global community to negotiate the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. Iran was one of the first countries that signed the international Convention to Combat Desertification and had completed the ratification process in 1996 and thus became a member of the Convention.
Yazd as an original Iranian city at the heart of Iran has played a vital role in preserving he Persian culture and civilization. The Yazd Province provides abundant examples of knowledge and practices for living in desert environments and combating desertification. Successful efforts to fix sand dunes and establish shelter-belts to combat dust storms are but a few examples. The architectural and cultural heritage shows remarkable adaptations to desert living.
Yazd has been able to lay down the foundation of a great civilization and offered a beautiful example of living in harmony with the desert. The people of the region have made considerable efforts to find proper solutions for the sustainable development of desert communities. With their intelligence, hard work, spirit of tolerance and knowledge of art and architecture, they have developed a comprehensive model for living in harmony with the desert.
In May 2000 the Government of Iran had obtained financial assistance from the UNDP for the regional project Regional Symposium on Sustainable Development of Desert Communities" (No. RAS/99/063), and in 2002 the Government had obtained additional financial assistance from UNOPS for the final phase. The aim of this phase of the project is to facilitate the activities for the elaboration of the strategy and business plan for the Yazd International Centre for Living with the Desert (YICLD). The Resident Representative of UNDP-Tehran is continued as the principal project representative for the project and remains responsible for its overall over sight and implementation.