Midreshet Sde Boker - Negev Desert - Middle East - July 8-10, 1999

During the sessions of the "Good Practices Workshop for Combating Desertification: Proposals and Exchanges among the Mediterranean NGOs", the NGOs pertaining to MED Forum, the Mediterranean NGO Network for Ecology and Sustainable Development, assembled to debate concrete proposals and present projects and fieldwork carried out to combat desertification in the Mediterranean basin. After three days of debate, they have approved the following


  • We verify that the Mediterranean climate, characterized by marked seasons —hot and dry summers, mild and very humid winters—, with irregular and unpredictable rainfall, influenced by the presence of great deserts both in the South and East, as well as by human activity (plowing, urbanism, infrastructures, intensive agriculture, etc.), and by natural disasters (drought, torrential rains, forest fires, strong winds, etc.), as well as regional conflicts that lead to the destruction of forests and natural resources, the destruction of human selttlements and infrastructure and the mass movement of people, entails fragile, easily eroded soils that have caused a loss of fertile lands and have led to a considerable increase in the erosion and aridity of big areas, and to severe processes of desertification in almost all of the Mediterranean region.

  • We manifest our agreement with the declaration of intentions contained in the Convention to Combat Desertification, in chapter 12 of Agenda 21 and Agenda MED 21, especially with respect to the need to establish action plans and programs on a regional and national level that will help to stop land degradation and enviromental destruction, to mitigate the impact of drought and put into effect concrete programs to combat desertification in our region. We consider that it is necessary to advance a Plan of Action that transcends the continental division and that coordinates the different existent initiatives so that they are more efficient in the fight against erosion at a Mediterranean regional level. For that matter it should be strongly recomended to the European Union that all Mediterranean countries should be included into the Euromediterranean Partnership Programme.

  • We affirm our conviction that it is indispensable to coordinate the efforts of all the affected sectors, fundamentally the local administrations, rural societies, and civil society represented by the NGOs, as well as the academic sectors and experts, and the different administrations and international institutions that must act jointly in partnerships so as to be more successful in carrying out concrete projects and programs that put a brake on the erosion and desertification of the Mediterranean region.

  • Faced with the grave situation of land degradation that is ocurring in all the Mediterranean basin, the Mediterranean NGOs and experts, assembled in the "Good Practices Workshop for Combating Desertification: Proposals and Exchanges among the Mediterranean NGOs" organized by MED Forum, the Mediterranean NGO Network for Ecology and Sustainable Development,

Propose the ratification of the following points that enlarge those contained in the MED Forum 2000 Agenda

  1. To approve, at the level of each State, a strategy to combat erosion and desertification in both the short and long term in the framework of a model of sustainable development. This strategy should fit within the framework of the Convention to Combat Desertification and Chapter 12 of Agenda 21 and its preparation must include the participation of all the sectors affected, especially local and regional communities, experts, farmers and NGOs. The role of the local population in de-desertification through community mobilization in a participatory approach is essential.

  2. To carry out programmes at the national, regional and local level with the participation of all the sectors involved, especially local communities and NGOs reinforcing their capacities, that take into account:

    • to develop proactive drought contingency planning which includes water management, legislation, public awareness and participation programs, EIA, emergency response programs.
    • conservation of the environment to reduce the vulnerability of the soil
    • the measures necessary to ensure the right to food and health are observed,
    • to promote employment and new methods of self-support,
    • to build the capacities and the training of young people,
    • support for raising social awareness and educating society,
    • to promote enviromental education and public awareness on land degradation issues at primary, secondary and high education (clubs, etc.),
    • to promote the role of rural women, and
    • to promote enviromentally friendly urban and rural development and building construction.

  3. To apply the precautionary principle in all policies to combat erosion and desertification, especially in zones that have suffered little or no degradation. This should take into account:
    • the fragility of soils
    • salination
    • over-exploitation of underground waters
    • decreases in agricultural productivity
    • the loss of plant cover
    • the social and economic costs, etc.

  4. To guarantee the participation at all levels (local, regional, national and international) and of all the sectors of society when preparing the programmes. This requires establishment of the bodies needed to ensure participation is effective, especially the participation of local collectives and other sectors of society, especially NGOs. This must include participation by the persons most directly involved in the management, usage and advantages of the resources. In the case of desertification, there must be participation by small farmers (men and women), shepherds, nomads, etc., who are in close contact with the land. Local leaders, tribal chiefs, public employees are essential, as are technicians, researchers and NGOs.

  5. To attach greater value to local experience and traditional know how and to develop organic agriculture by using environment friendly techniques and compost production. Regulations should be strengthened to gradually eliminate use of chemical pesticides and agrochemical products.

  6. To make available to the different social agents all the results of research in order to assess their advantages. Programmes to train technicians and farmers in biological cultivation techniques should be considered.

  7. To preserve natural and man-made landscapes for the future generations, taking into account that Mediterranean traditions and customs influenced entire global civilization.

  8. To revise stockraising systems based on industrial techniques encouraging manage extensive stockraising, local breeds, and in general to turn back the general trend for quantity at the cost of quality.

  9. To reject the application of transgenic techniques in animal and agricultural production, as this may have unforeseeable and uncontrollable consequences. Because of this, we, the NGOs, have to help inform the public and counterbalance the deceptive publicity campaigns by multinational companies.

  10. To ensure that the Action Plans contain specific measures, such as:
    • creation of financial instruments
    • introduction and recovery of crops resistant to drought and salination
    • measures intended to protect natural resources
    • diversification of energy sources to prevent abusive use of wood, and especially fostering solar and wind power and methane gas production through organic waste recycling,
    • to promote the design and application of integrated water management plans to deal with droughts, measures that should be taken in years of abundance,
    • to use renewable energies resources, and
    • to promote an ecological architecture approach (bioclimatic, solar housing, enviromental friendly materials...) as well as the adoption of valuable features of traditional architecture, including passive cooling and heating.

    • To ensure that the Action Plans to combat erosion and desertification are fully coordinated with the other programmes: food security and combating poverty, integrated water management, protection of biodiversity and climate change.

    • To foster collaboration agreements between the donor countries and the States affected by desertification, integrating these agreements into the national action programmes, and clearly defining the role of each partner, the role of the donor institutions and governments and that of the NGOs, in accordance with the role that has been assigned them within the Convention.

    • To guarantee the constant circulation of information at all levels. Agricultural information services and NGOs can help to build collective capacities in the field of "participatory programming". Local knowledge must be used at the regional and national level. The results obtained must be transmitted to ensure cooperation between peoples, as well as the coordinated management of the regional environment.

    • To increase the level of awareness and education of the sectors involved, with the participation of NGOs and the official training mechanisms by means of:
      1. The organization of campaigns to raise the awareness of the general population, and their participation in educational activities and those seeking to raise public awareness.
      2. Updating and exchanging educational and public information material in the local languages.
      3. Assessing the needs of schools and preparing appropriate programmes for them.
      4. Publicizing the measures that help save natural resources by means of integrated and sustainable management of these resources, including agricultural and pastoral land, the plant cover, water resources, biological diversity, the promotion of alternative energy sources, especially, solar power, wind power and geothermal energy, and favour the transfer, acquisition and adaptation of technologies suitable for reducing pressure on fragile natural resources.

    • To take advantage of the remote sensing applications to combat desertification, as well as of informatic tools and electronic communication systems to implement some of the tasks agreeded in this Declaration.

    • To propose the coordination of Appendixes I (Africa), III (Asia) and IV (North Mediterranean) of the Convention to Combat Desertification by holding a Mediterranean Conference in Spain, that would seek to intensify cooperation between Mediterranean countries to combat desertification. The organizations involved, such as the European Union, the United Nations, and the World Bank shall associate, jointly with the representatives of the States, the NGOs, the local and regional authorities, and as far as possible, with the representatives of the private sector. An RAC could be set up within the framework of the MAP to favour this coordination.

During the three days that the Workshop has lasted, the following projects have been presented:

  • Life for Algerian Oases. Touiza (Algeria) and EcoMediterrania (Spain).
  • Savanizattion Project. Desert Research Institute (Israel).
  • Projet pilot de participation de lapopulation villageoise a la lutte contre la Desertification des zones Ghabet, Khazaia et Zaafrana. APNEK (Tunisia).
  • Pilot Project to Combat Desertification in Baixo Alentejo. Geota (Portugal).
  • Good Practises to control soil erosion and promote community development in rural Tunisia: NGO advocacy and implementation. Women for Sustainable Development (Tunisia).
  • Projet pilot d'amenagement du bassin versant du M'Soun: approche participative de gestion et de planification. ENDA Magghreb (Morocco).
  • Contribution a l'amenagement de la reserve naturelle de Touati & Maîtrise de l'energie domestique. APNEK (Tunisia).
  • Climate condition and estimation of the erosion on the Albanian coast & Estimation and cartography of soil erosion processes in coastal zone of Albania. PPNEA (Albania).
  • Protection of the litorals of Kune-Vain Lagoons by using of the eco-technices to control coastal erosion. Alpine Geographic Club Tomori (Albania).
  • Sustainable Development of Amber Islands. Eko Liburnia (Croatia).
  • Programme d'appui aux initiatives participatives locales de gestions des ressources naturelles et de lutte contre la desertification et le deboisement. ENDA Maghreb (Morocco).
  • Preservation and protection of landscape against desrtification.Ecological Movement of Cyprus (Cyprus).

All the participants agree with this Declaration and in addition we commit ourselves to implement the following outcomes from the workshop:

  • To spread the contents of this Declaration.
  • To collaborate with MED Forum in the elaboration of a Guidebook of Mediterranean NGOs projects against desertification and soil erosion. After the presentation of diverse fieldwork experiences carried out in the Mediterranean basin, we propose that these be compiled into a guidebook which will help to broadcast and disseminate the good practices in combating desertification that have been put into effect by NGOs.
  • To look for the potential reproduction of our local projects by keeping a regional (Mediterranean) scope in our daily work.
  • To profit from the contacts done during this workshop in order to prepare regional projects and to look for funding so as to implement, within a MED Forum partnership system, new projects based on these experiences.

Desertification, as shown in the Convention to Combat Desertification and in Chapter 12 of Agenda 21, is one of the world's most serious environmental problems, threatening the Earth's fertility and the food security of its population. Desertification is spreading due to climatic causes and human activities, both those performed in a single area and those performed all over the world (climate change). Some measures can only be taken at a general level, but others have to be taken at the regional, national or local level. Combating desertification and the tasks to mitigate the effect of droughts require an integrated treatment of the physical, biological and socio-economic aspects. Desertification is an increasingly severe problem in the Mediterranean regions that has to be fought with concrete and feasible recommendations, adapted to the environmental, economic, social, cultural, scientific, technological and political characteristics and situations of each country.

Midreshet Sde Boker (Israel) - Middle East, July 10, 1999

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