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Case Study - Iran

Dialogues with partners identified in Iran have focused on a ‘learning by doing’ project aimed at reviving nomadic pastoralism and associated livelihoods and agricultural biodiversity. The Centre for Sustainable Development (CENESTA) is IIED’s project partner in this endeavour.

More than 90% of Iran’s surface is arid or semi-arid land. Pastoral communities have always played an important role in Iran and the greater ethno-ecological region of which it is a part by developing creative and sustainable systems for the use of scarce natural resources. Migration is a common cornerstone of their strategies; their mobility ensures that natural resources are not used to the point of exhaustion and eventual extermination. Nomadic pastoralists have learned to conserve rangelands through sophisticated techniques embedded in complex social and cultural institutions.

Preserving, strengthening, and revitalising mobile nomadic life in Iran and the greater geo-cultural region, with a particular focus on achieving sustainable livelihoods, preserving and revitalising its cultural strengths and models of conservation and sustainable use of nature, is a social and ecological necessity.

This project therefore aims to empower migratory nomadic pastoral communities to identify the most appropriate models for sustaining livelihoods and agro-biodiversity, taking into consideration their unique culture, present status, strengths and limitations, sharing experiences and visions for the future.

The pilot community of the project is the Kuhi Sub-tribe of “Shish Bayli” Qashqai Nomadic Pastoralists of Iran. The Kuhi sub-tribe is among the sub-tribes that still continue their migratorylifestyle. The sub-tribe comprises of 544 households with the population totalling 3,500 people. In general, the migration of this group is limited to Firoozabad and Eqlid in Fars province, southern Iran. The livelihoods of the Kuhi sub-tribe largely depend on livestock breeding (sheep, goat, camel and other track animals).

Guiding Principles

These principles were discussed and formulated by the Council of Elders of the 14 clans of the Kuhi sub-tribe of the Qashqai Confederation of Tribes during a recent workshop with support from the partner organisation CENESTA:

Equity and justice

  • Benefit to the entire community;
  • Priority will be given to the weaker and more deprived parts of the community;


  • Consultation with the various camps of the clans and taking into account their views, if possible before taking any decisions;
  • Reporting on performance, decisions, actions, and the results to every single camp as soon as possible;


  • All the actors should be accountable to each other;
  • Transparency in planning, design and implementation;


  • Economic and financial (using the income -rather than the capital- of economic activities and producing wealth and not just income);
  • Social and cultural (developments should emerge from their own culture and not blindly imitating models from other countries and conditions);
  • Environmental and ecological (using environmentally appropriate technology, conserving nature and prevention of pollution);
  • Legal, policy, structural and institutional (support from both government and national and international organisations and ensuring that the community-based organisations are modelled after the traditional social organisation of the tribe);

More information on the activities of the project partner; the Iranian non governmental organisation CENESTA, can be found at:



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