The rangelands of Iran have one of the world’s longest history of agriculture development, with a deep tradition of technological developments and knowledge of the soil that has produced centuries of fertile crops. Currently, however, new pressures to feed an increasing population of humans and livestock in the region has taken its toll on the land, as evidence now suggests that the soil is rapidly degrading.
With the land overly stressed from the amount of livestock it supports, the ranges are subjected to overgrazing, primarily as a result of inadequate knowledge by those individuals responsible. To prevent further degradation of the land, new training programs to help pastoralists properly utilize their rangelands is needed.
A recent study was conducted to determine the most effective method of instructing pastoralists in the Ilam province of Iran, comparing the results of lectures and workshops in their understanding of methods to preserve, renovate and utilize their rangelands. After participating in the learning sessions, the subjects were then given questionnaires in order to collect data related to their overall understanding of the issues after their participation. The study was conducted through the Department of Agricultural Extension and Education in the College of Agriculture at Shiraz University of Iran.
The results have been published as a part of the latest edition of the Journal of Natural Resources & Life Sciences Education. The authors include Dr. Mansoor Shahvali, Associate Professor of Agricultural Extension and Education in the Agriculture College of Shiraz University; A. Poursaeed, a Ph.D. student of Agricultural Extension and Education and Lecturers of Islamic Azad University, Ilam Branch; and Maryam Sharifzadeh a Ph.D. student of Agricultural Extension and Education and Lecturer of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research Centre of Shiraz University.
Results of the study determined that the most effective way of instructing the pastoralists was through participation in workshop training. The workshop method of learning had a significant impact on certain concepts such as animal–rangeland equilibrium, factors affecting this equilibrium, best time of turning animals onto rangelands, duration of time for grazing, and utilization methods and qualities. The participants were able to get a better grasp of certain theoretical concepts and how to apply methods to their rangeland management practices. The results confirmed previous studies conducted on learning methods, in that workshops have shown to have a greater ability to turn theoretical knowledge into practical application by those being instructed.
Though the workshop proved to be of more practical assistance to the pastoralists, the lecture training also showed great value as well. In particular, the lectures were effective in expanding the subject’s knowledge of rangeland surface in province, rate of grass products, and palatable species. It was also shown that that lecture training could significantly change pastoralists’ knowledge in the preservation and prohibition of rangelands. Integrating the workshop method into lecture-based instruction proves to have the best results in developing learners’ competence in rangeland management practice settings.
As a testament to how much benefit the pastoralists gained from the instruction, after the program they asked for more similar workshops to incorporate even more new rangeland practices, share new knowledge, and exchange information among themselves and with experts. Despite these positive results, it is important to note that the study did not resolve important questions unanswered from the standpoint of a workshops’ cost–benefit analysis, nor did it compare workshops with other methods of program delivery. Further research is needed to examine these factors.
The field work for this study was supported by a grant from the Ilam Province Natural Resource Organization and Education Office of the Iranian Forest and Pastures Organization.
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