Dr. Massoud Mansour, the newly appointed Deputy Minister and Head of FRWO, invited Ex-Heads of FRWO on Tuesday evening for Iftar ceremony to exchange views on challenges and opportunities and different aspects of natural resources management.

In this meeting, the former Heads of FRWO provided their viewpoints on natural resources management as follows:

Dr. Abbas-Ali Zali the former Head of FRWO referred to rich ecological and diverse climates in Iran and emphasized the role of non- government organizations such as local cooperatives and community- based organizations and in general the participation of people in preserving forests and rangelands. Dr. Seyyed Mohammad Mir-Mohammadi one of the former Heads of FRWO said that "Awareness- raising combined with action -oriented methods aimed at improving general culture of local people about the importance of natural resources conservation and its role in sustaining well-being and food chain systems can lead to better dissemination of knowledge to remote local areas." Mir-Mohammadi also highlighted the need to combine global experiences and expertise along with domestic traditional knowledge. Dr. Rabi' Fallah, the former Head of FRWO, also referred to the FRWO's past relations with the academia and the Parliament and said: "FRWO had a strong and extensive network of connections with science and technology centers as well as the Legislative Body that could effectively resolve any problems in the field of natural resources management."

He stressed that there is a need to review forest and range management plans in order to come up with an integrated management plan for our forests and rangelands. He added that we do not have an effective human resource management in FRWO as a result we have not been able to recruit new staffs. He said: "In the field of desertification control, the activities have been limited to some sporadic projects while dust storms are affecting all over the country. Therefore, control measures should not be limited to little government budget." Dr. Fallah further referred to the development of wood farming and said: "Wood farming should be on the top of FRWO agenda, as a main axis of programs with emphasis on using unconventional waters and transferring the enterprise management to the private sector." Eng. Mohammad Samadi, another former Head of FRWO said that structure of natural resources management had been a bone of contention from the very past . It seems that FRWO should move to project-based management in natural resources management in medicinal herbs and wood farming development.

He said: "We need a paradigm shift in natural resources management, and at the moment FRWO has started a movement towards watershed management and desertification control." Dr. Khoda-Karam Jalali, another former Head of FRWO said: "Conservation of natural resources is prerequisite to sustainable development. However, due to excessive pressure, these resources are facing with imbalance in the ecosystem." Jalali noted that the fall in groundwater is one of the manifestations of this challenge. He pointed out FRWO's activities in the Lake Uremia Basin and said: "FRWO closed 10 dams that caused the lake to dry up and sealed many deep wells around it." Khoda-Karam Jalali considered the Integrated Watershed Management (IWM) as FRWO's central activity and said: "Integrated Watershed Management (IWM) is a very important tool and all FRWO's activities such as forestry, range restoration and conservation should be carried out within IWM approach."

Dr. Foroud Sharifi the former Head of FRWO also said: "There are many priorities for natural resources management, but on the top of that is organizational structure as a tool for optimum management." He reiterated: "FRWO is responsible for maintaining, reviving, developing and exploiting natural resources, but we do not have a comprehensive model for optimal exploitation, and if exists, it is sectoral –based." Dr. Ali Salajegheh said: "The connection of FRWO with the university and CBOs must be strengthened, and we must avoid big words and use a language that is understandable to local communities. Alireza Orangi called the management of natural resources a heavy duty, and said: "We have had a successful record in outsourcing in FRWO that must be revised to address new challenges." He said: "In the last couple of years, FRWO has had a golden opportunity of receiving budget from the National Development Fund, which should be used and exploited in the best way to preserve and develop natural resources." Mr. Orangi called for the use of the capacity of knowledge-based companies, and noted that most FRWO's activities should be outsourced. Eng. Khalil Aghaee, the former Head of FRWO said: "There is a strong consensus on priority areas of work in FRWO including tree planting, and watershed management. but FRWO has a lot of problems in the field of range management." In this meeting, Dr. Khosro Shahbazi, the former Acting Head of FRWO also referred to the national movement of planting initiative which was started on December 2019 throughout the country. He reiterated that the movement built a solid foundation for participatory mechanisms with planting more than 14 million saplings with the participation of the people and local communities, and noted that this model can promoted as a model for natural resources management.

In the end part of the meeting, Dr. Mansour praised the remarks and promised that he would use their valuable inputs in various parts of his work in natural resources management, and would certainly present his report to them in the next meetings.