Policy workshop seeks sustainable practices to preserve livelihoods in Africa’s drylands

Nairobi workshop on Biodiversity, Ecosystem services, social sustainability and tipping points in African Drylands

Policymakers, practitioners and community users discussed, this week, ways to improve the sustainable management of Africa’s drylands at a workshop held at ILRI in Nairobi (photo credit: ILRI/Samuel Mungai).

Researchers, policymakers and livestock experts from Africa and the UK met this week to discuss the impacts of land use changes on African drylands  in efforts towards shaping policies that will enhance the sustainable management of these ecosystems.

In a workshop held on 14 February 2012 at the Nairobi headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), community representatives, scientists and specialists in ecology, economics and anthropology discussed research that is expected to shape policies for the improvement of poverty alleviation and ecosystems management in eastern Africa’s dryland ecosystems.

African drylands are fast approaching a tipping point brought about by policy-driven changes in land tenure that have transformed communal lands into private enclosures and wildlife conservancies and the closing off of open access lands that have limited livestock and wildlife mobility. These changes have led to environmental and social consequences that are threatening livestock production and and the livelihoods of pastoral people who depend on these lands.

‘This project will get to the heart of the complexities of drylands management because it is seeking to put pastoralists at the centre of managing their resources,’ said Jimmy Smith, the director general of ILRI. ‘Findings from this project will help us understand how livestock keepers interact with policies, the environment and their economic opportunities,’ said Smith.

The workshop which is part of a 24-month project known as the ‘Biodiversity, Ecosystem services, Social sustainability and Tipping points in African drylands (BEST).’ It is being carried out by a consortium of international partners who include ILRI, the Institute of Zoology, London, University College London and the African Technology Policy Studies Network who are using their expertise in natural resource and biodiversity assessment, natural resource management and communication to analyze the impacts of the changes taking place in dryland ecosystems. Other partners in the research include the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute and the Association of Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa. The project is funded by a consortium of the Department for International Development and the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council and  Economic and Social Research Council.

‘We hope to address the very rapidly developing and severe challenges arising in east African arid- and semi-arid rangelands, particularly in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania,’ said Katherine Homewood, an anthropologist with the University College London and the principal investigator for the project. ‘These changes have led to significant opportunity costs for pastoralists who depend on livestock production in these areas; some of whom have been displaced or dispossessed of their livelihoods,’ Homewood says, ‘because marginal areas have become immensely important to a huge variety of competing land uses like mining, biofuels production, crop farming and wildlife conservation.’

Despite these changes, findings indicate that livestock production remains the key source of income for pastoralists and the project, now in its first phase, will investigate how households are responding to the changes in dryland ecosystems, how pastoralist households invest time, labour and capital into livestock, farming or wildlife tourism in light of these changes and the consequences of these choices on poverty reduction, biodiversity and the local and national economies.

‘Results from this project will provide the government with useful information on biodiversity management, environmental reporting and land use practices by offering up to date information on social and environmental interactions that are essential for management of environmental risks in rangelands,’ said Ali Mohammed, Permanent Secretary in Kenya’s Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources, who officially opened the workshop.

The project has been implemented for just under one year and  project partners used the workshop to draw on existing expert knowledge of dryland systems. This information will be used in modeling approaches for further analysis of dryland ecosystems. Among others, participants called for better evaluation of the opportunities and tradeoff emerging from differences in land tenure systems, disparities in distribution of  tourism income and displacements of pastoralists and diminishing livestock productivity. Information from this workshop will guide research and deliver findings that will help evaluate policy scenarios and give insights into ecosystem services to inform policymaking and practice.

 

More on the Biodiversity, Ecosystem services, Social sustainability and Tipping points in African drylands project: http://www.ilri.org/best

 

Watch a 10-minute film about finding ways of balancing the needs of people, lands and wildlife:

http://blip.tv/ilri/counting-in-a-disappearing-land-people-livestock-and-wildlife-1458292

 

New initiative to boost food production in eastern Africa’s drylands

Ethiopia, Addis Ababa

A boy tends cattle in Ethiopia. A new initiative supported by the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) research program of the CGIAR will boost smallholder farmers’ resilience to drought in the Horn of Africa. (Photo credit: ILRI/Gerard)

A new initiative to help pastoralists and smallholder farmers cope with the twin pressures of drought and climate change was launched recently at the Nairobi, Kenya, headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

The initiative, ‘Climate change adaptation and mitigation for communities in dryland regions,’ is conducted by a group of development partners that include the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) research program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Vétérinaires San Frontières, Solidarites and Action Aid among others. The initiative will work towards securing the agro-pastoral livelihoods of poor livestock keepers in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

The meeting, held on 22 March 2011, brought together donor representatives, regional research and development partners, national research and extension representatives and non-governmental agencies engaged in promoting dryland agriculture. The meeting aimed to create awareness of the challenges facing the drylands and to share information about existing technological and institutional innovations that can address some of their most pressing challenges.

The drylands and other marginal environments of eastern Africa have high population growth and climate variability and few livelihood options other than livestock keeping. Such marginal lands around the world, however, produce about 20% of the world’s food, have rich cultural and social diversity and are inhabited by people whose traditional ways of coping with climate change can be harnessed for improved small-scale agriculture and livelihoods.

The new regional drylands initiative will help increase crop and livestock productivity in the three countries as well as add value to supply chain processes and help build supportive institutional frameworks for enhancing food production and marketing.

The initiative hopes to boost food security and livelihoods by increasing the resilience of vulnerable livestock keepers and is expected to reach about 1.3 million people at a cost of USD15 million in its first phase, which starts this year and will go on until 2013.

‘As a key partner in the project,’ said James Kinyangi, a regional program leader of CCAFS, who is based at ILRI, ‘CCAFS will apply lessons from successful past CGIAR research to intensify agricultural production in marginal environments. This should help eastern Africa’s dryland communities to develop greater resilience to climate change.’

The drylands initiative follows a workshop on dryland farming practices held in 2008 to map strategies for improving farming in eastern Africa’s drylands and identify high-priority crops for adaptation.

For more information about the regional drylands initiative visit: http://typo3.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/drought/docs/Dryland%20Flyer_final.pdf

To find out more about CCAFS visit: http://www.ccafs.cgiar.org/

East and central African countries meet in Addis to address climate change regionally

Here water is life,

The Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) is holding a conference—Climate Change Adaptation Strategies, Capacity Building and Agricultural Innovations to Improve Livelihoods in Eastern and Central Africa: Post-Copenhagen—in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 7–9 June 2010.

Joining ASARECA for this 3-day sub-regional meeting are representatives from the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research; the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which has a principal campus in Addis Ababa; the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), based in Syria; and other regional and international partners.

Participants of the ten countries that are members of ASARECA are being presented with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and implications for African countries of the resolutions of last December's climate conference in Copenhagen. The participants will assess the relative vulnerability to climate change of its ten member countries, as well as the impacts expected from climate change and the national agricultural adaptation strategies developed in those countries.

The agricultural innovations and technologies already available for responding to climate change and variability will be assessed for their ability to improve livelihoods in the region's arid and semi-arid areas. The participants will recommend optimal ways to negotiate and facilitate implementation of international climate change agreements in the region as well as ways simultaneously to reduce the impacts of climate change and climate variability while improving livelihoods of dryland peoples, who are particularly vulnerable to a warming planet.