GENERAL: Livestock experts seek to conserve Kenya drylands
|African policymakers have resolved to develop strong mechanisms and strategies to preserve the sustainable management of the continent’s drylands.
The researchers, policymakers and livestock experts from Africa and Britain met in Nairobi this week to discuss the impacts of land tenure and natural resource management on dryland ecosystems in efforts to find ways of improving the sustainable management of Africa’s drylands.
The meeting was part of a 24-month project known as the ‘ Biodiversity, Ecosystem services, Social sustainability and Tipping points in African drylands (BEST).
"This project will get to the heart of the complexities of drylands management because it is seeking to put pastoralists at the center 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," Smith said in a joint statement issued in Nairobi on Thursday.
The project 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.
The arid zone forests support the livelihoods of a large proportion of its two billion people inhabitants of the drylands. Overall deforestation has declined globally, but persists in Africa and South America, according to the FAO’s 2010 Global Forests Resource Assessment.
The pressure on arid zone forests and the rangelands that protect them may increase, especially in the tropical and sub- tropical regions, from two opposing forces.
There is a global campaign to conserve the moist tropical forests for carbon sequestration, on the one hand, and the need open up new land for agriculture to meet a growing global demand for biofuels, food and poverty eradication on the other.
Increasingly, this pressure is being eased by reverting to the drylands.
"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.
She said 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 because marginal areas have become immensely important to a huge variety of competing land uses.
The meeting which brought together community representatives, scientists and specialists in ecology, economics and anthropology discussed research efforts that will shape policies to improve poverty alleviation and ecosystems management in eastern Africa’s dryland ecosystems.
"The findings of 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," the experts said.
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 the livelihoods of pastoral people who depend on these lands.
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, labor 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.