December 28, 2012

An Eye on Africa

Ethiopia, WFP, MERET, Agriculture, Landscape, Food Security

While both environmental degradation and food security are issues of concern around the world, considerable attention has fallen on the African continent. It not only houses considerable biodiversity and natural resources, but also human populations suffering most from huner an poverty. Increasingly, donor funds from philanthropic organizations (e.g. Gates Foundation; Rockefeller Foundation) to foreign aid, as in the case with the Feed the Future program at the US Agency for International Development, are targeted at the region and specific issues of food security and agricultural development. In the past year, the Landscapes Blog has documented cases in Africa in which more integrated approaches are being used to try to amend some of these challenges.

Back in April, the Blog highlighted an article that depicted the deficiency in soil fertility in Africa, which poses significant issues for agriculture and food security in the region. An article from the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) transported us to Ethiopia to look at the soils on degraded lands, at measures to remedy the deficiency. Human-wildlife conflicts and the loss of habitat are also major concerns. African Wildlife Foundation shared how it is taking a landscape approach to meet the dual goals of conserving wildlife and supporting local livelihoods both in the Zambezi Heartland of Zambia and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

And as discusses yesterday, climate change presents a looming threat to continued food production and the long-term sustainability of natural and human-dominant systems. In the Kericho-Mau Landscape of Western Kenya, tea producers have recognized this and are trying to address the new challenges from climate change. In the Ankinaheny-Zamena Corridor of Madagascar, a new project links climate funds to biodiversity conservation while supporting sustainable agriculture practices.

Beyond these examples of approaches already in place trying to integrate across sectors and stakeholders, there are also cases where landscape approaches present a yet-unrealized opportunity to achieve multiple environmental and social benefits. The Usuthu Gorge in South Africa is one such landscape that surfaced on the Blog this year. Even more encouraging, in an effort to bring environmental sustainability to the forefront of development, particularly in agriculture, the government of Botswana in collaboration with Conservation International brought together African leaders in government, business, and other institutions to design strategies in the pursuit of environmentally sustainable economic development that is mutually beneficial to African nations and their investment partners.

So while there are still many unknowns and obstacles to overcome, the efforts already in place in Africa give reason for optimism. We will continue to pay close attention, and keep an eye on Africa’s advancements and innovation in 2013.

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