July 4, 2014

Managing Landscapes in Africa: From ‘Evil Forests’ to a Half-Urban, Half-Rural People

Daisy Ouya, World Agroforestry Centre

Policy makers in Africa must think globally, regionally and locally for sustainable landscape management.

Africa—a diverse, resource-rich yet food-insecure continent—urgently needs an integrated landscapes approach to policy-making in order to meet food security and development goals while protecting the natural resource base that makes it all possible. To feed and nourish the continent’s expected population of 2 billion people by 2050, Africa will need to close an 87% food production gap amid a changing climate without compromising environmental integrity.

“The landscapes approach truly mirrors the heterogeneity, complexity and dynamism of African landscapes,” said Joseph Tanui, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) researcher.

Tanui, who leads the Strengthening Rural Institutions project, was facilitating a vibrant session to discuss opportunities, challenges and options for national policies to support landscape management in Africa, at the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature in Africa conference, 1-3 July 2014.

He notes that such policies will need have to have a bias towards rural areas, where most of sub-Saharan Africa’s populace is found, without ignoring urban areas, which are growing daily, participants heard. They will also need to take a close look into land tenure policies, which in many African countries are akin to “a ticking time bomb.”

And the policies should be embedded in a rights-based, gender-inclusive and poverty-eradication framework.

Rwandan forest and agricultural terraces. Photo by Raffaela Kozar, EcoAgriculture Partners.

Rwandan forests directly adjacent to agricultural land. Photo by Raffaela Kozar, EcoAgriculture Partners.

The session’s main panelists were Alice Kaudia, Kenya’s environment secretary, Richard Munang of UNEP, and Nigerian environmentalist and educator Odigha Odigha. The audience, made up of experts in policy, agriculture and the environment, did not hold back, actively putting forward salient points and proposals.

For instance, it was recommended that national policies to support landscape management need to have people at their centre. They should allow for market and financial incentives so people can feel the benefits of sustainable practices in their own lives. Engaging people at the grassroots is essential. This is a critical stakeholder group with a lot of knowledge on locally acceptable ways to conserve natural resources; after all, local traditions protected forests and watersheds in Africa for millennia.

“‘Evil forests’ were common throughout Africa. Because people feared them and left them alone, watersheds were protected,” said Odigha Odigha.

African policy makers should also take advantage of the many international consultative forums and frameworks that support integrated landscape management (ILM) policy-making and implementation. They should also seek to raise funds for operational research that tracks progress.

Of particular interest to the session was the new AU/NEPAD flagship program—‘Sustainable Land Management, Desertification, Biodiversity & Adaptation to Climate Change’—as a platform for policy learning and innovation. TerrAfrica, SADC, ECOWAS, and COMESA, which are concerned with integrated landscape policy, as well as the UN and international conventions on desertification (UNCCD), climate change (UNCCC) and biodiversity (CBD), are further platforms.

These international and regional instruments and programs, however, need to be localized, and local-level institutions strengthened to implement them through communities.

Beyond implementation, an important role of local institutions will be to develop clear indicators of impact, and to adopt a holistic approach towards about people, wildlife and livestock populations in landscapes. They should also aim to make policies that are independent of political processes.

Actions for community engagement and education ought to be designed to meet the needs of men, women, youth and children as discrete groups, which in themselves have further diversity in place and lifestyle.

“In Africa, we have urban people and rural people; some are half-rural, half-urban. We have migratory, pastoral, agricultural, fisherfolk and a host of other mixed populations. And when people move, they tend to move with their livelihood practices, even when these don’t work in their new locality,” commented Tanui.

Sara Scherr, EcoAgriculture Partners president, said “Policy analysis at landscape level and policy making at national level,” would be advisable. Such landscape-level policy making is able to address trans-boundary natural resources. Already, there are examples of this in several countries. “Cameroon and Nigeria are collaborating on cross-boundary management of natural resources, including wildlife,” said Odigha Odigha.

The policy session was one of six major parallel sessions at the conference. Its outcomes on integrated landscape management-supportive policy making in Africa will help shape recommendations for initiatives underway or being planned on the continent.

Daisy Ouya works as a communications specialist with the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), based in Nairobi. She has a Masters degree in chemistry from the University of Connecticut, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nairobi, Kenya, but abandoned the test tube for the keyboard 15 years ago.
More From Daisy Ouya

No comments

  • Linked from From 'Evil Forests' to Half-rural and Half-urba...   July 6 10:52am

    […] Such policies will need have to have a bias towards rural areas, where most of sub-Saharan Africa's populace is found, without ignoring urban areas, which are growing daily, participants heard. They will also need to take a …  […]