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Diversity, Sustainability and Resilience in Natural Resource Management in Africa
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Diversity, Sustainability and Resilience in Natural Resource Management in Africa


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This study was presented during the conference “Production and Carbon Dynamics in Sustainable Agricultural and Forest Systems in Africa” held in September, 2010.

This study was presented during the conference “Production and Carbon Dynamics in Sustainable Agricultural and Forest Systems in Africa” held in September, 2010.

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  • 1. Diversity, sustainability and resilience in natural resource management in Africa Jeff Sayer, Stockholm, 29thSeptember 2010 ABSTRACT: This paper will discuss some of the changes in policy that could reduce the threat to, and strengthen the resilience of small-holder agriculture and forestry, and allow it to thrive in the future. For instance present programs to provide improved seeds, mechanisation and fertilizers pose a threat to existing integrated, low input systems. The existing focus on a small number of commodity crops runs counter to the ecological efficiency that could come from more diverse locally adapted crop and tree mixtures. The paper will argue that ecological efficiency and meeting local needs and retaining environmental values should receive more attention in agriculture and forestry systems and should balance the present emphasis given to provision of inputs, intensification and the export market orientation. Africa has vast areas with unproductive soils and severe water shortages, however there are also significant areas with productive well-watered soils. Africa has the potential to feed itself AND be a major exporter of food and other products whilst retaining its spectacular nature, in ways that contribute to increasing carbon stores. Some of the major drivers of change tend to favour intensive, high input agriculture and forestry which in turn is leads to demand for economies of scale. These will therefore push Africa in the direction of large, mechanised farms and forests. These may produce food and fibre for Africa’s metropolises but if the purchasing power of urban people is not high the produce may be exported and the food insecurity and environmental degradation in Africa may persist. The paper explores the implications of different development strategies for alleviating Africa’s poverty, feeding its people and doing so in ways that do not expose them to risk, whilst at the same time maintaining environmental values, during a period when the price of fossil fuels are going to increase. The rich world may be prepared to pay for agricultural and forestry systems that maintain sequester carbon and preserve biodiversity. A degree of aggregation of farm size and intensification is inevitable and desirable. But this process could increase the vulnerability of small farmers and forest dependent people. They risk not being able to compete and they will be susceptible to the various climatic changes predicted. They will suffer most from increases in input prices. Africa has some efficient small-holder agricultural and agroforestry systems. These are all at risk from intensification.
  • 2. The challenge • Producing more food and fiber • Equitable distribution of benefits • Driving economic growth • Africa as net sink not source of Carbon • Conserving Africa’s remarkable biodiversity
  • 3. The dangers Ideological drives Limited influence Not our role to make choices Options limited by institutional weakness All we can do is enhance capacity to make good decisions and manage programmes
  • 4. Conservation tillage …there is an urgent need for critical assessment under which ecological and socio-economic conditions CA is best suited for smallholder farming in SSA. Critical constraints to adoption appear to be competing uses for crop residues, increased labor for women etc (Giller et al) .
  • 5. Industrial Scenario • Will grow economies • But will have export orientation • May push African food prices down – unpredictable impacts on small farmers • Borlaug hypothesis – land saving • Could support trend to urbanisation • Vulnerable to global market and climate changes • Not good for carbon emissions
  • 6. TNS - Landscape • 44.000 km2; • 3 countries, 3 national parks – 17% Lobeke - 2.178 km2 Dzanga-Ndoki - 1.254 km2 Nouabale-Ndoki - 4.250 km2 •Concessions – 60% •Community forests – 10% •Agroforestry – 10% •Mines
  • 7. The people •Population ~191,000 •Bantou – 60% •Baka, Ba’Aka – 30% •Immigrants – 10% •Employed in logging or •Smallholder farmering •Hunters and gatherers
  • 8. GTZ MEFE Programme Régional de l’Afrique Centrale pour L’Environnement ROSE Université Autonome de Madrid MEFCP MINEP SEFAC ALPICAM FTNS Aires Protégées Dzanga-Sangha (APDS) Stakeholder platform - Landscape PROGEPP
  • 9. Sangha Tri-National Africa’s richest biodiversity
  • 10. And its poorest people
  • 11. Household income – BAU/REDD 1. BAU, no REDD 2. REDD for agroforestry zone 3. REDD for agroforestry and protected areas 4. REDD for agroforestry, protected areas and certified concessions
  • 12. Impact of the Global Financial Crisis Endamana et al – 2010. Tropical Conservation Science
  • 13. We need evidence and not slogans
  • 14. Champions of Integrated, diverse, small- scale agriculture UNEP, Norway, Study, IAASTD ICRAF, CIAT, Bioversity Small scale Biodiverse Locally self-sufficient – low inputs Labour intensive Resilient But will it get people out of poverty???
  • 15. How important are Biodiversity and natural ecosystem services for the poor? Basic biology suggests that diverse systems are more productive and resilient than simple systems They should provide resilience to climate variability, economic shocks etc  But can smallholder farmers capture the production benefits of diversity and move into the cash economy? Can these diverse systems yield an economic surplus?
  • 16. • Advocates make claims about value of diverse agriculture – but little empirical evidence for these values • Diverse systems safety nets for the very poor but: • Are smallholders locked-into diverse systems because of risks in transitioning to more intensive agriculture? • Specialised monocultures have historically provided the best route out of poverty – but is this because • Agricultural knowledge systems are part of the problem? – they can’t they handle the multiple needs of highly diverse locally adapted systems? Biodiverse agriculture – romantic ideology or resilient, productive systems
  • 17. Biodiversity, risk and transformation • Lots of rhetoric but little action • Can biodiversity be basis for transformational change for smallholder farmers? • Do we really understand the nature of actual or potential value of biodiversity? • Would changes in research priorities and modalities help find a role for more biodiverse agriculture?
  • 18. The glass half empty •Farmers only remain in diverse systems to avoid risk and they get lower returns to land, labour and capital (IFPRI) •Therefore biodiverse farming systems may be a poverty trap •Specialisation and focus on simpler farming systems provides best pathway out of poverty •Farmers move to specialised systems when they have capital or “insurance” and then get higher returns •AGRA, the World Bank etc clearly favour more specialised agricultural systems The Romantic illusion?
  • 19. The glass half full •Extremely poor still depend on biodiversity, off-farm incomes and natural ecosystem services •Agricultural inputs – phosphates, fossil fuels etc will become scarce •Ecological efficiency may become more important than single factor productivity •Precision and conservation agriculture, organic farming, eco- agriculture etc •Diverse systems do sometimes produce more – e.g. Ruanda, Sri Lanka •IAASTD clearly supports “small and diverse is beautiful” But maybe times are changing?
  • 20. Global orchestration The millennium Ecosystem Assessment scenarios – best analysis yet Adapting mosaicNatural habitat Intensive production Multifunctional landscape
  • 21. What are African Governments doing? • Very diverse responses • Asserting their own interests • Responding to threats and opportunities • Shifting allegiances to Brazil, China and the corporate world • Probably favouring the industrial scenario
  • 22. What do the actors think?  World Development Report 2008.  Productivity – intensification – inputs – breeding  Environment as externality  Climate change as threat to be confronted  IAASTD  Integrated agriculture – multiple functions  Ecological efficiency  Local self sufficiency  Resilience – from diversity  AGRA  Market access – value chains  Private suppliers – distribution networks  Fertilizers and improved seeds  Millennium Development Villages  Jump starting  Technological fixes  Fertilizers and improved seeds
  • 23. Millennium Villages – not so different to what many NGOs do a prosperous society lifted on to a pedestal and outside the reach of most of Africa’s citizens IHT – September 2010
  • 24. What can be done? • Recognize the diminishing role of formal aid agencies • Understand the real drivers of change • Develop realistic scenarios • Support embedded research - contextualised • Build local knowledge and innovation systems • Exterminate seagulls
  • 25. Mainstream agricultural research is: Focused on narrow range of crops, attributes and farming systems – promoting uniformity Seeking breakthrough technologies – not incremental change in diverse local systems Organised around dominant commercial crops Too supply driven – top down Seeks technological responses to risk Conservative and hierarchical?
  • 26. Modernise Africa’s knowledge and innovation systems • On station On farm/landscape • Controlled trials Action research • Single variable Multiple variables • Simple Complex systems • Libraries Internet, web of science • Written word ITC, cell phones etc • Centralised Networks
  • 27. Risk and transformation Are specialised systems themselves vulnerable to large scale “risks” - i. e. we replace lots of small risks by a few big risks Could research produce agricultural systems that are both diverse and productive? Is the existing aid system part of the problem?
  • 28. Conclusions • Research needs to be closely linked to users, locally adaptive, networked, tapping traditional knowledge etc, - flat hierarchy with multiple links to farmers • Long-term and place based • Need to move emphasis away from high input models towards more ecological efficiency • Use scenarios to explore radical changes? Don’t just extrapolate from past trends
  • 29. Thank you