Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Solutions to optimise sustainable resource management in African dryland populations

The livelihood of hundreds of millions of people in Africa depend on drylands. An EU initiative aimed to better understand and manage forests in drylands that are vital to the sustainable development of surrounding communities.
Solutions to optimise sustainable resource management in African dryland populations
Drylands include remnant forests typically found in mountains that provide essential livelihood resources. However, overexploitation, climate change and population growth are straining these fragile ecosystems.

The EU-funded ASEC-DRYLAND-FORESTS (Avoiding the socio-ecological collapse of remnant evergreen forests in drylands: The case study of northern Kenya) project contributed to the improved management of remnant forests. Work centred around three such forests in northern Kenya's drylands.

To identify and assess the importance of forest ecosystem services (ES), project partners organised 12 focus group discussions around the three mountain areas and conducted 120 interviews with several ethnic groups at one of the mountain villages. Water was the forests' most vital ES. The second most important ES, namely firewood, fodder and medicine, differed among mountains and ethnic groups.

The ASEC-DRYLAND-FORESTS team examined interrelationships between the forests and local climate using remote sensing, historical meteorological data, and rainfall and fog field measurements. Findings show that during 1986-2014, the three forests lost 30 %, 20 % and 8 % of their cover. Rainfall and fog significantly decreased during this period, and fog was an important source of water input. All three have large amounts of live tree carbon stocks.

Researchers gathered 150 water samples to determine if current ES use is sustainable. Results indicate that different aquifers exist in each mountain, and water extracted from boreholes originates from ancient aquifers not being replenished by rainfall or fog. Other findings indicate that non-timber forest product harvesting is not necessarily destructive for the concerned species. The species' basic characteristics, number of uses and the timing of the harvest are key. However, extraction was found to be unsustainable for certain plant species.

Outreach activities were carried out to raise awareness, including environmental education programmes in primary schools, public lectures and short online films.

ASEC-DRYLAND-FORESTS provided valuable insight into the sustainable use of natural resources in African dryland communities that can also be applied worldwide.

Related information

Keywords

Dryland, remnant forests, ASEC-DRYLAND-FORESTS, forest ecosystem services
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