Biodiversity program launched

The People, Livestock and Environment Theme in ILRI, is a key partner in a new program called Natural Resource Management And Biodiversity Conservation In The Dry Lands Of Eastern And Central Africa. Code-named Biodiversity Conservation in the Drylands (ABCD) at a partners meeting recently, the program, aims to assess the livelihood support potential of biodiversity related ecosystem services in Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia.

The year long project, which coincides with the International Year of Biodiversity, will help to illustrate the potential of biodiversity related ecosystem services. It will also point the way to formulating policies and investment plans that integrate conservation and economic development to build sustainable livelihoods. This will be achieved through dialogue and consultation of a wide range of stakeholders including local communities, academics and government decision makers who will give their views and ideas on what works best in their situation.

The new insights developed and the collection of dispersed information will be mobilized to define policy constraints and identify solutions for pastoral areas. At national level the research is aimed at supporting better systems of consultation and information sharing and policy development to integrate pastoralist land, livestock and biodiversity rather than isolating each in separate sector policy processes.

At the regional level, it will compare cross-border case studies to identify policy outcomes, constraints and opportunities and will work with different national groups to encourage national governments to consider examples of best practice elsewhere.

The prevailing policy environment favours other land uses in the dry lands that are environmentally less sustainable and economically less viable. It is necessary to identify sustainable investment options that re-enable pastoralists to invest in both livestock keeping and biodiversity conservation. Dry lands biodiversity is considered by many to be of high value, but that value is poorly quantified.

The project is funded by the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA). The other partners are Egerton University, Resource Conflict Institute (RECONCILE) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They will be supported by the Economic and Social Research Foundation of Tanzania (ESRF), the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), the University College London, the National Museums of Kenya and the Oromia Agricultural Research Institute (OARI).

By Jane Gitau

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