Drylands occupy 75% of Eastern Africa and have a high economic value. In spite of this, their understanding remains scanty. Understanding how to adapt to the drylands of Eastern Africa is the key subject in a series of meetings taking place this week in Nairobi and Arusha. The Nairobi meeting, dubbed the National Dialogue workshop on Natural Resource Management and Biodiversity Conservation in the Drylands of Eastern and Central Africa, seeks to validate the findings at national level in each of the three countries where research was conducted. The three countries are Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya.
In Arusha, 27 and 28th October, researchers will meet with regional policy makers to identify cross-cutting issues and discuss opportunites for policy change.
Drylands, as defined by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) comprises of land within the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid aridity zones (UNEP 1997). They are characterized by low, erratic and highly inconsistent rainfall levels and high coefficient of rainfall, limited by soil moisture, and show a gradient of increasing primary productivity. They occupy 90% in Kenya, 75% of Ethiopia and 67% of Tanzania. More than 60 million or 40% of the population live in drylands of Eastern Africa (estimates of 2002) covering an area of about 2 million km2.
As such, routinely gathering appropriate data on the real values of dryland biodiversity and livelihoods is advisable. This is one of the key findings from a 24-month study on drylands and biodiversity to make a significant contribution to understanding high priority regional policy issues and potential reforms that will favor improved and sustainable biodiversity conservation, while enhancing livelihoods in pastoral areas of the Eastern and Central African region.
The study was conducted by International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Resource Conflict Institute (RECONCILE), and Egerton University as the coordinating institution. The research was supported by Association for the Strengthening of Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA).
Specifically, the research endeavoured to: i) inform policy harmonization in sustainable management of dryland and pastoral areas biodiversity, ii) develop tools that will guide sustainable investment options in dryland and pastoral areas; and iii) promote a regional approach to drylands and pastoral areas conservation and use.
“We need to look for existing opportunities and work with partners like the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) in each country to understand how best we can help implement what they already have in their plans and where we can increase their knowledge and understanding of biodiversity, drylands and livelihoods”, said Dr Michael Waithaka, ASARECA Manager, Policy Analysis and Advocacy Programme.