Ecosystem based planning should be combined with watershed management in order to achieve sustainable use of land and the services or values the land provides. This is one of the recommendations from a yearlong study by Silvia Silvestri on the Ecosystem services trade-offs in Ewaso Ng’iro, in Kenya’s Rift Valley. She was making the presentation at a workshop in Nyeri, Kenya at the close of the project entitled Resource mapping, land use development and planning in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands, undertaken in partnership with the World Resources Institute. The project was managed by ILRI’s People Livestock and Environmentteam (PLE) on Reducing vulnerability of livestock-based livelihoods, ecosystem goods and services in pastoral and agro-pastoral Systems.
Silvestri said there is increased risk of land use changes mainly related to increase in population and emigration upstream in the watershed. This in turn creates the need to plan for biodiversity conservation and development which she said is multi-disciplinary, requiring different stakeholders and it is particularly important in drylands where negative effects of land use changes can be amplified by water scarcity.
“We may lose services and value as a consequence of unsustainable land use. These include benefits from livestock and wildlife lost for lack of conservation corridors while water supply and irrigated crops may be compromised by increase of water demand”, said Silvestri.
She advised the re-aggregation of data from administrative boundaries to sub-catchment levels and the combination of economic values and socio-economic and natural assets as well understanding clearly the implications of trade-offs between crop and livestock production and selected wealth indicators.
In her research, Silvestri sought to link ecosystem services, human well-being and policy questions. This would help to produce alternatives, based on data and scenario development and understand ecosystem management interventions and change in well-being.
Silvestri described the various trade-offs taking place across the study area. There are trade-offs between livestock assets and products. Here, the livestock asset is similar but livestock products are much lower in the lower watershed where distances are also greater to the market. The higher the travel time to the market, the lesser the options for selling products into national markets and the possibility of getting better prices from products if transportation and communication were better.
Then there are trade-offs between crops and livestock. Although the market value of agriculture and livestock mostly depend on climatic conditions, infrastructure, access to water and markets are important determinants. People downstream have much fewer choices other than livestock which means less livelihood diversification. There is increased competition between resources and there is need for prioritization of interventions. Finally, there are trade-offs between tourism, cropping and livestock where the land cover and use change led to loss of wildlife habitat and increased human-wildlife conflicts.
The workshop was hosted by the Center for Training and Integrated Research In ASAL, (CETRAD)who were partners in implementing the project. The workshop was attended by several stakeholders working in the Ewaso Ng’iro watershed.