Transformation and shifts in production landscapes for livelihood improvements in the Sahel

Project: Research

Project participant(s)

Department / unit(s)

Description

The agro-ecosystems of the semi-arid West Africa provide the livelihoods for some of the most poor and vulnerable people in the world. Within this low-productivity area 'islands' of successful land management suggests there are untapped opportunities to upgrade the livelihoods of people in these environments and out-scale these farming systems. However, little is understood at present about how such improvements in the farming system productivity will effect on-and off-farm ecosystem resources. This proposal aimed to develop a partnership to address this knowledge gap and take the first steps to identify how changes to the farming systems in these regions will affect the wider environment.

In this project a research partnership was established between the Centre for Ecology, Law and Policy (CELP), University of York, (UK), Centre Régional d'Enseignement Spécialisé en Agriculture (CRESA), University of Abdou Moumouni, (Niger), The Institut de l'Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles (INERA) (Burkina Faso), the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York, (UK), the Stockholm Resilience Centre (Stockholm University, Sweden) and Centre for International Cooperation (Vrije University, the Netherlands).

The aim of the project was to build a longer term partnership around joint research studying the opportunities and effects on overall landscape productivity and ecosystem services through the upgrading of Sahelian agro-ecosystems. Can farmers' livelihoods improve in a sustainable way, accounting for both on and off-farm ecosystem resources, functions and services? Why has there been a trend of 'greening' in farming systems in some areas of Sahel but not others?

The project activities during the initial 12-month period was to a) strengthening the partnership through mutual knowledge exchange through small joint research initiatives, and b) the development of a 3/4-year research proposal allowing the partnership to investigate effectively the proposed research theme. Key outcomes planned of this proposal were:

Joint publications based on pilot studies in selected pilot areas of Niger and/or Burkina Faso

Development of a full 3/4 year research partnership proposal

Mutual learning focused around the potential of participatory GIS for assessing livelihood dependancies in agro-eco systems

A number of joint student projects co-supervised by different partners within the project team


Layman's description

The agro-ecosystems of the semi-arid West Africa provide the livelihoods for some of the most poor and vulnerable people in the world. Within this low-productivity area 'islands' of successful land management suggests there are untapped opportunities to upgrade the livelihoods of people in these environments and out-scale these farming systems. However, little is understood at present about how such improvements in the farming system productivity will effect on-and off-farm ecosystem resources. This proposal aimed to develop a partnership to address this knowledge gap and take the first steps to identify how changes to the farming systems in these regions will affect the wider environment.

In this project a research partnership was established between the Centre for Ecology, Law and Policy (CELP), University of York, (UK), Centre Régional d'Enseignement Spécialisé en Agriculture (CRESA), University of Abdou Moumouni, (Niger), The Institut de l'Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles (INERA) (Burkina Faso), the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York, (UK), the Stockholm Resilience Centre (Stockholm University, Sweden) and Centre for International Cooperation (Vrije University, the Netherlands).

The aim of the project was to build a longer term partnership around joint research studying the opportunities and effects on overall landscape productivity and ecosystem services through the upgrading of Sahelian agro-ecosystems. Can farmers' livelihoods improve in a sustainable way, accounting for both on and off-farm ecosystem resources, functions and services? Why has there been a trend of 'greening' in farming systems in some areas of Sahel but not others?

The project activities during the initial 12-month period was to a) strengthening the partnership through mutual knowledge exchange through small joint research initiatives, and b) the development of a 3/4-year research proposal allowing the partnership to investigate effectively the proposed research theme. Key outcomes planned of this proposal were:

Joint publications based on pilot studies in selected pilot areas of Niger and/or Burkina Faso

Development of a full 3/4 year research partnership proposal

Mutual learning focused around the potential of participatory GIS for assessing livelihood dependancies in agro-eco systems

A number of joint student projects co-supervised by different partners within the project team

Key findings

Two groups of aims were set out for this research grant. The first aims related to the establishment of a partnership of researchers to investigate the production landscapes of the Sahel.

A very strong partnership between researchers in the following institutions has been established: Centre for Ecology, Law and Policy University of York, Centre Régional d'Enseignement Spécialisé en Agriculture, University of Abdou Moumouni (Niger), Niamey, The Institut de l'Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles (Burkina Faso), Stockholm Environment Institute at University of York, and Stockholm Resilience Centre (Stockholm University) and Centre for International Cooperation (Vrije University). Indeed, additional partners participated in the project including the University of Ouagadougou, Institut national de rechere agronomique du Niger (INRAN) and Africa Forestry Network (AFF)/ICRAF.

The aim of the partnership was to develop a longer term research agenda and a strategy for accessing appropriate funding to support this agenda. Although the NERC ESPA call that these aims were developed for was not made during the period of the project, the partners have accessed research funding from a number of alternative sources. It is hope that this experience will help the partnership in developing a strong proposal for the ESPA call. The additional sources have been: Stockholm Resilience Centre/Stockholm University and University of Abdou Moumouni Sida funded (SWE) with a value of SEK 4 million for 2010-2013 (Stockholm Environment Institute at University of York is unfunded partner); University of Vrije with INERA, Burkina Faso, University of Newcastle, Stockholm University , ICRAF, University of KwaZulu Natal, Sokoine University of Agricultural Sciences, proposal for EU FP7 Water harvesting in Sub-Sahara Africa (approved 1st June 2010), value of Eu 2 million for 2011-2013; Challenge Programme Water for Food in Volta Basin (Phase II): Stockholm Environment Institute invited for commissioned research proposal with INERA and University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, submitted 28 May 2010, value USD 700,000 for 2011-2013.

The second set of aims was focused upon implementing an initial joint research activity in selected pilot areas estimating initial livelihood dependency on ecosystems services both on-farm and off-farm in production landscapes.
Through coordination with the activities of a Stockholm Resilience Centre project the achievement of these aims was enhanced. 4 field sites rather than 2 were investigated through 12 MSc students rather than 4 (1 UK, 5 Sweden, 1 Burkina Faso, 5 Niger). A distributed hydrological model has been set up for the greater basin of two of the field research sites to evaluate potential impacts of various levels of re-greening. A publications has resulted from this work.

A joint training workshop in Participatory GIS for livelihood and ecosystems assessment was held in Ouagadougou with 11 participants from national research institutes and universities in Niger and Burkina Faso (with 2 additional African research participants). The methodologies introduced have now been used by participants in follow-on research activities in Burkina Faso both in the ESPA grant and other research projects.

The grant has therefore left in place a partnership of researchers actively taking forward this research in the Sahel.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date1/01/0931/03/10

Award relations

Transformation and shifts in production landscapes for livelihood improvements in the Sahel

McClean, C. J.

NATURAL ENVIRONMENT RESEARCH COUNCIL: £124,597.98

1/01/0931/03/10

Award date: 17/11/08

Award: UK Research Councils

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