Unhealthy Landscapes: Policy Recommendations on Land Use Change and Infectious Disease Emergence



Anthropogenic land use changes drive a range of infectious disease outbreaks and emergence events and modify the transmission of endemic infections. These drivers include agricultural encroachment, deforestation, road construction, dam building, irrigation, wetland modification, mining, the concentration or expansion of urban environments, coastal zone degradation, and other activities. These changes in turn cause a cascade of factors that exacerbate infectious disease emergence, such as forest fragmentation, disease introduction, pollution, poverty, and human migration. The Working Group on Land Use Change and Disease Emergence grew out of a special colloquium that convened international experts in infectious diseases, ecology, and environmental health to assess the current state of knowledge and to develop recommendations for addressing these environmental health challenges. The group established a systems model approach and priority lists of infectious diseases affected by ecologic degradation. Policy-relevant levels of the model include specific health risk factors, landscape or habitat change, and institutional (economic and behavioral) levels. The group recommended creating Centers of Excellence in Ecology and Health Research and Training, based at regional universities and/or research institutes with close links to the surrounding communities. The centers’ objectives would be 3-fold: a) to provide information to local communities about the links between environmental change and public health; b) to facilitate fully interdisciplinary research from a variety of natural, social, and health sciences and train professionals who can conduct interdisciplinary research; and c) to engage in science-based communication and assessment for policy making toward sustainable health and ecosystems.

Human-induced land use changes are the primary drivers of a range of infectious disease outbreaks and emergence events and also modifiers of the transmission of endemic infections (Patz et al. 2000). These land use changes include deforestation, road construction, agricultural encroachment, dam building, irrigation, coastal zone degradation, wetland modification, mining, the concentration or expansion of urban environments, and other activities. These changes in turn cause a cascade of factors that exacerbate infectious disease emergence, such as forest fragmentation, pathogen introduction, pollution, poverty, and human migration. These are important and complex issues that are understood only for a few diseases. For example, recent research has shown that forest fragmentation, urban sprawl, and biodiversity loss are linked to increased risk for Lyme disease in the northeastern United States (Schmidt and Ostfeld 2001). Expansion and changes in agricultural practices are intimately associated with the emergence of Nipah virus in Malaysia (Chua et al. 1999Lam and Chua 2002), cryptosporidiosis in Europe and North America, and a range of food-borne illnesses globally (Rose et al. 2001). Road building is linked to the expansion of bushmeat consumption that may have played a key role in the early emergence of human immunodeficiency virus types 1 and 2 (Wolfe et al. 2000), and simian foamy virus has been found in bushmeat hunters (Wolfe et al. 2004).

In recognition of the complexity of land use change and the risks and benefits to human health that it entails, a special colloquium titled “Unhealthy Landscapes: How Land Use Change Affects Health” was convened at the 2002 biennial meeting of the International Society for Ecosystem Health (6–11 June 2002, Washington, DC) to address this issue. The invited experts worked to establish consensus on the current state of science and identify key knowledge gaps underlying this issue. This article condenses the working group’s report and presents a new research and policy agenda for understanding land use change and its effects on human health. Specifically, we discuss land-use drivers or human activities that exacerbate infectious diseases; the land–water interface, common to many infectious disease life cycles; and conclusions and recommendations for research and training from the working group.

Land-Use Drivers of Infectious Disease Emergence

The emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) resulting from land use change can be entirely new to a specific location or host species. This may occur either from “spillover” or cross-species transmission or simply by extension of geographic range into new or changed habitats. More than 75% of human diseases are zoonotic and have a link to wildlife and domestic animals (Taylor et al. 2001).

The working group developed an extensive list of processes by which land use affects human health (specifically, infectious disease occurrence) and of other factors that contribute to this relationship: agricultural development, urbanization, deforestation, population movement, increasing population, introduction of novel species/pathogens, water and air pollution, biodiversity loss, habit fragmentation, road building, macro and micro climate changes, hydrological alteration, decline in public health infrastructure, animal-intensive systems, eutrophication, military conflict, monocropping, and erosion (ranked from highest to lowest public health impact by meeting participants). The four mechanisms that were felt to have the greatest impact on public health were changes to the physical environment; movement of populations, pathogens, and trade; agriculture; and urbanization. War and civil unrest were also mentioned as a potentially acute and cross-cutting driver. Infectious disease agents with the strongest documented or suspected links to land use change are listed in Table 1

Table 1

Changes to the biophysical environment.


Rates of deforestation have grown exponentially since the beginning of the 20th century. Driven by rapidly increasing human population numbers, large swaths of species-rich tropical and temperate forests, as well as prairies, grasslands, and wetlands, have been converted to species-poor agricultural and ranching areas. The global rate of tropical deforestation continues at staggering levels, with nearly 2–3% of forests lost globally each year. Parallel with this habitat destruction is an exponential growth in human–wildlife interaction and conflict. This has resulted in exposure to new pathogens for humans, livestock, and wildlife (Wolfe et al. 2000). Deforestation and the processes that lead to it have many consequences for ecosystems. Deforestation decreases the overall habitat available for wildlife species. It also modifies the structure of environments, for example, by fragmenting habitats into smaller patches separated by agricultural activities or human populations. Increased “edge effect” (from a patchwork of varied land uses) can further promote interaction among pathogens, vectors, and hosts. This edge effect has been well documented for Lyme disease (Glass et al. 1995). Similarly, increased activity in forest habitats (through behavior or occupation) appears to be a major risk factor for leishmaniasis (Weigle et al. 1993). Evidence is mounting that deforestation and ecosystem changes have implications for the distribution of many other microorganisms and the health of human, domestic animal, and wildlife populations.

One example of the effects of land use on human health is particularly noteworthy. Deforestation, with subsequent changes in land use and human settlement patterns, has coincided with an upsurge of malaria and/or its vectors in Africa (Coluzzi 19841994Coluzzi et al. 1979), in Asia (Bunnag et al. 1979), and in Latin America (Tadei et al. 1998). When tropical forests are cleared for human activities, they are typically converted into agricultural or grazing lands. This process is usually exacerbated by construction of roads, causing erosion and allowing previously inaccessible areas to become colonized by people (Kalliola and Flores Paitán 1998). Cleared lands and culverts that collect rainwater are in some areas far more suitable for larvae of malaria-transmitting anopheline mosquitoes than are intact forests (Charlwood and Alecrim 1989Jones 1951Marques 1987).

Another example of the effects of land use on human health involves deforestation and noninfectious disease: the contamination of rivers with mercury. Soil erosion after deforestation adds significant mercury loads, which are found naturally in rainforest soils, to rivers. This has led to fish in the Amazon becoming hazardous to eat (Fostier et al. 2000Veiga et al. 1994).

Habitat fragmentation.

This alters the composition of host species in an environment and can change the fundamental ecology of microorganisms. Because of the nature of food webs within ecosystems, organisms at higher trophic levels exist at a lower population density and are often quite sensitive to changes in food availability. The smaller patches left after fragmentation often do not have sufficient prey for top predators, resulting in local extinction of predator species and a subsequent increase in the density of their prey species. Logging and road building in Latin America have increased the incidence of cutaneous and visceral leishmaniasis (Desjeux 2001), which in some areas has resulted from an increase in the number of fox reservoirs and sandfly vectors that have adapted to the peridomestic environment (Patz et al. 2000). Foxes, however, are not very important reservoirs for leishmaniasis in Latin America (Courtenay et al. 2002), and a more important factor in the transmission cycle includes domestic dogs.

Ostfeld and Keesing (2000) have demonstrated that smaller fragments in North American forests have fewer small mammal predators. Results suggest that the probability that a tick will become infected depends on not only the density of white-footed mice but also the density of mice relative to that of other hosts in the community. Under this scenario, the density effect of white-footed mice, which are efficient reservoirs for Lyme disease, can be “diluted” by an increasing density of alternative hosts, which are less efficient at transmitting Lyme disease. These results suggest that increasing host diversity (species richness) may decrease the risk of disease through a “dilution effect” (Schmidt and Ostfeld 2001).

Extractive industries.

Gold mining is an extractive industry that damages local and regional environments and has adverse human health effects, because mercury is used to extract gold from riverbeds in the tropical forests. Not only does mercury accumulate in local fish populations, making them toxic to eat (Lebel et al. 19961998), but mercury also suppresses the human immune system. Also, in gold-mining areas, more mosquito-breeding sites and increased malaria risk result from digging gem pits in the forest and from craters resulting from logging; broader disease spread occurs as populations disperse throughout the region (Silbergeld et al. 2002).

Movement of populations, pathogens, and trade.

The movement of humans, domestic animals, wildlife populations, and agricultural products through travel, trade, and translocations is a driver of infectious disease emergence globally. These sometimes inadvertent, sometimes deliberate movements of infectious disease and vectors (e.g., the introduction of smallpox and measles to the Americas by Spanish conquistadors) will continue to rise via continually expanding global travel and by development of Third World populations. Human introduction of pathogens, hosts, or materials into new areas has been termed “pathogen pollution” (Daszak et al. 2000).

Land use changes drive some of these introductions and migrations and also increase the vulnerability of habitats and populations to these introductions. Human migrations also drive land use changes that in turn drive infectious disease emergence. For example, in China’s Yunnan Province, an increase in livestock populations and migration has led to an increase in the incidence of schistosomiasis (Jiang et al. 1997). In Malaysia, a combination of deforestation, drought, and wildfires has led to alterations in the population movements and densities of flying foxes, large fruit bats known to be the reservoir for the newly emergent zoonosis Nipah virus (Chua et al. 1999). It is believed that the increased opportunity for contact between infected bats and pigs produced the outbreak of the disease in pigs, which then was transmitted to people in contact with infected pigs (Aziz et al. 2002).

Another example of human-induced animal movement on a much larger scale is the international pet trade. This movement of animals involves many countries and allows for the introduction of novel pathogens, such as monkeypox, with the potential to damage ecosystems and threaten human and animal health. Monkeypox was originally associated with bushmeat hunting of red colobus monkeys (Procolobus badius); after a localized epidemic emerged in humans, monkeypox persisted for four generations via human-to-human contact (Jezek et al. 1986).

Human movement also has significant implications for public health. Not only are travelers (tourists, businesspeople, and other workers) at risk of contracting communicable diseases when visiting tropical countries, but they also can act as vectors for delivering infectious diseases to another region or, in the case of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), potentially around the world. Refugees account for a significant number of human migrants, carrying diseases such as hepatitis B and tuberculosis and various parasites (Loutan et al. 1997). Because of their status, refugees become impoverished and are more exposed to a wide range of health risks. This is caused by the disruption of basic health services, inadequate food and medical care, and lack of clean water and sanitation (Toole and Waldman 1997). People who cross international boundaries, such as travelers, immigrants, and refugees, may be at increased risk of contracting infectious diseases, especially those who have no immunity because the disease agents are uncommon in their native countries. Immigrants may come from nations where diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria are endemic, and refugees may come from situations where crowding and malnutrition create ideal conditions for the spread of diseases such as cholera, shigellosis, malaria, and measles [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 1998].


The importance of zoonotic diseases should be emphasized. Zoonotic pathogens are the most significant cause of EIDs affecting humans, both in the proportion of EIDs that they cause and in the impact that they have. Some 1,415 species of infectious organisms are known to be pathogenic to people, with 61% of them being zoonotic. Of the emerging pathogens, 75% are zoonotic, and zoonotic pathogens are twice as likely to be associated with emerging diseases than are nonzoonotic pathogens (Taylor et al. 2001). More important, zoonotic pathogens cause a series of EIDs with high case fatality rates and no reliable cure, vaccine, or therapy (e.g., Ebola virus disease, Nipah virus disease, and hantavirus pulmonary syndrome). Zoonotic pathogens also cause diseases that have some of the highest incidence rates globally [e.g., acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)]. AIDS is a special case, because it is caused by a pathogen that jumped host from nonhuman primates and then evolved into a new virus. Thus, it is in origin a zoonotic organism (Hahn et al. 2000).

Because of the important role of zoonoses in current public health threats, wildlife and domestic animals play a key role in the process by providing a “zoonotic pool” from which previously unknown pathogens may emerge (Daszak et al. 2001). The influenza virus is an example, causing pandemics in humans after periodic exchange of genes among the viruses of wild and domestic birds, pigs, and humans. Fruit bats are involved in a high-profile group of EIDs that includes rabies and other lyssaviruses, Hendra virus and Menangle virus (Australia), and Nipah virus (Malaysia and Singapore), which has implications for further zoonotic disease emergence. A number of species are endemic to both remote oceanic islands and more populous suburban and rural human settlements; these may harbor enzootic and potentially zoonotic pathogens with an unknown potential for spillover (Daszak et al. 2000).

Thus, some of the current major infectious threats to human health are EIDs and reemerging infectious diseases, with a particular emphasis on zoonotic pathogens transferring hosts from wildlife and domestic animals. A common, defining theme for most EIDs (of humans, wildlife, domestic animals, and plants) is that they are driven to emerge by anthropogenic changes to the environment. Because threats to wildlife habitat are so extensive and pervading, many of the currently important human EIDs (e.g., AIDS, Nipah virus disease) are driven partly by human-induced changes to wildlife habitat such as encroachment and deforestation. This is essentially a process of natural selection in which anthropogenic environmental changes perturb the host–parasite dynamic equilibrium, leading to the expansion of those strains suited to the new environmental conditions and facilitating expansion of others into new host species (Daszak et al. 2001).


Crop irrigation and breeding sites.

Agriculture occupies about half of the world’s land and uses more than two-thirds of the world’s fresh water (Horrigan et al. 2002). Agricultural development in many parts of the world has increased the need for crop irrigation, which reduces water availability for other uses and increases breeding sites for disease vectors. An increase in soil moisture associated with irrigation development in the southern Nile Delta after the construction of the Aswan High Dam has caused a rapid rise in the mosquito Culex pipiens and consequential increase in the arthropod-borne disease Bancroftian filariasis (Harb et al. 1993Thompson et al. 1996). Onchocerciasis and trypanosomiasis are further examples of vector-borne parasitic diseases that may be triggered by changing land-use and water management patterns. In addition, large-scale use of pesticides has had deleterious effects on farm workers, including hormone disruption and immune suppression (Straube et al. 1999).

Food-borne diseases.

Once agricultural development has expanded and produced food sufficient to meet local need, the food products are exported to other nations, where they can pose a risk to human health. The increase in imported foods has resulted in a rise in food-borne illness in the United States. Strawberries from Mexico, raspberries from Guatemala, carrots from Peru, and coconut milk from Thailand have caused recent outbreaks. Food safety is an important factor in human health, because food-borne disease accounts for an estimated 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,200 deaths in the United States each year (CDC 2003). Other dangers include antibiotic-resistant organisms, such as CyclosporaEscherichia coli O157:H7, and other pathogenic E. coli strains associated with hemolytic uremic syndrome in children (Dols et al. 2001).

Secondary effects.

Agricultural secondary effects need to be minimized, such as the emerging microbial resistance from antibiotics in animal waste that is included in farm runoff and the introduction of microdams for irrigation in Ethiopia that resulted in a 7-fold increase in malaria (Ghebreyesus et al. 1999).


On a global basis, the proportion of people living in urban centers will increase to an unprecedented 65% by the year 2030 (Population Reference Bureau 1998). The 2000 census shows that 80% of the U.S. population now lives in metropolitan areas, with 30% living in cities of 5 million or more. The environmental issues posed by such large population centers have profound impacts on public health beyond the city limits (Knowlton 2001).

Alterations of ecosystems and natural resources contribute to the emergence and spread of infectious disease agents. Human encroachment of wildlife habitat has broadened the interface between wildlife and humans, increasing opportunities for both the emergence of novel infectious diseases in wildlife and their transmission to people. Rabies is an example of a zoonotic disease carried by animals that has become habituated to urban environments. Bats colonize buildings, skunks and raccoons scavenge human refuse, and in many countries feral dogs in the streets are common and the major source of human infection (Singh et al. 2001).

Infectious diseases can also pass from people to wildlife. Nonhuman primates have acquired measles from ecotourists (Wallis and Lee 1999). Also, drug resistance in gram-negative enteric bacteria of wild baboons living with limited human contact is significantly less common than in baboons living with human contact near urban or semiurban human settlements (Rolland et al. 1985).

The Land–Water Interface

Another major driver of infectious disease emergence results from the land–water interface. Land use changes often involve water projects or coastal marine systems in which nutrients from agricultural runoff can cause algal blooms.

Currently the seventh cholera pandemic is spreading across Asia, Africa, and South America. In 1992, a new serogroup (Vibrio cholerae O139) appeared and has been responsible for epidemics in Asia (Colwell 1996). The seasonality of cholera epidemics may be linked to the seasonality of plankton (algal blooms) and the marine food chain. Studies using remote-sensing data of chlorophyll-containing phytoplankton have shown a correlation between cholera cases and sea surface temperatures in the Bay of Bengal. Interannual variability in cholera incidence in Bangladesh is also linked to the El Niño southern oscillation and regional temperature anomalies (Lobitz et al. 2000), and cholera prevalence has been associated with progressively stronger El Niño events spanning a 70-year period (Rodo et al. 2002). This observation on cholera incidence may represent an early health indicator of global climate change (Patz 2002).

Infectious diseases in marine mammals and sea turtles could serve as sentinels for human disease risk. Sea turtles worldwide are affected by fibropapillomatosis, a disease probably caused by one or several viruses and characterized by multiple epithelial tumors. Field studies support the observation that prevalence of this disease is associated with heavily polluted coastal areas, areas of high human density, agricultural runoff, and/or biotoxin-producing algae (Aguirre and Lutz, in press). This represents the breakdown of the land–water interface, to the point that several pathogens typical of terrestrial ecosystems have become established in the oceans. Toxoplasmosis in the endangered sea otter (Enhydra lutris) represents an example of pathogen pollution. Massive mortalities in pinnipeds and cetaceans reaching epidemics of tens of thousands are caused by four morbilliviruses evolving from the canine distemper virus (Aguirre et al. 2002). Additionally, overfishing has myriad ramifications for marine ecosystems and sustainable protein food sources for human populations.

Cryptosporidium, a protozoan that completes its life cycle within the intestine of mammals, sheds high numbers of infectious oocysts that are dispersed in feces. A recent study found that 13% of finished treated water still contained Cryptosporidium oocysts, indicating some passage of microorganisms from source to treated drinking water (LeChevallier and Norton 1995). The protozoan is highly prevalent in ruminants and is readily transmitted to humans. Thus, management of livestock contamination of watersheds is an important public health issue.

One example of how overexploitation of a natural water resource led to infectious disease is that of Lake Malawi in Africa. Overfishing in the lake reduced the population of snail-eating fish to such a level that snail populations erupted. Subsequently, schistosomiasis incidence and prevalence markedly rose after this ecologic imbalance (Madsen et al. 2001).

Recommendations from the Working Group

Conceptual model: bringing land use into public health policy.

The recommendations stemming from the international colloquium are highly relevant to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA), a broad multiagency/foundation-sponsored scientific assessment of degraded ecosystem effects on human well-being. A conceptual framework of the MEA already provides an approach to optimize the contribution of ecosystems to human health (MEA 2003). This framework offers a mechanism to a) identify options that can better achieve human development and sustainable goals, b) better understand the trade-offs involved in environment-related decisions, and c) align response options at all scales, from the local to the global, where they can be most effective. This conceptual framework focuses on human well-being while also recognizing associated intrinsic values. Similar to the MEA, focus is particularly on the linkages between ecosystem services and human health. Workshop participants developed a conceptual model (Figure 1). Like the MEA, it assumes a dynamic interaction between humans and ecosystems that warrants a multiscale assessment (spatial and temporal).

Figure 1

By using this framework, policy makers may approach development and health at various levels. These levels include specific health risk factors, landscape or habitat change, and institutional (economic and behavioral) levels. For sound health policy, we must shift away from dealing primarily with specific risk factors and look “upstream” to underlying land-use determinants of infectious disease and ultimately the human behavior and established institutions that are detrimental to sustainable population health. The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed a similar DPSEEA (driving forces, pressures, state, exposure, effect, actions) model that in a similar way describes the interlinkage between human health and different driving forces and environmental change (WHO 1997).

As such understanding increases, it will become more feasible to plan how to prevent new infectious disease emergence. Yet, because these are rare events, accurate predictions will remain daunting. It is already evident that inserting humans into complex ecosystems can lead to a variety of EIDs, but health outcomes depend on the economic circumstances of the human population. In poor and tropical communities, land use change can lead to major shifts in infectious disease patterns. For these situations, many conventional public health interventions can prevent several infectious diseases at relatively low cost. In rich and temperate-climate communities, the infectious disease shifts tend to be more disease specific, for example, in the case of Lyme disease and habitat fragmentation.

Research on deforestation and infectious disease.

Considering the deforestation that usually accompanies agricultural development, new conservation-oriented agriculture should be pursued. As discussed above, water project development and modern livestock management present major health disease risks. However, often the secondary unintended consequences can also wreak havoc; for example, a leaking dam may present greater risks than the reservoir itself. A distressingly large number of development projects not only have adverse effects on human health but also fail to attain their primary economic purposes in a sustainable manner.

Habitat fragmentation, whether caused by forest destruction, desertification, or land-use conversion, affects human and wildlife health and ecosystem processes. There is already much research undertaken by landscape ecologists on the consequences of habitat fragmentation for wildlife, especially larger animals. It would be important to study the effects of landscape fragmentation on public health hazards. Such research could entail three components. The first component consists of gathering baseline data, including using historical data where possible and beginning monitoring programs where necessary. Key data include identifying and quantifying the relevant pathogen load of wildlife, livestock, and human communities in fragmented landscapes. The goals of this data collection are, first, to identify key infectious diseases, both chronic and emergent or reemergent and, second, to document the consequences of fragmentation on relative abundance of wildlife and subsequent pathogen load. For example, the loss of large predators in fragmented habitats in the northeastern United States has led to a superabundance of rodent vectors for Lyme disease.

The second component of the research program would involve health impact modeling, primarily in three areas: a) estimating changes in the relative abundance of organisms, including infectious disease vectors, pathogens, and hosts; b) projecting potential vector or transmission shifts (e.g., should the Nipah virus shift to pulmonary as well as neurologic expression in humans as in swine); and c) projecting the impact of infectious diseases in a region on different geographic scales.

The results of these analyses, if successful, could support the third component of research: development of decision-support tools. Improved decisions on land-use policy could be made from a better understanding of costs and benefits to health and environmental decision makers. In all probability, however, they will be very location specific. For example, to construct an irrigation scheme in India would likely invite a malaria epidemic, whereas the same activity in sub-Saharan Africa may have little effect on malaria transmission. It is worth mentioning that costs and benefits could depend on the time course over which they are assessed. For example, some land-use changes can lead to short-term increases in transmission followed by longer-term decreases (e.g., irrigation and malaria in Sri Lanka) or vice versa (e.g., deforestation and cutaneous leishmaniasis in Latin America).

Policies to reduce microbial traffic/pathogen pollution.

In today’s interconnected world, it becomes very important to invest in the worldwide control of infectious diseases in developing countries, for example. It is also necessary to control transport to stem the flow from one place to the next.

Improved monitoring of trade is warranted in order to target infectious disease introductions. In the attempt to prevent the invasion of a pathogen (and drug-resistant organisms) into the vulnerable areas subject to land use changes, we need to pay greater attention to controls at the sources. We need to document and map these trades and investigate the vectors, the infectious diseases they harbor, and the populations they threaten. Risk assessment should guide surveillance and the development of test kits, targeting point-of-origin intervention to preempt these processes. Assessments must further include nonmarket costs (usually to the detriment of the environment and long-term sustainable health). We should communicate to both the exporters and consumers the need to make their trades clean, economically viable, and certified “clean and green” by an independent scientific agency at the source and/or destination. Additionally, strategies for screening travelers for pathogens that may be introduced to a region should be improved.

Centers of Excellence in Ecology and Health Research and Training.

One approach to developing the issues to which this article draws attention is the creation of a system of regional- or subregional-based interdisciplinary Centers of Excellence in Ecology and Health Research and Training. Based at regional universities and/or research institutes but with very close links to the surrounding communities, these centers would have the following objectives:

  • Providing information based on good science to local communities about the links between environmental change and public health, including the factors that contribute to specific infectious disease outbreaks. The new research agenda must gather information on household and community perspectives about proposals for the use of their land. These perspectives are key to assessing the cost/benefit of a proposed project. Training local professionals in environmental, agricultural, and health science issues, with a particular focus on granting degrees in a new “trans”-discipline linking health and the environment, would be emphasized.
  • Acting as centers of integrated analysis of infectious disease emergence, incorporating perspectives and expertise from a variety of natural, social, and health sciences. Research activities would range from taxonomy of pathogens and vectors to identifying best practices for influencing changes in human behavior to reduce ecosystem and health risks.
  • Incorporating a “health impact assessment” as an important cross-sectorial decision-making tool in overall development planning (parallel to an environmental impact assessment), along with the need for doing more research.
  • Equipping professionals with the ability to recommend policy toward maintaining ecosystem function and promoting sustainable public health for future generations. For example, the link between forest fragmentation and Lyme disease risk could lead to preserving more intact tracts of forest habitat by planning “cluster” housing schemes.

Implementing research and policy programs.

In selecting areas for research and the placement of centers of excellence, it is important to choose geographically representative, highly diverse areas around the world. In addition, research projects should take place in regions or landscapes that have both well characterized and less characterized patterns of infectious disease emergence or transmission for comparison purposes. Local health and environment professionals, who are in the best position to understand local priorities, should make the choices within each region for initial research areas and sites.

Addressing trade-offs among environment, health, and development.

There are some inherent trade-offs when considering land-use change and health. They are ethical values, environmental versus health choices, and disparities in knowledge and economic class. Trade-offs are between short-term benefit and long-term damage. For example, draining swamps may reduce vector-borne disease hazards but also destroy the wetland ecosystem and its inherent services (e.g., water storage, water filtration, biologic productivity, and habitats for fish and wildlife). Research can help decision making by identifying and assessing trade-offs in different land-use-change scenarios. Balancing the diverse needs of people, livestock, wildlife, and the ecosystem will always be a prominent feature.


When considering issues of land use and infectious disease emergence, the public needs to be attentive to entire ecosystems rather than simply their local environs. Although we may not live within a certain environment, its health may indirectly affect our own. For example, intact forests support complex ecosystems and provide essential habitats for species that are specialized to those flora and that may be relevant to our health. If these complex relationships are disrupted, there may be unforeseen impacts on human health, as the above examples clearly demonstrate.

Encouraging initiatives.

Three new initiatives are rising to the challenges presented above. The first initiative, the Consortium for Conservation Medicine (CCM), was formed recently to address these health challenges at the interface of ecology, wildlife health, and public health (Figure 2). At its core, conservation medicine champions the integration of techniques and partnering of scientists from diverse disciplines, particularly veterinary medicine, conservation biology, and public health. Through the consortium, therefore, these experts work with educators, policy makers, and conservation program managers to devise approaches that improve the health of both species and humans simultaneously [more information is available from the CCM website (CCM 2004)]

Figure 2

The second initiative, the new international journal EcoHealth, focuses on the integration of knowledge at the intersection of ecologic and health sciences. The journal provides a gathering place for research and reviews that integrate the diverse knowledge of ecology, health, and sustainability, whether scientific, medical, local, or traditional. The journal will encourage development and innovation in methods and practice that link ecology and health, and it will ensure clear and concise presentation to facilitate practical and policy application [more information is available from the EcoHealth website (EcoHealth 2004)].

The third initiative, the MEA, is an international work program designed to meet the needs of decision makers and the public for scientific information concerning the consequences of ecosystem change for human health and well-being and for options in responding to those changes. This assessment was launched by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in June 2001 and will help to meet the assessment needs of international environmental forums, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention to Combat Desertification, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and the Convention on Migratory Species, as well as the needs of other users in the private sector and civil society [more information is available from the Millennium Assessment Working Groups website (Millennium Assessment Working Groups 2004)].

Challenges ahead.

As this working group of researchers continues to work on these topics, we face three challenges. First, strong trans-disciplinary research partnerships need to be forged to approach the research with the degree of creative thinking and comprehensiveness required by the nature of the problems. Second, if the work is to influence policy, the choice of questions and the research must be undertaken collaboratively with the local community and also through discussion with decision makers in government, industry, civil society, and other sectors. Third, investigators must consider how they can integrate their findings into the social, economic, and political dialogue on both the environment and health, globally and locally. As links between land use and health are elucidated, an informed public will more readily use such discoveries to better generate political will for effective change.


Assessing Climate Change Adaptation Strategies among Rural Maasai pastoralist in Kenya

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The aim of this study is to assess adaptation and coping strategies of Maasai pastoralist to climate change and identify viable adaptation options to reduce the impact of climate change among Maasai pastoralist in the arid and semi-arid (ASALS) in Kenya. The study was carried out in Kajiado County and multiple data collection techniques such as in-depth interview with 305 households, focus group discussion, and key informant interview were used to assess adaptation strategies of pastoralist household and identify viable adaptation options for the study area. Rainfall data used for the study was also collected from Kenya Meteorological Service (KMS) and used for standard precipitation index (SPI) analysis. SPI was used to analyze drought severity in the study area between 1970 and 2013. SPI was designed to quantify precipitation deficit for multiple time scale. Results showed that drought is the major climatic challenge affecting pastoralist in the study area. The SPI result showed increase in drought occurrence in Kajiado County in recent years with six years (2000, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2011) having negative SPI values between 2000-2011. The year 2000 was also the driest year recorded in the study with an SPI value of -3.09. The study also showed that Maasai pastoralists already have many adaptation measures to cope with the impacts of climate extremes. However, increase in drought occurrence in the last few years is reducing their resilience. This study observed that most of the adaptation and coping strategies adopted by Maasai pastoralist are autonomous and are unlikely to build resilience of pastoralist livelihoods and ecosystems to cope with the projected magnitude and scale of climate change in the 21st Century. The study identified adaptation strategies such as effective early warning system, water harvesting, rapid infrastructural development, encouraging table banking and cooperative societies, Building and equipping schools, migration, livestock diversification and child education as long term no regret adaptation option that can enhance resilience of Maasai pastoralist to climate change and its extremes in the arid and semi arid lands of Kenya


Geographical location is one of the key factors that determine vulnerability of communities to climate change and variability [26]. Over 80% of the lands in Kenya are classified as arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) and they are by far the most vulnerable to climate change and variability [21]. The impacts of climate change and variability in Kenya have introduced a new dimension to the national fights against food insecurity and poverty. This is because Kenya depends on natural resources and especially agriculture for livelihood sustainability and economic growth. Studies have shown that fluctuations and variations in climate, particularly rainfall and temperature, adversely affect the physical, biological and socio-economic systems leading to disasters and calamities [127].

Kenya has identified its ASALs as the most vulnerable areas to climate change with huge impacts on livestock rearing, small-holder agriculture and tourism, which are the dominant sources of livelihoods in these areas [9]. About 10 million people which are about a third of the whole population of Kenya live in the arid and semi arid lands (ASALs). The main source of livelihood among people that live in the ASALs of Kenya is livestock production (largely through Pastoralism). Livestock production accounts for 26% of total national agricultural production and over 70% of the country’s livestock and 75% of wildlife are in the ASALs [8].

The greatest challenge to pastoral livelihood in the ASALs is dealing with the unpredictability of rainfall both within and between seasons. Recent increase in drought events and dry spells in ASALs in Kenya has lead to severe economic and food security risks countrywide with a greater impact on populations whose livelihoods are dependent on agriculture and other related natural resources [21]. Scientific evidence shows that climate variability and change are expected to further exacerbate the variability in rainfall and temperatures [121328] in ASALs.

Repeated occurrence of the incidents of droughts and dry spells have made it difficult for the pastoral communities in the ASALs to maintain their assets and lack of timely early warning information has reduced their capacity to respond when the conditions are still good. Drought ranks first among naturals hazards in the number of persons affected in Kenya and Africa [2930]. Kajiado County which is one of the ASAL counties in Kenya is also affected by the severe impact of drought and dry spells. The County has experienced major incidence of drought since 1900, which have become more common in the last two decades [14]. Severe drought have been recorded in the following years 1960/1961, 1969, 1973/1974, 79, 1980/1981, 1983/1984, 1991/1992, 1995/1996, 1999/2000, 2004/2006, 2008/2009, and 2010/11 with widespread direct and indirect effects on the lives and livelihoods [1022].

Adaptation is a broad concept covering actions taken by individuals, households, communities, private and public organization. Successful adaptation can reduce vulnerability by strengthening existing coping and adaptation strategies. For many decades, pastoral communities in ASALs have developed indigenous ways of adapting to varying degree of occurrence of dry spells and drought; however, recent increase in the frequency of occurrence of these weather events is stretching the resilience of the pastoral community and may have adverse effect on the future generation of Maasai pastoralist in Kajiado. Pastoral communities have for a long time used indigenous forecasting methods to predict seasonal climatic events [33]. Some of the Maasai pastoral communities observe clouds, wind and lightning that likely have their origins in traditional understandings of what contemporary researchers recognize as atmospheric science. Others watch the behaviour of livestock, wildlife and the local flora [1]. However, many traditional forecasting methods are perceived as becoming less reliable with increasing climate variability.

Studies [1212225] have analyzed and documented pastoralists’ adaptation and coping strategies to climate change and variability at the community and household level. Given the projections for increasing drought impacts in the pastoral areas, it is important to inform policy makers on various adaptation and coping responses at local levels in order to reduce risks associated with drought. This study seeks to understand the drought pattern in Kajiado County using participatory methods and information from the meteorological station. The study also documented their coping and adaptation strategies and identified viable adaptation strategies that will enhance adaptation of the Maasai pastoralist communities to climate change and variability.

Materials and Methods

2.1. Study Location

The study was carried out in selected villages in Kajiado County in Kenya. Kajiado County is located in the southern tip of the former Rift valley province between longitudes 36o5 and 37o5 and latitudes 100 and 300 South [1]. It covers an area of 19,600Km2 (CBS, 1981). The County has 173,464 households and a population of 687, 312 of which 50.2% are male and 49.8% are female. Kajiado County is bordered by Tanzania to the south, Taita Taveta County to the west, Narok County to the east and Nakuru, Kiamnau, Nairobi and Makueni Counties to the north. Kajiado has a population of 136,482 people and a land size of 2,610.30sq.km.

2.2. Field Study Design and Data Collection Process

The field study was conducted in Kajiado east sub-county. Kajiado east was selected because of its geographical location, sources of livelihood and proneness to extreme climatic events especially drought and dry spells. The study used multistage sampling technique. The sampling was conducted based on the five administrative wards in the sub-county. The list of villages and households were collected by the administrative chiefs. The households in the villages were listed from 1 to N (N = group size) and then systematic selection of the households were carried out. Thus, the choice of the household interviewed was based on systematic sampling procedure [23]. A random start was used in choosing the first household to be interviewed and the interview were conducted in every seventh house hold. A total of 305 households were interviewed between November 2014 and February 2015.

2.3. Questionnaire Interviews

Information on different aspect of the study was obtained through the administration of questionnaire on individual pastoralist households and community leaders. The information collected using the questionnaire included (1) demographic information of households; (2) socio-economic characteristics of individual households including resource endowments, poverty levels, sources of income and infrastructural status; (3) climate-related extreme events and their impacts on the pastoralist livelihood; (4) adaptation and coping strategies of households to climate change and climate variability. The information collected from the questionnaire interviews was further validated through FGDs, informal interviews and general observations.

2.4. Focus Group Discussion and Key Informant Interviews

A total of four (4) focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted separately with a gender parity (of eight men and eight women) from the sampled villages. The pastoralist that participated in the FGD were selected based on gender with the help of the local leaders. Focus group discussion created opportunity for further interaction with the community members and lead to verbal expression and opinions about climate change and its effect on the pastoralist livelihood. The discussions captured the local knowledge on climate variability and its impacts on pastoralist communities, vulnerability, and adaptation and coping options to extreme climate events

Further discussions were held with a total of 30 people considered to be key informant individually between November 2014 and January 2015. The key informants were selected from local organizations in Kajiado County, Staff of the County meteorological department, local chiefs, village elders and drought monitors, community-based animal health workers, and opinion leaders.

2.5. Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI)

The standardized precipitation index (SPI) was used to analyze drought severity in the study area between 1970 and 2013. Monthly rainfall data collected for Isinya, Kajiado east rainfall was used for the SPI analysis. SPI was designed to quantify precipitation deficit for multiple time scale [16]. The SPI in this study was calculated for the long rains (March to May), short rains (October to December) and also yearly from January to December. The SPI is calculated by dividing the difference between normalized seasonal precipitation and its long-term seasonal mean by standard deviation as follows:

Where Xij = Seasonal precipitation value at jth station

Xim = Long term seasonal mean precipitation

SD = Standard deviation

This study used the McKee et al. [16] SPI classification system (Table 1) to define drought intensity resulting from the SPI.

 Results and Discussion

3.1. Gender and Educational Level of Respondents

Figure 2 shows the gender of household heads interviewed in the study area. 88% of the household interviewed are headed by males while only 12% of the household interviewed were headed by females. This shows that the Maasai communities are patriarchal in nature and this may affect access of female headed households to information and education about climate change and climate extremes that can enhance their coping strategies. Studies by [1920] reported that women in pastoralist communities in Kenya are more vulnerable to climate change and extreme climatic events because they are not always involved in decision making in the communities and pastoralist women also have less access to family resources and finances reducing their ability to manage risk and external climatic shock.

The educational level of respondent (Table 2) shows a high level of illiteracy among Masaai pastoralist in Kajiado County. 50% of female and 31% of male respondent have no formal education. This shows a higher level of illiteracy among Maasai women when compared to men. Illiteracy hinders access to information and also speed of recovery from a climatic events and also constraints options for livelihood diversification [1419]. 38% of female and 49% of male have access to primary education; 13% of female and 13% of male have access to secondary education; 3% of male have diploma degree and 2% of the male respondent have University degrees. This concurs with the findings of [1420] who reported high illiteracy levels among pastoralist in Kenya. GOK, 2013, also reported a high illiteracy rate of 65.2% for Kajiado County. Illiteracy limits the ability of an individual to take up opportunities such as employment and inhibits access to information and technical advice that could enhance adaptation to climate change.

3.2. Sources of Livelihood of Respondent

The sources of livelihood of are presented in Figure 3. The reports shows that 93% of respondent interviewed are involved in livestock keeping (pastoralism). Several studies [2212425] reported that pastoralism is the main source of livelihood in ASALs and pastoralist over years has developed mechanisms to cope with climate variability in the ASALs. However, increase in extreme climatic events such as drought in recent decades has made pastoralist develop alternative sources of livelihood such as engaging in business. This study shows that 66% of respondent are involved in business. Bead works, belt production and scandal production are the main business identified by respondent in this study. The study also shows that 8% of respondent are government employees, 7% are involved in crop production and 1% provide services such as tourist guards and house security.

3.3. Pattern of Extreme Climatic Events in Kajiado County

Time line data of extreme climatic events in Kajiado County from 1976-2014 is presented in Table 3. The report shows that drought is the main climatic event affecting Maasai pastoralist in Kajiado County. Maasai pastoralist reported that the frequency of drought and dry spell has been increasing the last 15years and the rains are becoming more erratic. Focus group discussants agreed that rainfall pattern has been changing drastically since the year 2000 till date. They reported that raining seasons are becoming shorter and when the rain comes, it falls heavily within few days causing flash floods and erosion. The pastoralist also reported that the frequency of drought in Kajiado county have reduced from 8-10years to 2-3years since the year 2000.

The participant of one of the FGD were in agreement with the following statement made by one of them

When I was young the rains were quite predictable and we all know the time for the long and short raining season. Now the rain comes earlier or late or even some times refuse to come at all. We now experience failed raining season (drought) at least once every two years in the area and this affecting the pastoralist system (FGD, Entayiankat, Kajiado East Sub County).

This study confirms the frequency of the drought problem that has been affecting southern rangelands and the pastoral communities. Several other studies [192124] have reported increase in the frequency of drought in ASALs in Kenya and its impact on the livelihood of pastoralist living in the area. Increase in drought has lead severe loss of animals over the years and this has increased the rate of cattle stealing and communal clashes in the ASAL region of Kenya [1].

3.4. Drought Pattern in the Study Area

The result of standardized precipitation index (SPI) values for the long raining season (March-May) and the short raining season (October to December) for a period of 43years (1970 -2013) is presented in Table 4. A total of twenty (20) years have negative SPI values for the long rains, while twenty three (23) years have negative values for the short rains. The long raining season recorded extreme drought in three years 1973, 1984 and 2000 with SPI values of (-2.48, -2.77 and -2.82) respectively. Also moderately dry season was recorded in 1976 with a SPI value of -1.13. The short raining season has two years 1970 and 1981 of extreme drought with SPI values of (-2.33 and -2.18) respectively. It also recorded one year of severe drought in 1975 with a SPI value of -1.53 and five years 1972, 1973, 1976, 1980 and 2005 of moderate drought with SPI values of (-1.14, -1.06, -1.13, -1.27 and -1.36) respectively. The findings of this study agrees with Camberlin and Philippon, [3] who noted that the long raining seasons are more reliable than the short raining season in ASALs regions. The result shows that six years (1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976 and 1979) had negative SPI values between (1970 and 1979) for the long rains and six years (1970, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976 and 1979) had negative SPI values between (1970 and 1979) for the short raining season. Four years (1982, 1983, 1984 and 1978) of negative SPI values were recorded between 1980 and 1989 for the long rains and six years (1980, 1981, 1983, 1985, 1987 and 1988) of negative SPI values were recorded between 1980 and 1989 for the short rains. Result shows four years (1993, 1994, 1997 and 1999) of negative SPI values were recorded between 1990 and 1999 for the long rains, and also four years (1990, 1993, 1995, and 1996) of negative SPI values for the short rains between 1990 and 1999. The year 2000 to 2011 is the driest period reported in this study. Six (6) years (2000, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011) of negative SPI value were recorded for the long raining season and seven (7) years (2000, 2003, 2004, 2005 2007, 2008 and 2010) were recorded for the short raining season. Several studies [1113132] have reported reduction in rainfall amount especially during the short raining season in the ASALs of Kenya. This report also confirms the findings from the FGDs where discussants reported increase in drought events in the last 15years.

Result of annual drought severity from 1970 -2013 (Table 5) shows that a total of 21years has negative SPI values. The study area experienced severe and extreme drought in the year 1976 and 2000 with SPI values of -2.03 and -3.09 respectively; with the year 2000 being the driest year reported in this study. Six years (2000, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2011) have negative SPI values between 2000 -2011. The increasing severity and frequency of drought occurrence in Kajiado County is an indication that the region is getting drier reflecting the observed climate change in the ASALs of Kenya

5. Adaptation and Coping Strategies of Maasai Pastoralist to Climate Change and Variability

Maasai pastoralist communities in Kajiado County over the years have developed strategies of coping and adapting to climate change and it’s extreme. However, respondents agreed that increase in frequency and magnitude of extreme climatic events is increasing their vulnerability to these extreme climatic events. This study revealed the different strategies used by Maasai pastoralist to adapt to climate change and its extremes.

Table 6 summarizes the adaptation and coping strategies and the percentage of household using the adaptation strategies in the study area. Migration in search of pasture (79%), Destocking (68%), buying of hay (60%), livelihood diversification (74%), table banking and self held group (55%) were some of the strategies identified by respondent. Other strategies identified by the households include Harvesting of wild fruit, slaughtering of weak animals, diversification of herds, sending children to school and rain harvesting.

3.6. Identified Best Adaptation Options in the Study Area

The Maasai pastoralist households were asked to rate the adaptation strategies identified based on their level of importance. They rated the adaptation strategies that will significantly reduce their vulnerability to climate change and also areas where they will need assistance from external bodies such ad government organizations and NGOs. Table 7 shows the level of importance of adaptation strategies based on the rating of Maasai pastoralist. A five point rating scale was used to rate the level of importance of the adaptation strategies. The 5 point ordinal scale were graded either as 5= very important, 4= important, 3= moderate importance, 2= low importance, 1= no importance.

Rain harvesting and solving water problem was identified as the most important adaptation strategy in Kajiado County. Respondent identified water shortage as the biggest problem facing Kajiado County. Table 7 shows that 62.00% of respondent believed that solving water problem through water harvesting, building boreholes, dams and water pans is a very important adaptation strategy in Kajiado County. 25.4% reported that it’s important, 10.8% reported that it is moderately important and 1.8% reported low importance. Lack of water for both human and animal use is a major challenge in Kajiado County. This challenge is further compounded by frequent drought that leads to drying up of water pans, wells and rivers. Rain harvesting, traveling long distance to fetch water and buying of water are some the adaptation strategy used by pastoralist. The importance of solving the water challenge was echoed by the FGDs with one the discussant stating:

Lack of water is one of the biggest challenges facing Kajiado County. We need the government and NGOs to assist in building borehole, dams and water pans for us and our livestock. This will stop the water borne diseases affecting people and also save our women and children the danger of traveling long distance in search of water.

Child education was also identified as one of the most important adaptation strategy among Maasai pastoralist. Maasai pastoralists in Kajiado County believe that child education is a long term adaptation strategy to climate change. They perceive education as a viable livelihood diversification strategy in a fast changing society that is making sustainability of pastoralism in the County uncertain. Table 7 shows that 45.6% of respondent reported that child education is a very important adaptation strategy, 35.8% believed it is important, 9.5% believed it is moderately important, 7.2% said it’s of low importance and 1.9% said it is of no importance. Maasai pastoralists for decades saw education as an exit strategy and were not keen in educating their children. However, with increase urbanization, change in land use and increased climatic extremes, child education is now seen as the best way to prepare for an uncertain future. Previous studies by Opiyo et al., 2013 and Kagunyu 2014 also reported child education as a viable adaptation option in ASALs of Kenya.

Maasai pastoralist believed that improved infrastructure (better road network and availability of electricity) will improve their resilience to climate change and variability. 42.6% of respondent stated that improved infrastructure is a very important adaptation strategy and 36.8% believed it is important. GOK [7] reported that Kajiado County has only 300km tarmac road out of the 2,344.2km road available in the County; it also stated that about half of the available road network (1111.9km) are earth roads. Improved road network will improve access to major town to seek for alternative sources of income by the pastoralist. It will also increase access to major markets in the County. Only 39.8% of the households in Kajiado County have access to electricity and this are mainly concentrated in the urban areas [7]. Access to electricity especially in the rural areas will improve their access to information and early warning systems that will help in making fast decisions during climatic extremes. Respondent also reported that electricity will enhance livelihood diversification especially into electricity based livelihood.

Herd migration is one of the main adaptation strategies identified by pastoralist particularly in times of drought and dry spell. 32.4% of respondent reported that herd migration is a very important adaptation strategy and 35.8% reported it as an important adaptation strategy. Herd mobility enables opportunistic use of resources and help to minimize the effect of drought and dry spells [21]. Maasai pastoralist in Kajiado has for years developed migratory route in search of pasture, water and market for livestock. In times of extreme drought, pastoralists graze their animals in restricted national parks and sometimes cross the border to Tanzania in search of pasture and water. Focus group discussant reported that herd migration in Kajiado County is reducing due to increasing land sub division and sales; and increase in the chance of disease outbreak and death of animals during migration. FGD discussant suggested the creation of livestock migratory route in the County. This will allow pastoralist move their animals freely during drought and dry spells. Studies [515] revealed that seasonal decisions to migrate ensure that households maintain the productivity of their herds and security of their families. This form of mobility is pursued primarily for livelihood purposes and is very strategic to the survival of the pastoralist system [17].

Table banking is a group funding system where members of a particular group meet regularly to save money, repay loans and other contributions and also borrow money as long term or short term loans (FGD, Entayiankat). 33.8% of respondent reported that table banking and cooperative society are very important adaptation strategies during extreme climatic events. Table banking and cooperative societies is a fast way of securing loans without collateral and also minimal interest rate among rural dwellers. Maasai pastoralist women in Kajiado County use table banking to secure loans for livelihood diversification and paying for children school fees.

Table 7 shows that 30.0% respondents reported that livestock diversification is a very important adaptation strategy in the study area, 32.8% reported that it is important, 25.4% reported moderate importance, 8.0% reported low importance and 3.8% said it is of no importance. Livestock diversification is one of the key adaptation strategies that have enable pastoralist communities to survive harsh environmental conditions for centuries (Speranza, 2010). Diversification of livestock herds has both ecological and economic implications as different livestock species had different water and pasture requirements and reacted differently to droughts and diseases. Respondents reported that new breeds that are drought tolerance and consumes less pasture such as Saiwal cattle, dairy goats and black headed Maasai sheep are now been reared by Maasai pastoralist in the area. They reported that dairy goats consume less forage when compared to cattle and they also produce nutritious milk.

Early warning against extreme climatic conditions gives communities ample time to take decisions [1,18]. Result shows that 30.4% of respondents stated that early warning system is a very important adaptation strategy in the study area. Discussants at the FGD agree with the statement made by one of them that:

Timely and reliable climatic information would enable the Maasai household make informed decision on whether to increase his herd size or sell part of his animals. It also helps to make decisions on the specie of livestock to retain. It is also useful in making important agricultural decisions by agro-pastoralist.

However, discussant at the FDGs complained that climatic information does not get to the communities early. They also complain about the accuracy of climatic information from government sources.

4. Conclusion

This study showed that the impact of climate change and its extremes is being felt by Maasai pastoralist living in Kajiado County of Kenya. The increase in drought occurrence has severe impact on pastoralist livelihood, food security, human and animal health, vegetation, and child education in the study area. The Maasai pastoralists in Kajiado County have always responded to climate variability using various strategies that are discussed in this paper. However, the study showed that most of the adaptation strategies adopted by the pastoralist are largely autonomous adaptation and are unlikely to build resilience of pastoralist livelihoods and ecosystems to cope with the projected magnitude and scale of climate change in the 21st Century. Moreover, the vulnerability of the Maasai pastoralist is exacerbated by the interaction among ‘multiple stresses’ including poverty, land use change and a low adaptive capacity (Maito et al., 2013). Planned adaptation actions are therefore needed to respond to current and anticipated impacts of climate change and variability among pastoralist in the arid and semi-arid lands of Kenya.

Effective early warning system, seasonal climate forecasting and information dissemination can be an effective planned adaptation strategy against drought among Maasai pastoralist in Kajiado County. For early warning information to be effective and more than just a projected events, communities need to be endowed with a wider range of information and capacities upon which they can rely to mitigate imminent crises. A clear understanding of the knowledge and experience of communities can guide early warning information and services content in such a way that valuable information can be provided at the grassroots level. Early warning information should include provision of seasonal climate and disease risk forecasts, timely information on the distribution of prices of key commodities across major markets and provision of information on the geospatial distribution of forage and water availability; it should also offer advice on effective and available risk mitigation strategies and how best to respond in the advent of a shock. The use of community radios to promote drought early warning system among pastoralist in Isiolo County in northern Kenya is a good example of community based early warning system. The vastness of land in most Maasai communities and poor infrastructure substantiates the use of community radio as an effective tool for effective early warning system in pastoralist communities.

In conclusion, the projected impact of climate change and variability in arid and semi-arid regions of Kenya requires planned adaptation strategies that will enhance the resilience of pastoralist to climate change and variability. Various stakeholders such as the government, communities, non-governmental organizations and the private sector all have important roles to play in enhancing the adaptive capacity of pastoralist to climate change and variability.


Research in sub-saharan African food systems must address post-sustainability challenges and increase developmental returns



This study examined adaptation of root crop farming system to climate change in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers state, Nigeria. Seven towns were selected based on a population of five thousand and above from which one hundred and ninety-one respondents were randomly chosen. Sixty-six years’ data on climatic variables of rainfall, temperature and relative humidity were obtained from Nigeria Meteorological Agency between 1950-2015. Analyses were carried out using simple proportion for qualitative variables while mean and standard deviation were used in analyzing the qualitative variable. Similarly, the triangulation method involving qualitative and quantitative components in data generation was used. Results showed that, there had been a steady but gradual increase in the mean annual minimum and maximum temperatures over the study period of thirty years. The overall mean rainfall computed was 191.1 mm. In general, there was a shift increase in both rainfall and temperature during the period under study. The respondents attributed crop failure (100%), reduced crop yield (100%), increase incidence of pest and diseases (100%) and delay in planting period (100%) as direct effects of climate change. A steady trend in relative humidity of (84.3%) was recorded and the mean annual wind speed computed was 67.9 knots. The adapted strategies include delay planting period, crop diversification 100%, cultivation of early maturing crops such as maize, vegetables, intercropped with the root crops and changes in the time of farm operations (99.4%) as well as a change in the planting period and changing farm location (98.9%). The latter will in addition to other benefits reduce the incidences of pest and diseases that may be attracted to the same field if continuously cultivated with the same crops. An implementable policy of accessibility of finance to the real farmers is seriously advocated.

1. Introduction

Agricultural production remains the main source of livelihood for most rural communities in Nigeria. It provides a source of employment for more than 60% of the population and contributes about 30% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) [1]. The performance of the agricultural sector is determined by crop production, which depends on a large number of both edaphic and climatic factors such as endowment of soils, rainfall, temperature, and relative humidity. But recent concerns and findings indicate that these climatic variables are changing. Climate change refers to any variation in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity [2] [3]. Climate change in the form of higher temperatures, reduced rainfall and increased rainfall variability, reduces crop yields and net farm revenues and threatens food security in low income based economies including African countries [4] [5]. At the 10th and 38th Session of Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II in Yokohama, Japan, the world is warned that climate change’s impacts are leading to shifts in crop yields, overall decrease in yields, with the likelihood that global average surface temperature rising to 1.8 degrees to 4.0 degrees Celsius by 2100. Climate variability will increase almost everywhere. Northern latitudes will experience more rainfall; many subtropical regions will see less. In light of these, some indigenous communities are changing seasonal migration and hunting patterns to adapt to changes in temperature [6]. Furthermore, IPCC report [7] predicts that the climate change over the next century will affect rainfall pattern, river flows and sea levels all over the world. Studies show that agricultural yield will likely be severely affected over the next hundred years due to unprecedented rates of changes in the climate system [8] [9]. The accelerated increase in the greenhouse gases (GHG), concentration in the atmosphere is a major cause for climate change. Studies such as [10] [11], predict that by the year 2050, the rainfall in Sub-Saharan Africa (Nigeria inclusive) could drop by 10%, which will cause a major water shortage. This 10% decrease in precipitation would reduce drainage by 17% and the regions which are receiving 500 – 600 mm/year rainfall will experience a reduction by 50% – 30% respectively in the surface drainage. This has serious implications for Nigeria which is by far the world’s largest producer of yams, accounting for over 70 – 76 percent of the world production. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization report in 1985, Nigeria produced 18.3 million tons of yams from 1.5 million hectares, representing 73.8 percent of total yam production in Africa. According to 2008 figures, yam production in Nigeria has nearly doubled since 1985, with Nigeria producing 35.017 million metric tons with value equivalent of US $5.654 billion.

Considering the findings above, there is need to preserve, boost and promote the agricultural sector especially root crop farming system as an alternative means of income for the Nigerian economy to cushion the economic shocks experienced by the fluctuating global oil prices in the face of the current economic recession. [12] investigated remote sensor technology for precision crop production. The findings of the study revealed that a combination of items was needed by farmers in utilizing sensory technology for precision crop production. [13] examined climate change impacts and adaptation in rain-fed farming system using a modelling framework for scaling out climate smart agriculture. The potential for improving soil water productivity and improved water harvesting have been explored as ways of climate change mitigation and adaptation measures. The paper argued that this can be utilized to explore and design appropriate conservation agriculture and adaptation practices in similar agro-ecological environments, and create opportunities for out-scaling for much wider areas. [14] studied the impact of climate change on yields for the four most commonly grown crops (millet, maize, sorghum and cassava) in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). A panel data approach was used to relate yields to standard weather variables, such as temperature and precipitation, and sophisticated weather measures, such as evapotranspiration and the standardized precipitation index (SPI). Each GCM was simulated under a range of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) assumptions. Relative to a case without climate change, yield changes in 2100 are near zero for cassava and range from −19% to +6% for maize, from −38% to −13% for millet and from −47% to −7% for sorghum under alternative climate change scenarios. [15] examined Farmers’ Perceptions of and Adaptations to Climate Change and Variability in Togo. The results highlight that education level, farming experience, access extension services, access to credit and access to climate information are the factors that enhance farmers’ adaptive capacity to climate change and variability. [16] analyzed of Climate Variability, Perceptions and Coping Strategies of Tanzanian Coastal Forest Dependent Communities. Findings showed that households primarily attribute reduced crop yields to changes in rainfall pattern and increasing incidences of drought leading to soil moisture stress. The implications are that the agriculture dependent households are now food insecure.

As a way of coping to the observed changes, the coastal communities among others have shifted to production of high value horticultural crops and use of forest resources. Haven reviewed some of the related studies; this paper however, is a novel study in the locale and most especially, its impact on root crops that is predominantly planted by all the farmers in the area. However, most studies carried out in Nigeria were on Cassava only. No known study has examined a combination of different root crops such as cassava, yams, sweet potatoes and cocoa yam in relation to adaptation to climate change especially in a mostly agrarian Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers state, Nigeria. The experience of farmers in the area which includes crop failure, reduced crop yield, increase incidence of pest and diseases and delay in planting period, change in farming location as direct effects of climate change were specific to the study locale different from other related studies in the literature. More so, adaptation varies from location to location because of the peculiar nature of each study locale and the crop that is involved. This study is contributing to the literature of the knowledge of adaptation to climate change from Nigeria especially on root crops which is different from the study already published in the literature from around the world. The challenges pose by climatic variations on crop production has also been well documented (see [17]-[23]).

These authors reported that climate change will likely lead to a major spatial shift and extension of crop lands as it will create a favorable or restricted environment for crop growth across different regions. And that frequency of heat stress; drought and flood negatively affect crop production. However, the studies cited above were carried out mostly on cassava in different parts of Nigeria. No known study has examined a combination of different root crops such as cassava, yams, sweet potatoes and cocoa yam in relation to adaptation to climate change especially in a mostly agrarian Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers state, Nigeria. This is the gap in knowledge which this study intends to provide. This study seeks to investigate the adaptation of root crop farming system on climate change to compliment knowledge in the literature of the problem. Principally the study is set out to find out how farmers in the area have coped with the impacts of climate change and identify their adaptation strategies on cassava, yam, cocoa yam and sweet potatoes production over the decades. It equally identified the root crops that are predominantly impacted by the changing climate.

2. Geography of the Study Area

Ikwerre Local Government Area is one of the 23 LGAs in Rivers State. It has a population of 188,930 (male and female), Rivers State Population census, 2006. Total annual rainfall decreases from about 4,700 mm on the coast to about 1,700 mm in extreme north of the State. Rainfall is adequate for all year round crop production in the State. The mean monthly temperature is in the range of 25 to 28˚C. The main root crops are yam, cassava and cocoyam; while the grains are maize, lowland rice and beans. Other crops grown for food include vegetables, melon, pineapples and plantain. The major cash crops are oil palm products, rubber, coconut, raffia palm and jute

3. Methodology

The study used the mixed methods (triangulation) involving qualitative and quantitative components. Two sets of data were used namely the primary data and secondary data. The primary data was obtained through questionnaire administration on farmers understanding of climate change, its effects on root crop production and their adaptation strategies to the production and productivity of their root crops. The qualitative methodology involved focused group discussions and consultations with individual interviews of local farmers including females. The second set of data, the secondary data was collected from Federal Meteorological Agency Port Harcourt, Rivers State on four climate variables

namely: Rainfall, Temperature, Relative Humidity and Wind speed over a period of sixty-six years for analysis. To achieve the objective of the study seven town were selected based on a population of five thousand and above in the area for analysis. These are Omuawa, Uzuaha, Omagwa, Obodo-Isiokpo, Omademe, Ubima and Omodukwu-Igwuruta. A total of one hundred and nineteen (119) structured questionnaires were developed and thirty percentage (30%) of the root crop farmers (young and old), were randomly selected in each of the seven sampled community for interviewing. Questionnaires were distributed to educated farmers young and old, or who had educated relatives in their compounds after thorough explanations of the aim and objectives of the study to the respondents through an interpreter. The implication of including the younger farmers is that younger farmers are likely to adopt new innovation faster than the older ones. This is in agreement with [24] that majority of farmers within the age range of 41 to 50 years are still in their active age, more receptive to innovation and could withstand the stress and strain involved in agricultural production and ease adaptation to climate change

Data analysis was carried out using simple proportion for qualitative variables while mean and standard deviation were used in analyzing the qualitative variable. The outputs were further presented in tables and charts. The data was structured and presented from the responses to the research questions in line with the aim and objectives of the study. The analysis of the data both primary and secondary data was aimed at bringing to the knowledge of both informed and uninformed stakeholders, the basic understanding, adaptive strategies and experiences of climate change and its effects on root crop farming system in the sampled communities of the Ikwerre Local Government Area, of Rivers State, Nigeria.

4. Results and Discussion of Findings

4.1. Demographic Characteristics of Farmers in the Locality

Of the sampled population of 179 respondents in all the seven communities of Ikwerre local government area, there were 78.8 percent male respondents and 21.2 percent female respondents. The age distribution of respondents showed that farmers were between the age brackets 36 – 50 yrs (43.6%), was the highest in the age distribution followed by 26 – 35 yrs (21.2%), 51 – 65 yrs (20.7%), 15 – 25 (8.4%) and ≥65 yrs (6.1%). The result of years of farming experience by age in the study area showed that farmers with 10 – 19 years (39.7%), of farming experience were the highest respondents, however this can be explained by the fact that most of the farmers met during the study were middle aged farmers with few farmers within the ages of 51 and above. This is followed by farmers with 20 – 29 years (22.3%), farming experience who were very close to having the threedecade farming experiences upon which the effects of Climate variables were measured. Farmers with 0 – 9 years (9.5%), were third in the rank followed by farmers with 0 – 49 years farming experience (6.7%) and those with >50 years were bottom on the list representing (0.6%), of the sampled respondents. Below, however, is the analysis of farm size according to sampled communities.

4.2. Climate Characteristics of the Study Area

The Climate characteristics showed mean annual pattern of rainfall and temperature in Ikwerre LGA from 1950-2015. Ikwerre LGA had an annual mean rainfall of 2375 mm that spans 1475 mm in 1951 to 3056 mm in 2012. This showed an increase of 1581 mm over the years (See Weli and Efe, 2014). The polynomial trendline show an increase in rainfall over the years, with 0.61 R2 value and showed an increase of 1581 mm from 1950-2015. Findings indicated that, Ikwerre LGA had experienced a rise of 3˚C in temperature (25˚C – 28˚C) from 1950-2015, with 27.2˚C mean annual temperature distribution. The temperature polynomial trend line showed a rise in temperature with R2 value of 0.15. The flow pattern of rainfall and temperature followed an inverse pattern, indicating that temperature decreases with an increase in rainfall in the area. This corroborated [25] [26] [27] findings showed that the normal period of rainfall showed a u-shape, indicating a decrease in rainfall from 2693 mm (1950-1979) to 2316 mm (1980-2009), thereafter a rise to 2670 mm in 2010-2015, this showed that while 1950-1979 and 2010 till date are wetter epoch, 1980-2009 is the driest periods. This is an evidence of climate change in Ikwerre LGA with R value of 1, and the polynomial trend line revealed that increase in rainfall correlated perfectly with increase in years. Similarly, there was a gradual rise in temperature from 1950-2015; this was evident with temperature values of 26.9˚C, 27.4˚C and 27.5˚C for three epochs (1950-1979, 1980-2009 and 2010-2015). And the linear trend line exhibited a rise in temperature which correlated strongly with increase in years with R value of 0.94. This trend pattern of rainfall and temperature is an evidence of climate change in the study area. This is confirmed with a decrease of 377 mm in rainfall from the first epoch (1950-1979), and an increase of 354 mm from the second epoch (1980-2009) to the last epoch (2010-2015). This had triggered flood hazards in the area. The farmers also attested that flood was the only climate related hazard which affects the root crops cultivation. Temperature on the other hand had a rise of 0.5˚C from the first epoch (1950-1979) to the second epoch (1980-2009), and a rise of 0.1˚C from the second epoch to the third epoch (2010-2015).

The decadal rainfall pattern indicated that the period 1950-1959 and 1960-1969 had an increase in rainfall with 209.4 mm and 421.3 mm respectively, thereafter, there is a decrease of 438.3 mm from 1970-1979. Nevertheless, 1980-1989 and 1990-1999 also recorded wetter periods of 19.6 mm to 112.9 mm rainfall, and a decrease of 70.3 mm was recorded from 2000-2009. And the period 2010-2015 had an increase of 363.7 mm which often exacerbate ecological hazards in the area. The polynomial trendline of rainfall anomalies showed a clearer trend pattern of gradual decrease from 1950-1985, thereafter, there was a gradual increase in rainfall till date (Figure 1), indicating a change in the rainfall sequence of Port Harcourt for the period 1950 till date

Result showed that the temperature pattern had two epochs of 27.4˚C, and 27.5˚C for 1950-1969, 1980-189, 2000-2009 and 2010 till date. This period had a temperature rise of 0.9˚C, 0.4˚C, 0.05˚C and 0.14˚C respectively, indicating a change in temperature. From Figure 1, the linear trend line of temperature anomalies showed a gradual rise in temperature from 1955 till date which showed that Port Harcourt is warmer in the last two decades than the previous years. However, the first decade is cooler than other decades

4.3. Physical Characteristics, Challenges and Climate Events Significantly Impacting Root Crop Farming

Table 1 shows farm size (local measure, plots) of the sampled farmers in all seven communities. The table indicates that out of the entire sampled population, farmers with 0 – 4 farm plots (46.4%), (local measure), have the highest percentage followed by those with farm plots ranging between 5 – 9 farm plots (33.0%), 10 – 14 farm plots (19.6%) and 15 – 19 farm plots and 20 farm plots and above respectively recording (0.6%), indicating the subsistence nature of root crop production in the Ikwerre local government area which is a characteristic farming system for most food crops in sub Saharan Africa and Nigeria is no exception.

Findings indicates in

Table 1 that access to funding is highest in the farmer’s priorities with a mean of 2.989 and for the farmers to be able to acquire modern farming tools and equipment to improve their farming activities; access to funding is a vital necessity for every subsistence farmer. Next on their priority ranking according to their responses, is the access to technological information with a mean of 2.944 which inevitably is an uncompromising requirement for farmers especially for those in the developing countries like Africa. The study revealed the missing link between research and the farmers through their responses on inaccessibility to extension services indicated by a mean value of 2.984. Other are cost of cultivation (2.816), pest and disease incidence (2.039), availability of storage facilities (1.922); inadequate farm size (1.156), availability of quality seeds (1.017); competition for land between Male & Female (1.006), access to market (1.000) and source of irrigation (1.000). It was clear that the local inhabitants depend on rain-fed agriculture for their crops. This makes farming in the area highly vulnerable to climate change.

Table 2 showed results of Major Climate events that had significantly affected farm production in percentage (%). From the 179 respondents from the seven sampled communities in the Ikwerre local government area, 99.4% claimed that flood is their major climatic event that significantly affected their farm production. 2 shows results of the Effect of climate-related events on root crop production (%). The results revealed that Crop failure, reduced crop yields and delay in planting period are the major resultant effects of climate-related events on root crop production representing 100% of sampled farmer’s opinions followed by incidence of pests and diseases which came out high on their observations on the effects of climate related events scoring 99.4% from the entire sampled population of 179 respondents. The study attributes crop failure, reduced crop yield, increase incidence of pest and diseases and delay in planting period are the direct effect of climate variables.

Table 3 shows results of farmer’s adaptive strategies to the effects of climate change in a bid to avoid total income and crop failure from their farming activities as follows: delay planting period, crop diversification 100%. Cultivation of early maturing crops such as maize, vegetables intercropped with the root crops and changes in the time of farm operations 99.4% respectively as well as the planting period to avoid crop failure and changing their farm location 98.9%. The latter will in addition to other benefits reduce the incidences of pest and diseases that may be attracted to the same field if continuously cultivated with the same crops. Analysis of how farmers adjusted to long-term shifts in two major climatic variables that affected root crop farming revealed that apart from Ozuaha (96.6%) all the other six communities indicated 100% wait for a favorable period before planting during a long-term shift in rainfall and replanting of crops that died off during long-term shifts in temperature. However, in Ozuaha, 3.4% will plant at their usual planting periods during long-term shifts in rainfall. But during long-term shifts in temperature, 96.6% of the farmer’s reported that they replanted those crops that died off and 3.4% do not replant. Findings further showed that the four major root crops cultivated include sweet potatoes, cocoa yam, yams and cassava. Amongst these four major root crops, cassava is the most widely root crop (indicating 100%) cultivated, meaning that each sampled farmer cultivates cassava followed by yam (98.9%), cocoa yam (10.1%) and sweet potatoes (7.8%). It therefore, showed that cassava was the mostly affected root crops by climate change especially the changes in rainfall and temperature.

5. Conclusion

The study area has passed through a steady but gradual increase in the means of annual rainfall (191.1 mm), minimum (22.7˚C), and maximum temperatures (31.5˚C), over the study period of sixty years (1950-2015). The farmers similarly attributed crop failure, reduced crop yield, increased incidence of pest and dis-eases and delay in planting period as the direct effects of climate change. Adaptation techniques by the farmers include crop diversification, cultivation of early maturing crops such as maize, vegetables intercropped with the root crops and changes in the time of farm operations. Others include changing farm location as well as delaying planting period.

6. Recommendation

In view of the above findings and the growing concerns of climate change, the study posits the need for Climate Smart Agricultural (CSA) practices which would reduce GHG emissions and their effects while increasing crop yield. The following specific adaptation strategies are recommended for sustainable root crop cultivation.

1) Farmer cooperatives need to be promoted for easy access of funding to farmers to boost their crop production;

2) Media outlets such as radio stations, television stations, print media, comedians, etc., should be exploited to relay messages to the remotest farmer on new technologies and any agricultural information;

3) Climate information should be relayed to farmers in languages they understand best such as weather forecasts, early warning systems, etc.;

4) Establish agro based industries to add value to root crops thereby creating the opportunity to increase farmer’s income;

5) Enhance community’s resilience strategies, including adopting appropriate technologies, diversifying their livelihoods to cope with current and future climate stress;

6) Use of local coping strategies and traditional knowledge in synergy with government interventions through policies;

7) Promote crop diversification, integrated pest management and crop insurance


Achieving mitigation and adaptation to climate change through sustainable agroforestry practices in Africa



Agroforestry is one of the most conspicuous land use systems across landscapes and agroecological zones in Africa. With food shortages and increased threats of climate change, interest in agroforestry is gathering for its potential to address various on-farm adaptation needs, and fulfill many roles in AFOLU-related mitigation pathways. Agroforestry provides assets and income from carbon, wood energy, improved soil fertility and enhancement of local climate conditions; it provides ecosystem services and reduces human impacts on natural forests. Most of these benefits have direct benefits for local adaptation while contributing to global efforts to control atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. This paper presents recent findings on how agroforestry as a sustainable practice helps to achieve both mitigation and adaptation objectives while remaining relevant to the livelihoods of the poor smallholder farmers in Africa

Scoping agroforestry for climate change

Low income countries mostly rely on agriculture for rural livelihoods and development. Nevertheless, agricultural systems in developing countries are adversely affected by land pressure and climate change, both of which threaten food production. Reduced productivity due to land degradation exacerbates the food deficit, despite the relative success of intensive agriculturalsystems that are promoted in many regions of the world. The various environmental impacts of agricultural intensification and food production, with negative impacts on soil and biodiversity, result in adverse feedbacks on climate, food security and on-farm income at local scale [1]. In addition, attempts to implement a ‘green revolution’ model in Africa using subsidies and inputs such as fertilizers have been costly and unsustainable, as technology cannot fully replace the services that trees would normally provide [2]. The current debate on sustainable intensification of agriculture underlines the importance of diversification as a way to improve crop and land management by integrating trees in land use systems [2–4]. There are many waysto achieve sustainable agricultural goals through the combination of increased yields with ecosystem services, but there few options where agroecosystem diversity and farm productivity are enhanced simultaneously. Some forms of agroforestry require low external inputs (pro-poor), have a high recycling rate, and good integration of trees, crops and animals, making them good candidate for achieving both sustainable livelihood and climate changes objectives

In most parts of Africa, climate change mitigation focusses on reforestation and forest protection. But such efforts to reduce tropical deforestation (often under the umbrella of REDD+) [6] conflict with the need to expand agricultural production in Africa to feed the continent’s growing population [7]. Agroforestry could be a win-win solution to the seemingly difficult choice between reforestation and agricultural land use, because it increases the storage of carbon and may also enhance agricultural productivity [8,9]. Some studies suggest that smallholder farmers in developing countries may combat climate change by reverting to more natural productive systems, which provide improved ecological and social functions [10], while meeting adaptation needs and building resilient agro-ecological systems that actively sequester carbon [11–14]. Currently, there is a growing interest in investing in agroforestry systems for these multiple benefits [15 ,16], and also as a set of innovative practices that strengthen the system’s ability to cope with adverse A

impacts of a changing climate [17]. Although the feasibility and benefits of agroforestry-based mitigation to smallholder farmers are currently under debate, common ground is found when evidence emerges that high production levels and economic values of agroforestry products may generate financial capital beyond subsistence levels alone, thereby aiding capital accumulation and reinvestment at the farm level [18,19]. Although the capacity of agroforestry to both raise carbon stocks and produce livelihood benefits has been well demonstrated, the research community needs to better understand the emerging challenge of assessing benefits from other ecosystem services beyond the symbolic value of carbon sequestration. A defining factor of African agriculture is the dominance of smallholder farmers with a strong priority on food security. Under such conditions, climate mitigation measures will need to demonstrate support for improved food production as well as climate adaptation benefits [14,20,21]. This synthesis presents the state of the art on the role of agroforestry in addressing both climate mitigation and adaptation in primarily food-focused production systems of Africa.

Agricultural performance under agroforestry systems

The steady decrease in soilfertility due to many driversis a serious constraint for sustainable agriculture in Africa [22– 27]. Topsoil erosion is the most detrimental form of soil degradation and is likely to be aggravated by long-term removal ofsurface litter and crop residues. The shortage of mineral fertilizers and poor performance of current agricultural policies have directed discussions on food security towards sustainable agroforestry practices [27–29].

Agroforestry has potential to improve soil fertility. This is mainly based on the increase of soil organic matter and biological nitrogen fixation by leguminous trees. Trees on farms also facilitate tighter nutrient cycling than monoculture systems, and enrich the soil with nutrients and organic matter [30], while improving soilstructural properties. Hence, through water tapping and prevention of nutrient leaching [10,31], trees help recover nutrients, conserve soil moisture and improve soil organic matter[32

The potential of agroforestry to reduce the yield gap varies depending on the biophysical and human context. There are a number of successful agroforestry technologies, such as trees that improve soil, fast-growing trees for fuel wood, indigenous fruit trees to provide added nutrition and income, and trees that can provide medicinal plant products [33]. In practice, there is a need to differentiate between simple agroforestry systems (such as alley cropping, intercropping and hedgerow systems) and complex agroforestry systemsthatfunctionlike natural forest ecosystems but are integrated into agricultural

managementsystems[34,35]. The interest ofinvestigating agroforestry in a changing climate comesfrom the potential of agroforestry practices to produce assets for farmers, combined with opportunitiesfor climate change mitigation and potential to promote sustainable production that enhances agroecosystem diversity and resilience.

Agroforestry as a potential mitigation strategy

Cultivated lands have the potential to contribute signifi- cantly to climate change mitigation by improved cropping practices and greater numbers of trees on farms. The global estimated potential of all greenhouse gas (GHG) sequestration in agriculture ranges from 1500 to 4300 Mt CO2e yr1 , with about 70% from developing countries; 90% of this potential lies in soil carbon restoration and avoided net soil carbon emission [20]. Tree densities in farming landscapes range from low cover of about 5% in the Sahel to more than 45% in humid tropical zones where cocoa, coffee and palm oil agroforestry systems prevail [36]. The cited study indicates that in subSaharanAfrica, 15% offarms have tree cover of atleast 30%. This points to a high potential in Africa for sequestering carbon and reducing other agriculture related GHG emissions — particularly in farm land that currently haslow tree cover — while maintaining the basic production systems. Performance of mitigation options in agroforestry will depend on the relative influence of tree species selection and management, soil characteristics, topography, rainfall, agricultural practices, prioritiesfor food security, economic development options, among others. In order to improve carbon sequestration, or to reduce carbon emissions, several options are available (Table 1), but all are related to development needs of local communities.

These agroforestry practices are based on a variety of management approaches and have potential positive implications for climate change mitigation [42]. It has been shown that agroforestry systems have 3–4 times more biomass than traditional treeless cropping systems [20,43], and in Africa they constitute the third largest carbon sink after primary forests and long term fallows [35]. In addition, Zomer et al. [36] show that the area suitable for agroforestry worldwide is much larger with substantially greater potential than existing systems. In Africa, Unruh et al. [8] reported that a total of 1550 million ha are suitable for some type of agroforestry. There are many methods to estimate carbon sequestration in agroforestry systems; some of them are based on in situ measurements, but the application of different assumptions introduces large inconsistencies into available data [9]. Reported C stocks and C sequestration vary widely across agroforestry systems in Africa. Integrated land use practices, such as agro-silvo-pastoral systems, combine high C stocks with high C sequestration potentials. Table 2 shows the potential of various agroforestry systems for climate change mitigation.

In addition, agroforestry systems can meaningfully reduce the pressure on natural forests for energy needs. Some authors assume that higher consumption of tree products would motivate farmers to adopt agroforestry [54], in particular where fuel wood is diminishing. Development of agroforestry for sustainable fuel wood can contribute to energy substitution and becomes an important carbon offset option

Agroforestry and ecosystem resilience

Agroforestry systems comprise a long list of land management practices, including crop diversification, long rotation systems for soil conservation, homegardens, boundary plantings, perennial crops, hedgerow intercropping, live fences, improved fallows or mixed strata agroforestry [14,34,35,40,42,55–57]. If well managed (success hinges essentially upon proper implementation), agroforestry can play a crucial role in improving resilience to uncertain climates through microclimate buffering and regulation of water flow [15 ].

Management options in agroforestry include tree pruning, and measures to reduce below-ground competition, particularly for water [58], such that trees tap into deep groundwaterratherthan top soil moisture that annual crops rely on. Growing attention is paid to the impact of agroforestry on microclimate control, and other favorable ecosystem functions. Agroforestry helps to conserve and protect natural resources by, for example, mitigating non-pointsource pollution (e.g. dust), controlling soil erosion and creating wildlife habitat [33]. It facilitates flexible responses to rapid shifts in ecological conditions, while at the same time maintaining or restoring soil and water resources

Microclimatic improvement through agroforestry has a major impact on crop performance as trees can buffer climatic extremes that affect crop growth. In particular, the shading effects of agroforestry trees can buffer temperature and atmospheric saturation deficit — reducing exposure to supra-optimal temperatures, under which physiological and developmental processes and yield become increasingly vulnerable [10]. Scattered trees in agroforestry farms can enhance the understory growth by reducing incident solar radiation, air and soil temperature, while improving water status, gas exchange and water use efficiency [31]. These scientific claims are based on few examples and need to be substantiated more in future research

Agroforestry contributes to ecosystem functions in water recycling by increased rainfall utilization compared to annual cropping systems. Lott et al. [60] reported that about 25% of the water transpired by trees is used during the dry season, indicating that they are able to utilize offseason rainfall (comprising 15–20% of the total annual rainfall) and residual soil water after the cropping period, with the rest being lost by evaporation (40%) or deep  drainage (33–40%). This complementarity between trees and annual crops extends possibilities of soil moisture uptake, hence making soil resource utilization more effi- cient than in pure monoculture [30,58]. Trials have been conducted to demonstrate that reduction of vegetation cover amplifies the decline of rainfall through positive feedbacks between precipitation and vegetation via reduced evapotranspiration and increased albedo [61]. Additionally, analysis of the water cycle addresses the importance of managing tree cover as part of the direct influences trees have on local and regional patterns of rainfall [62,63 ]. This highlights the potential of agroforestry to alleviate drought in Africa.

Adaptation-mitigation in agroforestry

Combining adaptation with mitigation has been recognized as a necessity in developing countries, particularly in the AFOLU (agriculture, forestry and other land use) sector. In reality, there is no dissociation between crop production and other ecosystem services from land use. Agroforestry in general may increase farm profitability through improvement and diversification of output per unit area of tree/crop/livestock, through protection against damaging effects of wind or water flow, and through new products added to the financial diversity and flexibility of the farming enterprise [33]. It can also substantially contribute to climate change mitigation [17,20,21].

The use of multipurpose trees and integrated approaches can enhance the profitability of agroforestry [15 ], for example, trees can be sources of fodder, which in turn is converted into valuable plant nutrients [14]. Trees on farms can provide wild edible fruits [39 ] and non-timber products that serve as alternative food during periods of deficit and primary sources of income for many rural communities [64]. Hence, a growing scientific challenge relates to the methods and tools to assess useful trees in various human-ecological contexts [15 ]. In most cases, benefits of agroforestry add up to a substantial improvement of the economic and resource sustainability of agriculture, while contributing to GHG sequestration. Agroforestry may nevertheless involve practices that raise GHG emissions, such as shifting cultivation, pasture maintenance by burning, nitrogen fertilization and animal production. In order to optimize agroforestry for adaptation and mitigation to climate change, there is a need for more integrated management to increase benefits and reduce negative impacts on climate

Conclusion and key messages

This paper shows how agroforestry systems readily bundle both mitigation and adaptation strategies and provide several pathways to securing food security for poor farmers, while contributing to climate change mitigation. Agroforestry should attract more attention in global agendas on mitigation because of its positive social and environmental impacts. However, adding trees to cropping systems and/or animal production requires learning of advanced cultivation methods and some support to ensure swift adoption [65]. The failure of extension services in poor African countries limits the possibility to scale up innovations in agroforestry for improved land use systems. Another structural limitation to bringing agroforestry adoption to scale can be seen in the limited investment in the sector compared to intensified farming systems, which has seen strong support during the post-colonial era, mostly for export cash crop (monocultures of groundnut, cocoa, cotton, among others).

At farm level, combining mitigation and adaptation in agroforestry to enhance the resilience of social and land use systems should be scrutinized in a context where the primary goal is to increase social and economic benefits through agriculture. Screening of priority activities needs

multifaceted analysis that responds first and foremost to basic local needs [65]. So if seen as a win-win approach under optimal land management practices, equal importance of mitigation efforts should be given to adaptation; and any mitigation strategies should demonstrate clear adaptation benefits. In the case of Africa, carbon sequestration should generally be considered a co-benefit of strategies to support sustainable livelihoods and adapt to climate change, rather than the other way round. Progress towards adapted and sustainable livelihoods may be measured by accumulation of assets, and mitigation measures should be mapped against these assets.

On the other hand, uncertainties related to future climates, land use and land cover, soil fertility in drier environments and pests and diseases pose challenges to the scaling up of agroforestry practices. The effects of climate change on agroforestry systems are not fully understood despite many efforts in modeling climate analogs and future climate impacts [66]. This raises questions on which trees and management options will be suitable in future climates and how to best minimize negative climate change impacts on farming systems [15 ]. There is, therefore, a need to better predict the range of climate variability to assess the short and long term impacts of changing temperature and rainfall on ecosystem suitability for current agroforestry practices [10]. Inversely, there is little knowledge on quantitative effects of trees on local and regional climate, and better documentation is needed on the interconnections related to water recycling and its association with evapotranspiration. Also, it is unclear how much deforestation can be limited by provision of ecosystem services such as wood energy from agroforestry landscapes.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Critical need for new definitions of “forest” and “forest degradation” in global climate change agreements



If global policies intended to promote forest conservation continue to use the definition of “forest” adopted in 2001 by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (an area of >0.05–1 ha with >10–30% cover of plants >2–5 m tall at maturity), great quantities of carbon and other environmental values will be lost when natural forests are severely degraded or replaced by plantations but technically remain “forests.” While a definition of “forest” that is globally acceptable and appropriate for monitoring using standard remote sensing options will necessarily be based on a small set of easily measured parameters, there are dangers when simple definitions are applied locally. At the very least, we recommend that natural forest be differentiated from plantations and that for defining “forest” the lower height limit defining “trees” be set at more than 5 m tall with the minimum cover of trees be set at more than 40%. These changes will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from what is now termed forest “degradation” without increasing monitoring costs. Furthermore, these minor changes in the definition of “forest” will promote the switch from degradation to responsible forest management, which will help mitigate global warming while protecting biodiversity and contributing to sustainable development.


Forest degradation and deforestation are distinctly different processes. While deforestation involves the conversion of forests to another land cover types, degradation results when forests remain forests but lose their ability to provide ecosystem services or suffer major changes in species composition due to overexploitation, exotic species invasion, pollution, fires, or other factors (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005). Over the past decade, tropical deforestation globally resulted in the release of an estimated 1.1–2.2 PgC/year (Houghton 2003Achard et al. 2004Gullison et al. 2007) (1 PgC = 1015 gC); forest degradation is thought to have resulted in similar emissions (Gaston et al. 1998), but the data are more limited (but see Nepstad et al. 1999Asner et al. 2005Gibbs et al. 2007). Unfortunately, due to political instability and governance failures, wildfires as well as the uncontrolled and often illegal logging that result in forest degradation continue unabated in much of the tropics (Hembery et al. 2007Meyfroidt & Lambin 2008). Our concern is that while forest degradation is recognized as a major problem, it is mostly being disregarded by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) partially because of the way they defined “forest.”

The possibility of compensating developing countries for reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) was proposed in 2005 by the governments of Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica at the 11th Conference of Parties of the UNFCCC. As the roles of tropical forests in sustainable development and global warming become increasingly apparent, progress is being made toward including REDD in the post-Kyoto Protocol climate change agreement (IISD 2008Miles & Kapos 2008). Negotiations on this agreement are scheduled to be completed by December 2009 (UNFCCC 2008), which means that discussions about the broader issue of defining forests and debates over the inclusion of forest degradation need to be resolved very soon.

Here, we discuss the problems regarding the definition of “forest” adopted in 2001 under the Marrakesh Accord of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM; see UNFCCC 2002), lack of a consensus definition of “forest degradation,” and the potential exclusion of forest degradation in the post-Kyoto agreement (Neeff et al. 2006). We also provide explicit and readily implemented suggestions for addressing these problems so that the outcomes of the new agreement are more likely to include real carbon emission reductions while promoting sustainable forest management and contributing to the welfare of forest-dependent people.


According to the CDM of the Kyoto Protocol, a “forest” is an area of more than 0.5–1.0 ha with a minimum “tree” crown cover of 10–30%, with “tree” defined as a plant with the capability of growing to be more than 2–5 m tall (UNFCCC 2002). Participating countries can choose from the specified ranges for a “forest” definition tailored to their needs. While we recognize that any definition suitable for global application will necessarily be composed of a very few easily measured parameters, we fear that continued use of this particular definition will jeopardize many forest values, including carbon. Furthermore, the CDM forest definition inadvertently allows continued unsustainable exploitation of forest resources principally because natural forests and plantations are not differentiated (about which we have no more to say) and because thresholds for crown cover are so low that the carbon consequences of continued indiscriminate extraction of commercially valuable tree species are not officially recognized

Figure 1.

Differences in forest carbon stocks to be credited that result from different definitions of “forest.” Under the current definition of “forest” agreed upon in the Marrakesh Accords of the Kyoto Protocol, carbon stocks in the tropics could continue to decline without recognition from point A until a point corresponding to a crown cover of 10–30% (either C or C’), which defines the forest threshold. Depending on the adopted definition of a country, deforestation is likely to be credited by the REDD agreement only from point C or C’ onward. A REDD agreement based on 10 or 30% crown cover definitions would therefore halt deforestation and prevent carbon stock losses from dropping below C’ or C, respectively; carbon released above these limits would be from forest degradation. Forest degradation losses would be much reduced (points A to B) if the “forest” definition is based on a higher canopy cover requirement (40%). Also, if improved forest management is also included in the agreement, healthy tropical forest as well as increased carbon stocks could be achieved (points A to E) as logging damage and wood waste are reduced. T1 to T2 is the next commitment period after 2012, and T2 to T3 is the “ensured” period for the post-Kyoto agreement. Carbon stored in the forest equivalent to point A (assuming that REDD is included in the post-Kyoto agreement) during the T2 to T3 period should not drop below that in the T1 to T2 period; otherwise, the forest would be logged or converted to other land uses shortly at the end of the next commitment period (T2).

By setting the lower limit of tree crown cover at 10 or even 30%, degradation leading to substantial reductions in standing stocks of carbon will be allowed to continue without causing deforestation (point A to points C and C’ on Figure 1). The consequences are worse if the minimum height to which “trees” must grow is set at only 2 m rather than 5 m (Table 1), but in any case, the loses of both carbon and other forest values are substantial. These losses have attendant negative impacts on about 2.7 billion forest-dependent people (Koopmans 2005) as well as the rest of the planet. Furthermore, the permitted practices that lead to these losses (e.g., illegal, unsupervised, and unsustainable logging as well as rampant wildfires) also subvert the UNFCCC’s goal of reducing net emissions from developed countries while promoting sustainable development in the rest of the world.

In defense of the UNFCCC negotiators’ choice of tree crown cover as one of the principal parameters describing “forest,” it is worth noting that this forest feature plays a vital role in biosphere and atmosphere interactions (Ozanne et al. 2003), that canopy cover can be readily monitored using standard remote sensing techniques, and, finally, that it is a major component of the definition of “forest” that has been used for decades by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. Nevertheless, it is important to note that whereas the FAO uses a minimum threshold of 40% tree crown cover to define “closed forest” (and 10–40% for “open forest”; FAO 2000), the UNFCCC left it to each country participating in the CDM to select a minimum threshold of only 10–30% (for the minimum canopy covers and tree heights selected to define “forest” by signatory countries see Table 1). Although by selecting the UNFCCC’s higher minimum (i.e., 30%) to define “forest” a country would potentially have more land area eligible for reforestation or afforestation under the CDM (Verchot et al. 2007Zomeret al. 2008), many chose a lower option. We suggest that in keeping with the FAO and in recognition of the fact that open forests (10–40% tree crown cover) are generally more fire-prone than more closed canopy forests (e.g., Cochrane et al. 1999) and are otherwise ecologically different, the UNFCCC should differentiate the two in the agreement being designed to replace the Kyoto Protocol during the second commitment period starting in 2012.

These changes in the “forest” definition used by the UNFCCC are critical because, unlike the first commitment period (2008–2012) during which compensation is only available for increased carbon stocks resulting from afforestation and reforestation, the post-Kyoto REDD approach is intended to provide compensation for the protection of forest carbon stocks. If REDD becomes a reality, then the question “what type of forest do we want as an outcome of the agreement?” remains to be addressed. If we want functioning forest ecosystems with their full complement of biodiversity, then forests should not be allowed to be converted into plantations or to otherwise lose large proportions of their carbon stocks or species. Avoiding these forms of degradation will be promoted by adopting a new definition of “forest.”


Forest degradation greatly affects social, cultural, and ecological functions. It is a silent killer of sustainable development insofar as its consequences are often subtle and become apparent only slowly. Lack of a universally agreed-upon definition of forest degradation will cause complications when REDD projects are implemented. Unfortunately, the FAO, the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—all define forest degradation differently (Schoene et al. 2007).

At the global level, a consensus definition of forest degradation is needed for sound implementation of REDD as well as for the Convention on Biological Diversity, but that definition needs to take into account the full range of biophysical and social conditions under which forests develop and the variety of ways they can be degraded. This definition will necessarily continue to focus on readily monitored parameters (i.e., canopy cover and tree heights). In contrast, at the national level, implementation guidelines should consider other ecosystem services on which many poor people in developing countries depend (Koopmans 2005Brauman et al. 2007). These other ecosystem services would include but not be limited to nontimber forest products, genetic resources, biogeochemical processes, recreation, and cultural practices. This detail in local policies is needed to avoid conflicts with efforts to protect biodiversity, to encourage sustainable forest use, and to promote regional development.


The REDD program will involve developed countries (Annex I countries) compensating developing countries for activities that result in carbon retention in natural forests (Figure 1). REDD is attractive because it explicitly recognizes the value of natural forests, as opposed to plantations, and because the associated costs for project developers are expected to be low (Kindermann et al. 2008Putz et al. 2008a; but see Potvin et al. 2008). Unfortunately, the frequent failure to consider forest degradation in several prominent recent studies (e.g., Gullison et al. 2007Aldy & Robert 2008Kindermann et al. 2008) causes concern that only deforestation avoidance credits will be allowed under the new protocol. Given that the uncontrolled selective logging by untrained and unsupervised crews commonly practiced in tropical natural forest doubles the amount of avoidable damage and wood waste relative to planned or reduced-impact logging (i.e., RIL; planned timber harvesting by trained and supervised crews; Table 2), the avoidable emissions from switching from exploitation to management are substantial (Asner et al. 2005Putz et al. 2008b). Furthermore, given the rapid expansion of logging activities in central Africa (Laporte et al. 2007) and elsewhere in the tropics, carbon emissions resulting from forest degradation by uncontrolled logging are likely to increase.

forest degradation is disregarded in the implementation of the REDD agreement, forests could lose much of their carbon, not to mention biodiversity and other ecosystem services, when valuable trees are harvested without regard to the ecological consequences (Broadbentet al. 2008). These loses will not be accounted for because the exploited areas still remain forest, as defined by the Marrakesh Accords of the UNFCCC. To illustrate this phenomenon, we use inventory data for trees more than 5 cm DBH (diameter at breast height) in 23 clusters of plots (each cluster contains nine plots of 20 × 60 m) collected in natural evergreen forest in central Cambodia. We estimate that this evergreen forest in this region holds average above-ground carbon stocks of 121.2 MgC/ha (see Supporting Information for calculation method), of which 71.4 MgC is in trees ≥45 cm DBH (Table S1). If all these large trees are harvested, the forest would still be categorized as “forest” by the UNFCCC definition. In Cambodia and other countries where loggers often operate without management plans or supervision, the highest valued timbers are exploited first (McKinney 2002So 2004). Even the stumps and large roots of “luxury-grade” trees are used for manufacturing furniture. This sort of exploitative harvesting results in rapid disappearance of these highly valued tree species—a form of degradation by biodiversity loss. In fact, many species of Cambodian trees being illegally exploited for their luxury-grade timber (Dalbergia oliveriAquilaria crassnaDalbergia cochinchinensisGardenia ankorensisAfzelia xylocarpaPterocarpus marcrocarpusDysoxylum loureiriDiospyros cruentaLasianthus kamputensis) are already classified as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s “Red List” (So 2004http://www.iucnredlist.org). Technological capacities notwithstanding, at least some of these trees need to be protected to ensure the long-term sustainability of forest resource production as well as the maintenance of the ecosystem functions necessary for sustainable development.

Fortunately, with recent advancements in remote sensing technology, international concerns over the economic feasibility and monitoring costs of the REDD projects are declining rapidly. Remote sensors can already detect and monitor minor changes in forest canopy cover (Asneret al. 2006), which makes it possible to monitor forest degradation by illegal and unplanned logging operations.

Conclusion and recommendations

To ensure that biologically rich natural forests are not severely degraded in ways that remain unrecognized, in addition to differentiating natural forests and plantations, the new and improved definitions of “forest” and “forest degradation” should set the minimum crown cover at 40% and the minimum height for a “tree” at 5 m. These changes will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from what is now termed forest “degradation” without increasing monitoring costs. Furthermore, these changes will promote the switch from degradation to responsible forest management, which will help mitigate global warming while protecting biodiversity and contributing to sustainable development. We also recommend that to avoid conflicts between conservation goals, global agreements that pertain to the fates of forests include requirements for more detailed definitions of “forest” in national-level implementation guidelines. Given the variety of ways that forests are perceived and valued, the adopted definitions are likely to vary among countries and could include a variety of components, but explicit and appropriate definitions are nonetheless of paramount importance at the country level. At least in regard to standing stocks of forest carbon, recent advances in remote sensing technology that allow cost-effective monitoring of forest degradation coupled with the substantial and increasing emissions from poor logging and forest fires, continued disregard of the second “D” in REDD is not justified. Including forest degradation in the new climate change agreements will help ensure the sustainability of ecosystem services and protect the livelihoods of forest-dependent people while providing a low-cost option for reducing carbon emissions.


Towards a culturally sensitive peacebuilding approach in Africa



Africa is perceived differently by many people from all around the world. There are those who see Africa as a continent of hope where the people are hospitable, flexible and simple with plenty of natural resources most of it un-explored. On the other hand, there are those who see Africa as a continent of senseless conflicts, violence, poverty, ignorance and the likes. The truth is there are opportunities and challenges in Africa. One way to invest in Africa is to embark on peacebuilding to transform conflicts and negative relations to the potential for peace and prosperity.
The term peacebuilding was popularized after 1992, when Boutros Boutros Ghali, then United Nations Secretary General, presented the report: An agenda for peace. In his report Boutros defined peacebuilding as a range of activities meant to identify, and support structures which will tend to strengthen and solidify peace in order to avoid relapse into conflict (B.Ghali 1995), and distinguished it from peacemaking and peacekeeping.
However, it was not Boutros-Ghali who invented these terms but the peace researcher Johan Galtung 20 years earlier ((Galtung1976) who called them “approaches to peace”. Together, peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding formulate a general theory of achieving or maintaining peace. As Mialletal (1999) have written:
“With reference to the conflict triangle, it can be suggested that peace-making aims to change the attitudes of the main protagonists, peace-keeping lowers the level of destructive behaviour, and peace-building tries to overcome the contradictions which lie at the root of the conflict.” (Miall, Ramsbotham and Woodhouse 1999:22)
There are many approaches and techniques to peacebuilding such as peacebuilding through arts and music, dialogue and reconciliation, sports and nonviolence education. Each approach has its uniqueness, significance and challenges.Peacebuilding according to Lisa Schirch in her book, “Strategic Peacebuilding” says that:
“Peacebuilding seeks to prevent, reduce, transform, and help people recover from violence in all forms, even structural violence that has not yet led to massive civil unrest. Strategic peacebuilding recognizes the complexity of the tasks required to build peace. Peacebuilding is strategic when resources, actors, and approaches are coordinated to accomplish multiple goals and address multiple issues for the long term. Therefore, Peacebuilding requires multiple and well coordinated approaches to transform violence and conflict into more sustainable, peaceful relationships and structures.” (Schirch, 2008).


In our experience; peacebuilding projects can be more effective when designed and adapted to the socio-cultural, economic and political context and needs of the local people.There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to African problems. This is because every context in Africa is unique and finding “African solutions to African problems” requires thorough analysis and understanding of indigenous complex African culture, values, norms and traditions. Furthermore, even within a given African country there are diverse cultural differences to the extent that; what works in community “A” may not work in community “B”. For example; in some communities in South Sudan beating a wife may even be considered an expression of love while in another community its violence. That’s why the need to carry out regular researches and conduct exchanges for experience sharing and trainings is important in order to widen our understanding of local culture for building a culturally sensitive and coherent peacebuilding approach.
Peacebuilding is not new in Africa. History tells us that Africa is the cradle of humanity, an assertion that suggests the existence of rich and diverse indigenous resources and institutions of conflict resolution and peacebuilding dating back centuries.
What is new is the exportation and imposition of peacebuilding and development interventions based on the liberal peace project. Peacebuilding has nowadays entered into the agenda of international agencies, and in the form of “post-war peacebuilding”, based on the concept of “liberal peace” made a standard concept of international wars and military interventions.
The idea of liberal peace, according to Mark Duffield (2008), combines and conflates liberal (as in contemporary economic and political tenets) with “peace” (the present policy prediction towards conflict resolution and societal reconstruction). This view reflects the notion that war-torn societies can and should be rebuilt through the utilization of a number of interrelated strategies for transformation. The emphasis is on conflict prevention, resolution, institution-building including so-called democratic elections, and strengthening civil society organizations. A review of existing literature (Ali and Mathews 2004; Reychler 2001, Rupesinghe 1998) on the subject of peacebuilding in Africa, however, reveals a limited analysis restricted to the post conflict phase of armed conflict, which has very limited short term prescriptions for a return to order and stability in a country that has experienced violent armed conflict (David, 1988).


Since the end of the cold war, Africa has suffered its share of violent wars and armed violent conflicts. In Africa, there are many ongoing inter-ethnic and political armed conflicts aimed at achieving political and economic power. Countries emerging from long civil wars often experience challenges in managing former combatants, militia groups and armed civilians. Hence, violent conflicts have become a major obstacle to peace and development particularly in fragile and post-conflict countries. While maintaining the rule of law, good governance and delivery of equitable basic social services are equally challenging. The results are continued wide spread violence ranging from physical to psychological, cultural to structural. However, violence is not restricted to one country, continent, one region or religion. It is universally used to achieve certain objectives; sometimes brutally as sheer naked aggression, or at other time subtly, covered in the grab of legislation and legitimacy as a tool to maintain law and order (2011).For women, this takes many forms including; rape, forced domestic labour, men beatings their wives, detention and denial of widows to inheritance and discrimination from economic benefits. Elopement of girls (“hijacking girls for marriage”) is perceived a legitimate cultural practice in many Africa countries. Therefore, peacebuilding interventions are needed to build safe and secured environment where people can pursue happiness without fear.
So our thesis is: Peacebuilding is indeed needed. But not in form of import of abstract recipies coming with the liberal peace paradigm.As Africa faces challenges of importation and imposition of peacebuilding and development interventions, this weakness can be addressed by encouraging and building local capacities to conduct baseline assessments,researches or studies and make relevant recommendations to the both local and international peace actors as well as policy makers for improved engagement. Peacebuilding involves building democratic structures through participation of citizens and other stakeholders in democratization processes without which peace will be meaningless. It further means equitable sharing of resources. There are significant challenges in many African countries when it
comes comes to alignment and fair distribution of resources to expenditure priorities. Economic growth and revenues generated from oil and other natural resources are not being channelled to address poverty.
This creates a situation where peace dividends are hardly enjoyed by the impatient and impoverished civilians forcing them to question the meaning of peace? In our experience, many people think, peace means the absence of violence and the maintenance of law and order. However, the reality tells that it is not only the guns that kill. Lack of access to basic means of life, dignity and enjoyment of rights can be as destructive as weapons. Meaningful peacebuilding is not an end by itself rather a means to a safe and prosperous state where every person enjoys basic rights and life in dignity.Therefore, addressing structural violence (see Galtung 1996) aiming at creating fundamental state reform where equitable social and development services are provided to the population without discrimination is critical if we are to build Africa that’s safe for all.


There are enormous actors working on peacebuilding in Africa. In the heart of these organizations are social and peace movements affiliated to WRI, IFOR, COPA (Coalition for Peace in Africa) and other regional movements. The African Centre for Constructive Resolution of Dispute “ACCORD” is based in Durban with regional offices in other countries of the continent. Women Action Network for Peace (WANEP), Women Peacemakers Program (WPP) but to mention a few.
At the same time, newer research into peacebuilding strategies and effects teaches us that while civil society has an important role to play in peacebuilding, also the state actors (with their so much larger access to resources) cannot be neglected, and peacebuilding works best where the various actors manage to cooperate (see Paffenholz ed. 2010). Hence, the role of regional and sub-bodies; such as the African Union (AU),Intergovernmental Authority on Development(IGAD), Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) is important. Although sub-regional bodies were originally established to promote socioeconomic welfare of the region, they ended up playing greater roles in peacemaking as an entry point to economic development.
There is also, especially from the side of international donors and agencies, an over-emphasis on certain activities and a neglect of others though these others may have much wider impact. For example, to look at another region, in the Balkans after the wars of the 1990s, everyone talked about and paid for “reconciliation” while lack of adequate education and professional perspectives caused a whole generation of youth to remain without any meaningful perspective what to do with their lives.


Ignored Displaced Persons: the plight of IDPs in urban areas Act



UNHCR describes internally displaced persons (IDPs) as “probably the largest group of vulnerable people in the world.”1 Although it is nearly impossible to estimate the global number of urban IDPs, the figures that do exist would put the total at nearly four million.2 Yet this group remains silent, largely ignored, and without hope for durable solutions to their plight.
Urban IDPs are often denied basic human rights; living in squalor and lacking physical security and freedom of movement. Without documentation urban IDPs are left unprotected by their national government and suffer as a result of insufficient food, water, healthcare and education. Women and children displaced in urban areas are vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence. Moreover, urban IDPs are unable to improve their situation, since limited access to livelihoods prevents them from becoming self-reliant.
There exist a number of obstacles to finding solutions for urban IDPs. Firstly, the difficulty in identifying this group hinders accurate data collection, thorough research and effective policy making. Secondly, the dynamics of displacement are particularly complex and interconnected, and can have many phases. Thirdly, urban IDPs have specific and often unidentified capacities and needs. Finally, their situation is complicated by political concerns regarding sovereignty and international jurisdiction. Urban IDPs have therefore been categorized as a „messy‟ beneficiary; receiving little attention from donors and international aid agencies preferring to focus initiatives on more visible and attainable targets.These factors have conspired to create a vacuum of protection for this particularly vulnerable group, who are without access to the safeguards and assistance available to most other persons of concern. The predicament of ignored urban IDPs thus requires the immediate attention of national authorities, international organizations and civil society.


The issue of urban IDPs suffers from the lack of a clear definition. Without a clarification of the actual target for new policy, it is impossible to design and implement effective durable solutions. Although it is often difficult to analytically distinguish rural areas from urban areas, and the forced internally displaced from regular rural-to-urban migrants, these distinctions are crucial for national and international authorities to be able to provide measured and effective assistance to millions of urban IDPs.

Historically, there has been a wide-ranging misunderstanding and misuse of the term « urban IDP‟. Confusion exists mainly in respect to whether the „urban‟ aspect of the label applies to the place of departure or the place of destination. Indeed, the term « urban IDP‟ has been applied to city dwellers displaced into the countryside, as well as to returning refugees who have become urbanized during their time spent in a host country. To clarify, an „urban IDP‟ is a person displaced from their place of habitual residence (be it rural or urban, at home or abroad) into an urban environment in their own country.

Urban IDPs are very difficult to identify, however. Unlike IDPs in rural camps, urban IDPs are not formally separated from the local community or housed in easily recognizable regions. In reality, they are found scattered across urban areas, or residing with host families. Even in instances where urban IDPs inhabit designated buildings or areas, they usually rely on local markets and social services. Thus they are de facto integrated in urban areas, making it difficult to distinguish them from economic migrants and the urban poor. The actions of urban IDPs may further hinder efforts to locate them; urban IDPs are unlikely to reveal themselves in cases where their security is threatened.
IDPs in urban environments are less photogenic and less visible than those in camps. The plight of urban IDPs therefore goes largely ignored by an international media flooded with other compelling images. Effective protection is further limited by the fact that both host governments and donors are not generally keen on assisting IDPs in urban environments because many assume that those who make it to cities can support themselves.


Firstly, the word „urban‟ is a broad and subjective term of reference, with widely varying definitions. According to the Oxford English dictionary, it is an adjective relating to a town or a city and derives from the Latin urbanus, from urbs meaning « city‟, but the term is also often applied to conurbations and metropolitan areas. Even cities themselves have differing scales. For example, Tokyo accommodates over 30 million people, whereas the city of Ferdania in Saudi Arabia has only one police station, one school, one market, one gas station, one health centre, and about 10 houses.
Official records may in theory provide guidance in demarcating an urban area, but this also has associated risks. Many peri-urban or squatter settlements are excluded from official statistics and do not appear on city maps.4 Urban sprawl is also a complicating factor; the tendency for a city and its suburbs to spread into the surrounding rural areas makes it impossible to define the border of an urban region that is constantly changing.
For the purposes of this paper, „urban‟ areas will include surrounding suburbs, in order to incorporate urban IDP camps located on the outskirts of cities, or along peripheral city roads.


Another complexity lies in the precise definition of IDPs; an acronym lamented a “soulless shorthand of bureaucracy” by UNHCR.5 According to the agency, “UNHCR has an interest in the protection and welfare of persons who have been displaced by persecution, situations of general violence, conflict or massive violations of human rights: in other words, all those, who, had they crossed an international frontier, would have had a claim to international protection.”6 Notably, this description does not include IDPs displaced as a result of natural disasters or development activities. Nonetheless, the subsequent „overriding‟ consensus is that these persons are also worthy of attention, since they can also be subject to discrimination and human rights violations in the course of their displacement.
The term IDP is a descriptive, not a legal definition, since the legal rights of IDPs are upheld by their local government.8 As such, a difficulty arises in categorizing children born to IDPs, as the child has never actually been displaced from their habitual residence. This is another problem with the UNHCR definition of IDPs, and represents a significant protection gap for children of concern. Moreover, there is no agreement on when internal displacement ends.9 confounding the problem of definition further is the fact that the internally displaced are often lazily referred to as “refugees”, despite remaining within their national borders.
For the purposes of this paper, urban IDPs will thus be defined more broadly, in line with the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. That is, an urban IDP lives outside of a rural setting, and fulfills the following criteria:
persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally
recognized State border.


Urban IDPs are a unique and understudied vulnerable population. The complex dynamics of their displacement motivates further research whilst simultaneously being a hindrance to the methodological process. The causes of displacement are many and varied within and between countries, as well as over different time periods.11 The process of displacement of an urban IDP is not simply a one-off movement from rural to urban areas, nor is urban settlement a permanent or static state of affairs. Urban IDPs often reach towns and cities having been displaced more than once before, and usually having found refuge somewhere along the way.
Furthermore, the situation of urban IDPs continues to change and evolve once they have arrived in the urban environment. Urban IDPs move within towns and cities as they seek to improve their living conditions and livelihood opportunities. The urban displaced also structure social networks and geographical proximity within urban areas to form urban IDP communities, such as „Acholi Town‟ in Kampala. Some of these areas have subsequently been the target of forced government evictions, resulting in the secondary displacement of already uprooted individuals or groups. The situation of urban IDPs is thus extremely insecure and volatile, even following their settlement in a new urban environment.


A narrow conception of urban IDPs being displaced by armed conflict is insufficient to describe and understand the motivations and needs of this diverse group. In reality, a sole cause for forced internal displacement and the subsequent formation of an urban IDP population can be difficult to identify. Although there is usually a short-term catalyst, it is common for a number of contributory factors to convince people that migration to urban areas will provide a better life for themselves and/or their family. Moreover, the short-term and long-term factors are inextricably linked. It must be recognized that the causes of internal displacement cannot be treated as independent variables – there are complex linkages between them.
The causes for the displacement of the populations that become urban IDPs also vary across genders, ages and ethnic groups. For example, certain individuals may seek physical safety in urban areas, such as the children in danger of abduction in Ugandan rural IDP camps, or women at risk of sexual and gender based violence. Thousands of young men who lack employment opportunities in rural IDP camps have become urban……………………