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close this bookSustaining the Future. Economic, Social, and Environmental Change in Sub-Saharan Africa (UNU, 1996, 365 p.)
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Regional environmental futures


Juha I. Uitto and William B. Morgan


The quest for sustainable development has in recent years become a key concern for the developing regions of the world. Issues pertaining to the ecosystem's capacity to tolerate and respond to population growth and other human-induced stresses have become essential for the sustainable management of natural resources. Each year significant amounts of agricultural land are converted to urban land uses or lost owing to erosion' posing serious threats to local and global food security. At the same time, critical resources, such as water, become increasingly scarce and polluted. Physical and anthropogenic processes are intricately interlinked, but it can be argued that the present environment is largely a result of the interactions between man, natural resources, and technology in the socio-economic and cultural development process.

Finding and disseminating solutions to these problems is not only a matter of technology, but requires a multidisciplinary approach with inputs from both natural and social sciences, besides the cooperation of all sectors of the international community. Environmental considerations can no longer be separated from issues related to social and economic development, population, trade, food security, and the international system as a whole.

Regional environmental futures

The United Nations University (UNU) is concerned with promoting ecologically, as well as economically, socially, and culturally sustainable development through basic and applied research, policy reflection, capacity building, and dissemination of the research findings to policy makers. As part of the UNU's environmental programme, a series of regional conferences was organized focusing on issues affecting the sustainability of development and resource management in the medium-term future. The first of the conferences covered the South-East Asian region (Brookfield and Byron 1993).

This volume emanates from the second regional conference organized in Accra, Ghana, 22 26 March 1993. The theme of the conference was "Sustainable Environmental and Resource Management Futures for Sub-Saharan Africa" and it brought together leading experts on African environment and development issues from within the region, as well as from the outside. The objective was to analyse the trends and processes of environmental change in Sub-Saharan Africa and to identify key issues for reaching sustainable environmental and resource management within the medium-term future of some 20 years, given the current developments in the continent's social, economic, and political structures and demographic trends. The conference examined the driving forces of regional environmental change, including economic growth, development and poverty, population growth, migration and urbanization, energy consumption and production, and agricultural expansion and intensification. It further studied their relationship with environmental processes and the resource base, including climatic variability and change, the nature and incidence of drought, water supply, environmental transformation, and degradation in both rural and urban areas, and the threats to the more fragile ecosystems. It was recognized that some of the environmental problems arise partly from external factors, such as international trade, while others are of internal origin.

The main conclusions of the conference were rapidly published in a short summary report for quick dissemination to concerned individuals and organizations (Benneh et al. 1993). The present volume reproduces selected papers that were commissioned for and discussed at the conference. Based on the discussions, the papers contained here have undergone substantial rewriting, updating, and editing to form a complete book. This volume is in no sense a comprehensive treatise. It omits some aspects of interest, for example eco-tourism, although it does deal with a very wide range of issues and themes. It is the work of many scholars with different experiences and views. Although some integration of different aspects of environmental and resource problems and their management has been achieved, there are nevertheless differences of viewpoint and opinion.


Benneh, G., W. Manshard, W. B. Morgan, and J. I. Uitto. 1993. Sustainable Environmental and Resource Management Futures for Sub-Saharan Africa: Summary and Recommendations. Tokyo: The United Nations University.

Brookfield, H. and Y. Byron (eds.). 1993. South-East Asia's Environmental Future: The Search for Sustainability. Tokyo: United Nations University Press, and Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.