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close this bookReversing the Spiral - The Population, Agriculture, and Environment Nexus in Sub-Saharan Africa (WB, 1994, 320 p.)
close this folder10. Managing the natural resource base
View the documentProduction versus protection
View the documentForests
View the documentNatural resource management in farming areas
View the documentDryland and range areas
View the documentWater
View the documentCommon elements
View the documentThe role of governments
View the documentNational environmental action plans

Production versus protection

The environmental issues that are linked to population and agriculture are primarily those involved with soil, water, and vegetation. There are, of course, many other environmental problems facing Sub-Saharan Africa—such as over-fishing in coastal waters, oil spills, dumping of hazardous wastes, pollution from urban sewage and industrial waste, land devastation from surface mining, and so forth. These problems are not, however, so closely related to rapid population growth and laggard agricultural growth and therefore are not dealt with here.

Governments must be more determined in developing and implementing environmental policies aimed at (a) maintaining and restoring, in the face of increasing consumption demands, the soil, water, pasture, and forest resources on which agriculture will continue to be based, and (b) preserving ecosystems and plant and animal species— as repositories of genetic diversity that may underlie future production of many types of products, and as a national and global heritage. Solving the population and agricultural aspects of the problem are crucial to curtailing degradation of the natural environment. Agricultural intensification, farm forestry and fuel wood programs, and sensible land tenure reform are critical factors, as discussed in Chapter 8. However, moving from the present situation of rapid deforestation, wetland conversion, and land degradation to one of stabilizing the area under trees, raising the efficiency of fuelwood use, preserving much of the remaining wilderness areas, and reversing the degradation of soils will require an "affirmative action program" of considerable consequence Such a program will need to comprise a number of elements beyond those discussed in Chapter 5.

An essential first step is to determine which areas should and can be maintained as protected areas, and which should be allowed to be developed for production (cropping, forestry, livestock, fisheries). Criteria for selecting natural ecosystems for preservation and protection include:

· Biological importance, notably richness (diversity, numbers) and uniqueness of species and complexity of the ecosystem: the greater the importance, the more important the need for full protection.

· Provision of "environmental services," such as prevention of soil erosion or of destructive flooding, recharge of aquifers, maintenance of river flow, provision of breeding grounds for marine life: the greater the value of such services, the greater will be the importance of protection. Importance for the survival of indigenous peoples and their livelihood systems, especially of forest dwellers: where indigenous peoples depend for physical and/or cultural survival on an area remaining undisturbed, the need for protection becomes imperative.

· Productive potential if converted to other uses such as cropping or livestock production: the greater the productive potential under alternative uses, the less viable the decision to protect fully.

· Current status, i.e., whether or not the ecosystem is already degraded or spatially constricted to an extent where it is no longer stable and wildlife populations are no longer sustainable: the less viable a particular ecosystem, the less viable a decision to protect it fully.

· Likelihood of success of preservation—which depends on the type and degree of present threats (such as human population pressure) that reduce the likelihood of success versus the potential for supporting nonexploitative economic activities (such as ecotourism), which increase the likelihood of success.

These criteria imply tradeoffs. In many cases they will involve the need to make difficult choices. If one basic objective is to limit the decline in SubSaharan Africa's total wilderness areas (from their present extent of 27 percent of the total land area to not less than 23 percent, as postulated in Chapter 6), these criteria will need to be applied with considerable stringency. Since natural resource systems, including forests, have multiple uses, there can be no substitute for some form of planning. Land use plans should identify conservation areas, parks, areas designated for sustainable logging, farming areas, pasture and rangeland, as well as areas needed and suitable for human settlements and physical infrastructure. Agricultural technology is location-specific in its applications, and land use plans therefore should identify, in broad terms, the appropriate technologies. Land tenure issues and fuelwood problems also are location-specific—as are many of the cultural factors that help determine human fertility. Regional plans should define these, with considerably more weight attached to resource conservation than in the past.

The widespread skepticism concerning the utility of such plans is based on the fact that most past attempts at land use planning and regional planning have not worked well in Sub-Saharan Africa. The reasons included often excessive complexity of such plans, lack of governmental capacity to prepare and implement realistic plans, and free quent lack of incentives to cooperate for the people living in the areas concerned In most cases, and especially those concerning forest areas, very little, if any, attention was paid to land tenure issues, identification of appropriate agricultural technology in forest areas, participation of local people and of the private sector, and provision of adequate incentives to cooperate for loggers, farmers, hunter-gatherers, livestock owners, and forest dwellers. Instead, nearly universally applied were "engineering solutions," implemented by public sector agencies or donorsupported project management units which sought to manage forest areas independently of people and of companies operating in the forests.

A different approach is necessary—both for planning and for management. It must greatly increase the role of local people and the private sector in planning and implementation; it must be evolutionary and adaptive, rather than rigid; and it must be simple to execute. If the role of governments is confined primarily to providing the legislative backing and to planning and supervision, land use planning becomes more manageable. And if assistance for carrying out these more limited functions is provided through the collaborative mechanisms established for preparing National Environmental Action Plans (NEAPs) and Tropical Forestry Action Plans (TFAPs), adopting this approach is a realistic strategy

It is increasingly recognized that maintanance of protected areas requires the direct involvement of the local and surrounding populations. It is unrealistic to expect local people to conserve forest and wildlife resources unless such conservation provides them with clear benefits. The exclusionary approach so often taken in protected areas in the pest is neither workable nor sustainable nor equitable. Governments cannot financially afford and effectively provide the degree of enforcement needed And the local people, frequently among the poorest, are left to bear the costs of restricted or prohibited access to resources, exposure to marauding wildlife, and other disadvantages associated with living on the edge of a closed off territory.

The local people therefore must be active participants in both planning and implementation of land and resource use. This requires: (a) appropriate incentives and (b) collaborative planning and implementation of resource management plans. Incentives are far more likely than governmental regulation, control, and enforcement to be effective tools for inducing people to conserve essential stocks of natural resources. The most important incentive to ensure resource conservation is clearly defined and uncontested resource ownership: it entails the certainty that the yield or benefits derived from resources conserved will continue to accrue to the current owners/users and their descendants, but also that resource degradation will be a cost directly borne by them. This is best accomplished by ensuring people's ownership of the land and of the natural resources on that land—or, where government ownership is to continue, by providing legally binding and protected long-term use rights. Under the right economic conditions, this provides strong and direct incentives to conserve and to invest in resource conservation or productivity enhancement. Conversely, loss of ownership or exclusive user rights, or ambiguities concerning these, create incentives to exploit without regard to sustainability.

Appropriate resource management plans should be prepared in a collaborative manner—involving the concerned communities, technically competent government agency staff, and, where they exist and enjoy the local people's confidence, grassroots organizations and NGOs. Participatory rural appraisal (PRA) techniques provide very effective tools to do this These techniques have been developed and refined in the 1980s, evolving from Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA) techniques and agroecosystem analyses, to ensure intensive involvement by the local populations in all aspects of local land use planning—such as resource inventory, problem diagnosis, resource use planning, action plan formulation, etc. (see, for instance, Chambers 1991).