Strategic Programme 2 : Natural Resource Management

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Enhancing Africa's capacity to conserve and sustainably use its animal resources and their resource base.


To catalyse the development of policies and actions that will lead to the sustainable use and management of animal resources and the resource base on which they depend.

1. The context

Increasing population pressure, urbanization and rising incomes call for increased food production, both from the crop and animal sectors. These pressures are forcing the integration of crop and livestock systems, and intensification of existing mixed farming systems. All land on the continent classified as very suitable for crop agriculture is, however, already under cultivation. Consequently, there is increased use of fragile, marginal lands, including the conversion of traditional communal grazing lands into arable lands, restricting access to grazing resources and traditional transhumance routes. The increasingly sedentary lifestyle of traditional pastoralist communities accelerates soil degradation and threatens the natural resource base for continued crop (including forest) and animal production. At the same time, inappropriate application of technologies, bad management, recurring droughts and insecurity of access to resources all contributes to poor management of the natural resource bases for both crop and animal production, including fisheries, aquaculture and wildlife. This is often the cause of conflicts among communities within countries and across borders. Competition for resource access takes on strong political and governance dimensions where land tenure and access arrangements are severely inequitable and where agrarian and/or land reforms are a prerequisite for more sustainable arrangements.

Climate change presents an additional pressure on natural resources and will likely worsen conflict among communities. These changes are also causing genetic erosion and loss of biodiversity in both plants and animals. Overall, Africa is considered to be losing its natural resource base at rates higher than any other continent. In addition, in the wake of the climate change debate, intense discussions have started around the contribution of livestock to greenhouse gas emissions. The converse, the possible impact of climate change on future livestock production, is also an issue. In addition to development and application of appropriate technologies there is need for policies to support natural resources management under this complex and rapidly changing scenario. Given the transboundary nature of many of these issues, AU-IBAR is in a position to use its intergovernmental convening and advocacy roles to catalyse actions with Member States and RECs.

2. Main challenges

The main challenges that are of relevance to AU-IBAR include:

  • How to improve understanding of the complex issues of natural resources management in livestock systems, as well as in marine and inland fishing, to provide critical information to stakeholders and guide programming.
  • How to reduce pressures on and facilitate programs to support sustainable use (including economic valuation and conservation) of Africa's livestock, fish (marine and inland) and wildlife resources and the resource base they depend on.
  • How to analyse and catalyse the development of coherent and compatible policies across sectors and countries on animal resources and their resource base.
  • How to identify, analyse and avail best practices to strengthen the capacities of Member States, RECs and other stakeholders to improve their ability to cope with and mitigate the adverse effects of environmental variability (including climate change) and associated conflicts, especially on vulnerable groups.

3. Opportunities

For transboundary resources (nomadic livestock, fish and wildlife), a specific supranational governance dimension is required, with additional complications in determining sustainable resource use levels and enforcement instruments. Moreover, maintenance of biodiversity is in the long-term best interest of global agricultural production, providing the genetic diversity which is critical for productivity improvements and diversification in a range of environments. Good management of natural resources is therefore important for economic, socio-political and environmental reasons. Global environmental developments, including the call for a worldwide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and the conservation of biodiversity, underline the importance of environmental functions of African agriculture (biodiversity conservation, watershed management, carbon sequestration, landscape management), and provide opportunities and options for additional positive economic valuations. Premiums in international markets for sustainably produced materials (natural foods and other products) and the worldwide increase in agro-ecotourism (and opportunities at the livestock-wildlife interfaces) provide international opportunities and incentives to change resource use patterns towards more sustainable ways. In addition, to meet the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Africa will have to achieve drastic increases in productivity. Much of the past animal production growth on the continent has been achieved through increased herd and flock sizes, particularly through the extension of pasture land. Expansion of fishing grounds has also been the main contributor to increased fish production. An acceleration of total factor productivity growth, implying increasing animal and labour productivity levels,
will be required in the next decade to intensify production. While ruminant livestock provides perhaps the only means of using the vast marginal lands of Africa, there are potential negative impacts on natural resources (land, water and wildlife) and consequential reductions in overall system productivity. For a positive impact on food security and rural poverty alleviation, this productivity growth will be especially important among smallholder producers.

Creating awareness about these challenges and opportunities and facilitating access to appropriate interventions – technological as well as policy options – is a major opportunity for AU-IBAR. Fortunately, there is increasing awareness by Member States, RECs, the international community and key stakeholders of the vast natural resources of Africa (as assets for both Africa and the rest of the world) and also the complex interaction between animal production and the environment and the need for actions to support sustainable use of agricultural diversity and the natural resource base on which future agricultural production depends. There has also been increased interest by development partners in the development of tools and approaches that will increase resilience against drought and enhance food security for pastoral communities.

4. Key Results Areas

Natural resources issues present a challenge for the whole of Africa; Member States and RECs look to the AUC and its technical offices such as IBAR to provide informed advice and support, especially in relation to capacity development and policy coherence. In order to respond to these expectations and needs, AU-IBAR should focus on the following key results areas:

  • Continental strategy and implementation framework for conservation and use of Africa's farm animal genetic resources. This will include the analysis of the current situation across the continent as a basis for identifying interventions that can be best made through coordinated, multi-country actions. This will build on the on-going project on the development of regional frameworks for the conservation and utilisation of endemic ruminant livestock genetic resources in West and Central Africa.
  • Continental framework for sustainable management of fisheries. This will involve provision of support to RFMOs, Regional Fisheries Bodies (RFBs) and Member States to develop and implement ecosystem approaches for sustainable management of marine and inland capture fisheries based on international best practices.
  • Sustainable management of natural resources at the wildlifelivestock-human interface, including issues of access to grazing land and water resources.
  • Collection, analysis, archiving and sharing of information on Africa's livestock and fish genetic resources including data/information on livestock's contribution to climate change, as well as its impact on animal production, to inform policy making and public education.
  • Development or identification and sharing of best practices for, and enhancement of, capacities in early warning and emergency preparedness and response to climate change, especially in pastoral areas.
  • Identification and facilitation of avenues for exploitation of opportunities for African livestock keepers to benefit from payments for ecological services; e.g. through ecotourism, rehabilitation of degraded lands, controlled grazing, biodiversity and landscape conservation as these instruments become available.

Outcomes and impacts

The successful delivery of this programme will realize the following:

  • Reduction in loss of genetic diversity of livestock, wildlife and fish resources.
  • Reduction of conflicts over natural resource use.
  • Improved governance and sustainable management of natural resources.
  • Coordination mechanism for pooling resources of multiple Member States in the conservation of animal genetic resources.
  • Improved awareness by policy makers and the general public on the balance between the role of livestock in livelihoods, the perceived contribution of livestock to climate change, and the likely impact of climate change on livestock production, especially in smallholder systems.
  • Improved rangeland management and health.
  • Improved policy environment and management practices that lead to enhanced natural resources management in systems where livestock and fisheries are important, including the exploitation of opportunities availed by markets (payments) for ecosystem services.

5. AU-IBAR's roles and strategies to achieve desired goals

  • Coordinate transboundary natural resources interventions and policies.
  • Build on ongoing or past work of FAO, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), WorldFish and the RECs on livestock and fish genetic resources, to develop the continental framework on conservation.
  • Collate, make available to and/or facilitate the testing by Member States and RECs of available best practices from public domain sources.
  • Collate technical evidence for policies and catalyse the policy development process using its convening and advocacy roles.
  • Build on experiences and lessons learnt from plant genetic resources on facilities, agreements and continental frameworks to facilitate faster progress in this regard on animal resources.
  • Build on the experiences and existing policy guidelines from the ALive platform and other networks (e.g. United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification Thematic Programme Network – UNCCD-TPNs – Platform).