In the context of the ECA sub-region, natural resources and associated ecosystems services play a key role in supporting sustainable agricultural productivity. The state and dynamics of the ECA natural resource base and capacity to provide the required services deliver both opportunities to foster agricultural productivity and pose challenges in promoting the sector. Some of the key constituents of natural resources include, water, soils, forests, on-farm trees, and biodiversity outside of the farming systems. Key ecosystem or environmental services include, soil stabilisation, carbon sequestration, and water provision among others. Such services arise out of properly functioning ecosystems. This is key given that ecosystems are natural capital assets that supply life-support services of tremendous value. However, the challenge is how to turn such recognition into incentives and institutions that guide sustainable investments in natural capital on a larger scale.
Scientific understanding and state of knowledge of ECA ecosystem production functions is gradually improving, but remains a limiting factor in incorporating natural capital into the planning and decision making processes through the respective ECA country national accounting and other mechanisms of measuring national or regional natural wealth. In the ECA sub-region advances are required on three key fronts—the science of ecosystem production functions and service mapping, the design of appropriate finance, policy, and governance systems, and the art of implementing these in diverse biophysical and social contexts with reference to having appropriate institutional structures and arrangements.
Several key crosscutting issues influence development outcomes from natural resource management—capacity enhancement, gender, and knowledge and information management. This theme is linked to CAADP Pillar IV (Integrated natural resource management).
1. Improving agricultural water productivity: Inadequate agricultural water is a key constraint to achieving food security, nutrition, and income from agro-enterprises. With increasing demand for more nutritious food and poverty alleviation, the demand for water is likely to increase, as climate change is likely to aggravate the situation. Therefore, to ensure adequate supply of agricultural water under varying and changing climatic conditions and food consumption patterns, the following are key priority investment areas:
• Promotion and upscaling of best-fit water harvesting, storage and delivery technologies, innovations and practices at farm and landscape levels, including the promotion of micro and supplemental irrigation.
• Upscaling of integrated watershed management in major river basins, including watershed level harvesting of runoff and erection of micro-check dams.
• Upscaling of down-scaled forecasting and agro-advisories.
• Water resource governance and mapping.
2. Soil health improvement: The state of soil is a key driver in enhancing agricultural productivity. The soil resources in many parts of ECA are highly mined with little investment in replenishing depleted minerals. Soil health is a foundation of the agriculture and food system. Hence, poor soils continue to undermine the efforts of millions of small-scale farmers across the ECA landscapes leading to food insecurity, malnutrition, poverty, and to some extent conflicts among competing interests and social groups. Soil health improvement therefore remains key to achieving food security, improved nutrition, and increased household income. Strategic areas of investment include:
• Promoting the establishment of physical structures soil conservation including terracing, ridges, tied-ridges and mulching to check soil loss.
• Promoting and upscaling of precision application of fertilisers, e.g. micro-dosing, urea deep planting (application) for rice and other irrigated crops.
• Promoting conservation agriculture as a climate change mitigation strategy and improving soil organic matter.
• Promoting the application of organic farm manure by enhancing drought resistant soils particularly in dryland areas.
3. Adoption of climate smart forestry, agroforestry and biodiversity conservation: Forests, agroforestry and biodiversity conservation support agriculture by providing alternative sources of income at the household level, social safety nets, micro-climate amelioration, soil stabilisation, and pollination among others. Forest loss and degradation is a common phenomenon across the ECA sub-region. It is primarily driven by agricultural expansion and natural calamities. Tree depletion at farm level also assumes the same trend particularly among communities and households whose source of energy is wood. In addition, biodiversity loss and degradation is reported across ECA landscapes, forest ecosystems, wetlands, savannah grasslands, and drylands.
The conservation of biodiversity will aim at maintaining the diversity of living organisms, their habitats, and the interrelationships between organisms and their environment. Both ecological and genetic conservation will be targeted. The strategies to be used will be in situ and ex situ conservation. In situ conservation will involve techniques such as genetic reserves, and on-farm and home garden conservation measures. Ex situ conservation strategies will involve techniques such as seed storage, in vitro storage, DNA/pollen storage, field gene bank storage, and botanic garden/arboretum.
Erosion and loss of forest ecosystems, genetic resources, and other forms of biodiversity is increasing due to a series of anthropogenic and natural causes. Reversing these trends is therefore not an option for the ECA sub-region but an imperative particularly in the context of changing climatic conditions. Forests and allied resources are excellent candidates for mitigating the effects of climate change particularly water loss and increase in temperatures as they are major determinants in the performance of agricultural crops, fisheries and livestock. The priority areas of investment therefore include:
• Mapping forest and water resources in the ECA sub-region using geo-mapping and other appropriate techniques.
• Promoting and upscaling domestication of tree crops including, fertiliser trees and high value trees for fodder, fruits and nectar.
• Promoting economic instruments and approaches to tree and biodiversity resources conservation including large-scale tree resources-based honey production.
• Mapping biodiversity hot spots in ECA.
• Promoting ex situ and in situ conservation of biodiversity using locally available and affordable practices in accordance with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) whose objectives are conservation, sustainable utilisation and benefit sharing.
Enhancing resilience of dryland agricultural systems: Dryland ecosystems in ECA are important land systems with unique features, characteristics, and resources. These areas are sensitive and hence vulnerable to destruction if not properly managed through controlled resource exploitation. They are frequently characterised by limited and erratic rainfall; intense pressure in natural resource use; high sensitivity to climate variability and change; highly erodible soils; risks of flash floods; and populations that are vulnerable to food insecurity. Over the years, increasing livestock and human population coupled with diminishing pasture and water resources, have resulted in latent and real conflicts becoming more frequent than ever before. This calls for pragmatic and innovative ways of managing dryland ecosystems. Some of the strategic interventions may include:
• Promoting options for forecasting and managing natural resources, emergency of diseases, and conflicts in dryland ecosystems. Subjects of forecasting would include the availability of water and pasture, on-set of rain seasons, growing period, and rainfall spread. On the basis of resources availability and dynamics, potential conflicts would also be mapped out and mitigation measures put in place.
• Developing and adapting technologies and innovations to increase the resilience and tolerance of the dryland systems to droughts and any adverse climatic variations and changes. Such approaches may include, but are not limited to, evergreen agriculture, precision irrigation, and micro-catchment water harvesting.
• Establishing value chains for target dryland ecosystems commodities and promoting market oriented sustainable natural resources conservation and management. Such value chains will be limited to natural resource based chains, e.g. essential oils, gums and resins, and tree products.
5. Gender-responsive climate smart policies and governance for sustainable natural resource management: Appropriate policies, institutions, and governance mechanisms are key to addressing sustainable management of natural resources. This is key to placing natural resources in the poverty reduction, food security, and welfare enhancement paradigm. Hardly any regional policies, institutions and governance mechanisms on natural resources exist in the ECA sub-region.
The Lake Victoria Basin Commission of EAC is one such institution whose mandate is on the prudent management of natural resources within the Lake Victoria Basin. Further research must be conducted to upscale working approaches and share lessons across borders at the national and community levels. Strategic areas of interest therefore are:
• Conducting gender mapping surveys as a precursor to designing strategic natural resource governance interventions.
• Upscaling sustainable land-care options.
• Upscaling and promoting successful innovations and community empowerment in natural resource governance.
• Stimulating the establishment of cross-border structures to enhance sustainable management of communal and common property resources with a focus on minimising conflicts.
• Promoting the formulation of legislation to support the reduction of emissions from forest degradation and depletion, ground and above ground carbon sequestration.
• Supporting the region’s negotiating teams during relevant meetings at international level—
Conference of Parties (COPs) and other fora on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
Managing ecosystems for quality, equitable and sustainable services: Ecosystems across the ECA sub-region are declining in terms of the species richness and services provided to human beings largely due to ignorance of their exact value and contribution to the national and regional economies. In addition, no adequate social and economic instruments exist to encourage individuals to invest in maintaining them. At the global level, estimates indicate that if the trends in ecosystem degradation and depletion are not halted, then within a few decades, virtually all the world’s ecosystems will have suffered significant negative impacts from human activities. The root sources of these trends include:
• Most policy makers and individual resource holders are not informed about the range of benefits that come from ecosystems and potential impacts of their loss.
• Widespread perceptions exist that ecosystems services are endlessly regenerated.
• Many of the components of ecosystems are publicly rather than privately owned and, hence, private markets that may give price signals when resources decline do not emerge to stimulate a corrective response.
• The decline of ecosystems due to other economic activities is not generally factored into costs in those markets.
• The economic systems applied in the ECA countries emphasise values and preferences of individuals (consumer sovereignty) more than the values of community.
• Many changes in ecosystems have long lead times, implying that symptoms of decline are not apparent until years or decades after critical threshold levels are passed.
• Investment in ecosystem services has few mechanisms or incentives.
Natural assets such as soil, water, forests, biodiversity etc., provide life support services to people across the social spectrum. Such services include: clean air and water, maintenance of soil fertility, maintenance of liveable or habitable climates, pollination of crops and other vegetation, control of potential pests, provision of genetic resources, and provision of intellectual experience. These ecosystem services are, however, threatened by climate variability and change. The concept of ecosystem service is therefore picking up momentum as an avenue of creating awareness and attaching an economic value of services associated with ecosystems. There are now more voices on climate change mitigation through forest and tree management, soil conservation, carbon sequestration and temperature regulation. It is in this context that this priority investment area is crafted. Key areas of focus therefore include:
• Proof of concept on the value of ecosystem services in local, national and regional economies.
• Establishment of pilot payment for ecosystem schemes (PES).
• Mapping of critical ecosystems and associated potential and real services both in range and extent/value with a focus on climate change mitigation services (carbon sequestration, water provision, pollination).
• Establishment of institutional instruments to support market-based approaches to ecosystems management.