Building capacity for adaptation

The Jali Ardhi project, meaning “care for the land” in Swahili, is working to further develop its partnership with four communities in northern Tanzania to support sustainable agro-pastoralist practices and co-design new alternative livelihood strategies, which will help build resilience to impacts of changing rainfall patterns and other pressures.

Previous research has demonstrated that the region is experiencing severe degradation of pastoral land due to feedbacks between climate extremes, pressure from grazing and conversion of natural vegetation to farming with the transition to agro-pastoralism. This BBSRC and NERC-funded ‘research translation’ component of the project aims to empower community-led decision making to adapt practices which are damaging the local natural capital upon which they, and future generations, rely.

Following extensive engagement with the communities, the partnership’s focus now is to build local capacity for socio-economic innovation. The aim is to simultaneously reverse land degradation through regenerative farming and diversify productivity, while also enhancing the communities’ resilience to future climate threats.

The project has outlined three key areas of work:

  • Co-designing a decision support framework with stakeholders and NGOs to facilitate their coordination of ‘best bet’ solutions for the sustainable enhancement of degraded pastoral/mixed agriculture landscapes
  • Modelling community-specific landscape restoration strategies and sustainable production enhancement scenarios, using data collected with community members trained in using diagnostic tools
  • Fostering the emerging culture of innovation through participatory events to support alternative livelihood pathways

As well as helping the communities, the project will be working collaboratively with experienced NGOs, district and regional government to identify examples of locally tailored best practice and sharing this via UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (UN FAO) sustainable land management case study databases. This will underpin new pathways of sustainable land management implementation and interdisciplinary evidence-based policy-making for wider application.

These problems are certainly not restricted to East Africa; it is estimated that every year 12 million hectares of productive land are lost to soil erosion globally, with a third of all soils currently thought to be degraded.

By developing a greater understanding of the issues in East Africa, we have also proposed an environmentally and socially sustainable approach to building community resilience that could be adapted in similar communities across the world.

Unless we take action now, communities who rely on the land for their survival will be left facing an increasingly uncertain future.

Professor Will Blake