Ecosystem Approach

Ecosystem Approach Sourcebook - Case-Study Details

1. Project Details
Author or Responsible Organization Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)/CBD Ecosystem Approach Case study
Date of Publication
Project Status
Project Start Date
Project End Date
Countries Zimbabwe
Regions Africa
Funding Source
2. Background to Project
Project Issue/Problem Statement The project attempts to investigate, through analysis and intervention, how poverty can be alleviated and environmental goods and services can be maintained. The main environmental goods and services are surface and groundwater, grazing resources and woodland products.
Project Description The work was conducted in two small catchments in Chivi District, southeast Zimbabwe. The area is typical of a huge swathe of land in Africa – dry lands with nutrient-poor soils. Miombo woodland, an extensive vegetation type in south central Africa, covers the hills. Water in wells and dams is used for small-scale irrigation. The people living in the area conduct a diverse range of activities, including dry land cropping, raising livestock, gardening, harvesting and use of a diversity of forest products. Remittances from outside the area are crucial to livelihoods. Physical, financial, human and natural capital assets of households are severely constrained. Poverty is widespread, with 70 to 90 percent of households falling below the poverty datum line (depending on what criteria are used). Woodland continues to be removed or degraded and biodiversity is threatened through clearing for agriculture and exploitation of forest products (fire wood, construction wood, wood for carving and medicinal plants). Subsistence harvesting and heavy grazing of livestock also have negative impacts. In most cases the threats arise from local people themselves, but given their needs they have little choice but to over-exploit. In addition, the institutional arrangements for managing the common pool resources are not favorable.
Highlighted Aspects of Ecosystem Approach An integrated research and development approach was adopted, with a full spectrum of disciplines (hydrology, ecology, sociology, anthropology, community mobilization, economics and agriculture). A wide variety of methods and tools were used, including participatory appraisal, action research, income and expenditure surveys, remote sensing, hydrological monitoring and modeling, and systems analysis. Two community facilitators lived in the study area for over two years. Action research was conducted on tree/woodland management, micro-credit, soil and water conservation, garden expansion and crafting new governance arrangements at the district and community levels. Much of the biophysical work focused on hydrology, supplemented by biophysical surveys of geology, vegetation, soils, land cover change, agricultural practices and cattle population dynamics. The first hydrological measurements began in 1992 and continue to this day.
Conclusions Specific impacts include improving the functioning of local committees that have natural resource jurisdiction, initiating change in a dysfunctional bylaw system and doubling the size of the community gardens in a sustainable manner. Unfortunately, in 2002 the project had to be abandoned because of the worsening political crisis in Zimbabwe. Even so, we conclude that technical and institutional interventions can enhance safety nets, but do little to significantly reduce poverty. Managing common pool resources and affecting the institutional changes involve considerable transaction costs that people may not be able to sustain. Poverty alleviation in semi-arid regions distant from large markets is exceptionally difficult, requiring more integrated, longer-term, and multi-level set of interventions. A primary objective should be to empower people to drive their own development.
3. Sectors and Biomes
Biomes Dry and Sub-Humid Lands Biodiversity
4. Tools and Approaches
Tools and Approaches   Relevance
Public Participation 3-High
- Conflict management methods 3-High
Governance, Law and Policy 3-High
Management and Incentives 3-High
- Adaptive management 3-High
5. Issues
Issues   Relevance
Public Participation 3-High
Traditional Knowledge, Innovations and Practices - Article 8(j) 3-High
6. Ecosystem Approach
Principles and Operational Guidance   Relevance
(Only if NOT relevant)
Principle 1: The objectives of management of land, water and living resources are a matter of societal choices 1-Low
Principle 2: Management should be decentralized to the lowest appropriate level 3-High
Principle 3: Ecosystem managers should consider the effects (actual or potential) of their activities on adjacent and other ecosystems 1-Low
Principle 4: Recognizing potential gains from management, there is usually a need to understand and manage the ecosystem in an economic context 1-Low
Principle 5: Conservation of ecosystem structure and functioning, in order to maintain ecosystem services, should be a priority target of the ecosystem approach 3-High
Principle 6: Ecosystem must be managed within the limits of their functioning 3-High
Principle 7: The ecosystem approach should be undertaken at the appropriate spatial and temporal scales 3-High
Principle 8: Recognizing the varying temporal scales and lag-effects that characterize ecosystem processes, objectives for ecosystem management should be set for the long term 1-Low
Principle 9: Management must recognize the change is inevitable 3-High
Principle 10: The ecosystem approach should seek the appropriate balance between, and integration of, conservation and use of biological diversity 1-Low
Principle 11: The ecosystem approach should consider all forms of relevant information, including scientific and indigenous and local knowledge, innovations and practices 3-High
Principle 12: The ecosystem approach should involve all relevant sectors of society and scientific disciplines 1-Low
Operational Guidance C: Use adaptive management practices 3-High
Operational Guidance D: Carry out management actions at the scale appropriate for the issue being addressed, with decentralization to lowest level, as appropriate 3-High
Operational Guidance E: Ensure intersectoral cooperation 3-High
7. Lessons Learned and the Outcomes
Lessons Learned Stakeholder engagement, participatory research and action research are not easy to achieve, even with good intentions and excellent facilitators. Natural resources are not just there to be managed. They represent a significant source of power for various stakeholders. Institutional change is at the core of natural resource management, but institutional change is slow, incremental and open to power politics and corruption. Local political processes proved a significant driver of change, but they were difficult to influence.The problem of the ‘project’ as the mode of operation is clearly revealed in the subsequent analyses. Being outside the mainstream of government has the advantages that bureaucratic inertia is not an excessive obstacle, but the ‘project’ is too narrowly defined and is much more difficult to scale up even if it is locally successful.Success took the form of creating conditions so that local people could innovate. Outside advisers and scientists enriched the pool of ideas and facilitated social learning, but did not deliver technological packages. In spite of resources and a committed and experienced team of implementers (with a relatively good understanding of the principles of integrated natural resource management) success can be highly elusive. First, the problems of poverty are immense and will not be solved by natural resource management alone. Second, national politics changed to the point where community empowerment was seen as being anti-government (in many places the state is unwilling to devolve power). Third, with the collapse of the national economy, the potential for poverty alleviation at the local level became even more difficult, given the huge importance of remittances in maintaining livelihoods. This caused a shift towards exploiting woodlands for short-term gain. Thus an approach, such as the EA, is only a part of the broader picture needed for success. Objectives have to be realistic, especially regarding the speed and extent of change.
Outcomes See conclusions
Other Information
8. References
References ·Campbell, B.M., Jeffrey, S., Kozanayi, W., Luckert, M., Mutamba, M. and Zindi, C. 2002. Household Livelihoods in Semi-arid Regions: Options and Constraints. Bogor: Center for International Forestry Research. 153 pp. ·Frost, P.G.H., Campbell, B.M., Mutamba, M., Lovell, C.J., Mandondo, A., Cain, J., Kozanayi, W. and Luckert, M. Can rural livelihoods be improved through improved natural resource management in semi-arid regions? (draft) ·Mandondo, A., Campbell, B.M., Luckert, M., Nemarundwe, N. and De Jong, W. Transacting institutional change in contexts of complexity: experiences from Chivi District in Zimbabwe (draft) ·Sayer, J. and Campbell, B. 2004. The Science of Sustainable Development: local livelihoods and the global environment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (in press) – Chapter 6.
9. Contact Details
Contact Person Ms Leah Mohammed
Job Title Intern
Organization CBD
Address Montreal World Trade Centre
393 Saint-Jaques, 8th floor
Postal Code H2Y 1N9
City Montreal
ZIP/State/Province Quebec
Country Canada
Telephone 514-288-2220
E-mail Address