An Ecosystems Approach to Natural Resource Management in the Sahel
Improving the well-being of dryland peoples in vulnerable countries will require that future decisions take into account the true value of nature—the value of ecological resources and ecosystem services on which dryland peoples depend for their livelihoods. A pilot project is described that aims to build capacity of five West African Sahelian countries in diagnosis of ecosystem degradation, environmental valuation and analysis of policy alternatives for sustainable ecosystem management. The project is developing and promoting tools for assessing land degradation and valuing “free” environmental services as a basis for evaluating policies for improved dryland management. Land degradation trends are being assessed from regional to local levels using remote sensing on multiple scales combined with ground sampling. Land degradation and natural resource depletion, as well as policy options including income-generating agroforestry, are being assessed within the context of the whole environment-economy system on national to local scales using environmental accounting. It is hoped that better valuation of dryland ecosystem services will enhance the ability of governments and the international community to (i) identify key emerging environmental issues related to human use of dryland ecosystems, (ii) proactively target technical and capacity-building support to areas most in need of assistance, and (iii) catalyze coordinated responses at national and international levels. At the same time, the work seeks to increase public awareness of the degree of dependence of dryland country economies on their environmental resource base and the impact of current national and international policies on depletion trends in environmental resource stocks and human well-being.
KeywordsLand degradation ecosystem approach policy analysis agroforestry energy
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