|The African Highlands Initiative - A Conceptual Framework (ICRAF, 1994, 28 p.)|
AHI provides a new and an innovative approach to the problem of sustainable improvement and maintenance of land productivity in the highlands of eastern and central Africa by creating a coordinated regional effort for identifying and focusing on critical technology gaps, strengthening national capacity for research on the natural resource base and facilitating better integration of this research in the national agricultural research programmes.
The expected outputs of this initiative are:
· Better understanding of land-use systems in terms of their influence on soil productivity and the linkages between natural resource management, intensity of production and the dynamics of pests and diseases
· Identification of important gaps in past and existing research activities in the fields of natural resource management and development of appropriate technologies
· A central body of information and data within the region on the soils, climate, vegetation, farming practices and key resource-related issues that adversely affect agricultural productivity of selected areas within the highland ecosystem. This information will not only be more comprehensive, but also organized in the GIS format and made available to all scientific groups involved in planning technological and policy interventions.
· Improvement in collaboration and coordination between research networks, and changes in their mandates to integrate natural resource management issues
· Evolution of a cadre of national scientists, technicians and farmers and other land users capable of following and motivated to follow an integrative approach to finding solutions to problems of intensive agricultural production in the highlands
· A comprehensive and integrated information and documentation support system for research, planning and development of the natural resource base in the highlands.
The direct beneficiaries of the research to be carried out under AHI are the small-scale farmers in the highlands. The results of research will enable these farmers to improve the productivity of their diminishing per capita land resource in a sustainable way, and hence to improve their socioeconomic welfare.
The major indirect beneficiary of AHI research will be the urban poor, many of whom are from rural families. Although reliable census figures are hard to come by, it is estimated that at least 50% of the population in the region live in the cities, towns and the numerous rural townships. Over 80% of this urban population can be classified as poor. They have no regular employment or access to agricultural land from which they can obtain food directly. The highlands are, therefore, an important national resource on which this group depends for a regular supply of food at reasonable prices. Improvements in productivity and conservation of the natural resources will result in reduced fluctuation of both the availability and the cost of food and wood-based fuels for both rural and urban populations.
The third target group of beneficiaries is the policy makers. They use research results as inputs in planning and decision-making. Their improved understanding of the response of the natural resource to various management strategies will help in formulating appropriate land-use and agricultural policies and creating organizations that will reduce conflict between demands on land and the conservation of the resource base.
It is clear that food security in eastern and central Africa will continue to depend on the productivity of the highland areas of the region. There is evidence that the capacity of the land to produce is declining, largely due to the depletion of nutrients from the soil and general land degradation in the so-called high-potential areas.
AHI will deal with these problems through an integrated research programme on natural resource management that will build linkages between national programmes and international centres. Maintenance and sustainable improvement of soil production while at the same time conserving the natural resource base in the highlands of eastern and central Africa is a necessary factor in alleviating poverty and improving the social welfare in the region.