Adaptation and resilience is one of the four basic units of science which guides the research undertaken by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)’s Livestock Systems and Environment (LSE) Program. With a research agenda that includes institutional and governance dimensions; partnerships with national governments and agencies as well as with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are critical to the impact of this research.
Fiona Flintan is a rangelands governance scientist with the LSE Program, a position jointly funded by ILRI and the International Land Coalition which focuses on pro-poor land policy development and implementation. In this interview, Flintan, who works with ILRI in Ethiopia, gives us an insight into her work and how rangelands can be made more resilient and secure for local users. She maintains that in order to build rangelands resilience, land and resource tenure security for dryland communities needs to be strengthened.
What does your role as a rangelands governance scientist with the LSE Program entail?
With other members of the LSE team, we have been developing a project on mapping, valuing, servicing and securing livestock corridors in Eastern Africa. Livestock corridors are vital for enabling the effective use of rangelands, but are increasingly blocked by encroachment of agriculture, infrastructure or fencing and individualization of rangeland resources. Making an economic valuation of the livestock corridors will confirm their importance in local and national economic production. Though we are still in discussion with potential funders, some work has commenced including the national mapping of livestock corridors in Tanzania working with the Tanzania Livestock Research Institute (TALIRI).
Working with and building the capacity of national livestock research institutes is a key strategic objective of my work. In Ethiopia, I work with the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), most recently on the issue of preventing and controlling the spread of Prosopis juliflora, a prolific invasive plant species that has taken over vast tracts of rangelands across the country. I am a member of a national committee to develop a country-wide strategy for policy development and action. ILRI will be supporting the EIAR and the Sudan University of Science and Technology in conducting trials on large-scale removal and control of Prosopis juliflora in the coming months, including carrying out a cost-benefit analysis of the different approaches.
I also contribute to the CGIAR Technical Consortium, which supports the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and member states in implementing country programme papers on ending drought emergencies (see a technical paper on ‘Natural Resource Management in Drylands of Horn of Africa’ here).
You are also a technical advisor to the International Land Coalition (ILC) Rangelands Initiative; please tell us more about this initiative
I provide technical support to ILC members as part of the Rangelands Initiative, a programme which facilitates learning between, and providing technical support to, people and organizations working to make rangelands more tenure secure. The Rangelands Initiative supports government and other actors to develop enabling policy and legislation, and/or implement these in a manner that better supports productive and sustainable rangeland use through jointly identifying solutions based on innovation and practice. Past activities have included organizing learning routes (journeys) on making rangelands secure through Kenya and Tanzania. The latest learning route was attended by 18 Sudanese government representatives from national and regional levels supported by ILC member United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), as one of several activities that are contributing to land policy development and implementation in Sudan. We also support the work of ILC members and partners in East African countries including the Sustainable Rangeland Management Project in Tanzania, the development of Kenya’s Community Land Bill led by ILC member RECONCILE; and the development of a manual for producing ‘woreda participatory land use plans’ in pastoral areas of Ethiopia, working with the Land Administration and Use Directorate, Ministry of Agriculture, Ethiopia and Oxfam.
Making rangelands secure for local users is becoming increasingly challenging as different actors compete for land and resources, and as new pressures grow. What would you say is being done to address this problem?
I think a key step forward has been the ‘external’ recognition of the need to plan, manage and protect rangeland resources at scale if the benefits and comparative advantage of rangelands are to be optimized. Though there is still some resistance to this approach (in particular amongst those who have an interest in privatizing/individualizing rangeland resources), increasingly governments, research institutes, development actors as well as land tenure experts are focusing on how best rangelands resources including land can be secured for rangeland users through an appropriate formal land tenure system that incorporates landscape-level planning and management, multiple-use, mobility and flexibility of use etc.
Processes are underway across the region towards this including the development of the Community Land Bill in Kenya, and the development of a communal land tenure system for pastoral areas in Ethiopia. In addition, I see the shift of development focus to ‘resilience‘ as positive from the point of view of land and natural resources management – the more holistic, dynamic, integrated approach that building resilience demands, has provided an opportunity for natural resources and land to be brought back into central focus and discussions. Despite these positive strides, however, we continue to see rangelands and pastoral lands appropriated for other uses. In order to build resilience, we need to strengthen land and resource tenure security for dryland communities. Pastoralism still remains undervalued as a land use system compared to irrigated agriculture despite evidence to the contrary. Research institutes can play a role in documenting this evidence and for example, clearly and factually show the value of pastoralism as a land use system and how best it can be strengthened and supported.
What are some key highlights of your work since joining ILRI?
I have worked at the East/Horn of Africa regional level for the last three-four years and being based at ILRI in Addis Ababa has enabled me to reconnect with pastoral issues in Ethiopia. This has included working with the Ministry of Livestock and Resources Development and the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research. It is exciting to be part of national activities and processes that will have a wide and long-term impact.
Flintan also produces a quarterly bulletin ‘Making rangelands secure’, a compilation of short feature articles written by contributors working in rangelands governance. As well as the bulletin, the Rangelands Initiative produces a series of issues, papers and manuals. The most recent issue of the bulletin can be found here.