The project emphasizes application of science-based tools to help accelerate reliable learning on sustainable dryland management and increase adaptive capacity at all scales, from local communities to regional and international policy bodies

West Africa Drylands 

Welcome to the project "An Ecosystem Approach to Restoring West African Drylands and Improving Rural Livelihoods through Agroforestry-based Land Management Interventions". 

This is a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) project conducted in partnership with the World Agroforestry Centre, the Centre for Environmental Policy of the University of Florida, and the Governments of Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal. The project is funded by the Government of Norway.

Sahelian parkland

Drylands - where poverty & environment interact

Managing the world's dryland environments is perhaps one of the most challenging and pressing development problems of today. Dryland ecosystems are vulnerable to degradation from human impacts and climate change, and yet support the livelihoods of one billion rural poor people. Long-term strategies for eradicating poverty in the world's drylands will only succeed when the natural resources on which the poor depend are used sustainably; and programmes for protecting the dryland environment will accomplish their aims only when they also address the day-to-day pressures of poverty. Nowhere is this poverty-environment linkage more evident than in the Sahelian drylands of West Africa, which contains three out of the four poorest countries in the world.

Testing an ecosystems approach for sustainable development 

The conservation and sustainable use of the drylands can be best achieved by managing land, water and living resources together, in an integrated manner-an ecosystems approach. Through this pilot project UNEP is testing an ecosystems approach to sustainable management drawing on latest technology and science-based tools for assessing dryland ecosystem health and evaluating and testing sustainable land management and policy interventions.

The project is introducing science-based innovations in three key areas:
· New remote sensing and ground survey techniques to assess land degradation at different scales, from local land use level to regional level.
· Integrated environmental accounting methods that value ecosystem resources and services in a way that their true value can be incorporated into policy evaluation and development processes at national to local scales.
· Community-based agroforestry techniques that generate high-nutrition foods, medicinal and other high-value products in just a few years, while conserving the land resource base.

Project Objectives

The overall goal of the project is to restore degraded West African ecosystems and improve rural livelihoods. The project targets the West African Parklands, which are integrated tree-crop-livestock systems. The Parklands span across the whole of the Sahel and their ecosystem services support over 40 million people. However, the Parklands are believed to be rapidly degrading in many areas, undermining the natural resource base on which the population's livelihoods ultimately depend. There is urgent need to quantify the degree, extent and causes of ecosystem degradation and to systematically target policy and management interventions to address them while improving human well-being.

The specific objectives are to build regional, national and local capacities at local to regional scales in:
· Targeting of land management interventions and monitoring their impacts
· Evaluation of policies for sustainable land management
· Conservation agroforestry practices and adaptive ecosystem management

The main expected results of the project are:
· Improved scientific and technical capacity among national and regional policy institutions for evaluation, targeting and testing of policies for sustainable management of dryland ecosystems at local to regional scales.
· Increased capacity among pilot village communities in adaptive land use management and agroforestry-based land conservation practices.

The full project description can be downloaded here