Adaptive Strategies of the Poor in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands:
Project Outline and Research Protocol
Section I. The Project Outline
I.A Institutional Framework
The International Institute for Sustainable Development is a non-profit private corporation established and supported by the Governments of Canada and Manitoba. It is a registered charitable organization for Canadian income tax purposes. IISD's mandate is to promote sustainable development in decision-making within government, business and the daily lives of individuals in Canada and internationally (see Articles of Incorporation). As a relatively new Institute, IISD is helping to shape initiatives which move sustainable development from concept to practice. This requires the integration of the well-being of people, environment and economy within the centers of decision making in government, industry, the home and in the community.
As a knowledge and action-based institute, IISD is committed to producing useful and practical results, and to facilitating the transfer of knowledge and experience. Its outputs are expected to provoke change rather than merely highlight problems. Consequently, IISD implements its activities in two ways: through focused research on policy and institutional change, and through communications and transfer of knowledge. These processes are closely aligned because research without broad dissemination of results is unlikely to effect change. Also, there is consideration of the tremendous need for the recognition of grassroots or community knowledge and practices as a source of inspiration and knowledge about sustainable development. IISD's involvement in this initiative on adaptive strategies is a direct consequence of this consideration.
All of IISD's projects and programs are demand driven, they must clearly show the potential to make a significant difference, add value and demonstrate IISD's comparative advantage in engaging in any program activity. The IISD, through inputs from the Nairobi and Toronto workshops in April and November 1993, respectively, identified information - its identification, documentation and dissemination - as one of the critical tools of empowerment, which it has the capacity to avail to the poor. Specifically, empowerment through facilitating information gathering and sharing, was identified as a major conduit of building the capacity of communities to respond and adapt to changing social, economic and ecological conditions that undermine their achievement of sustainable livelihoods. The Africa Case Studies project, in collaboration with the Synergos Institute and the African Association for Literacy and Adult Education (AALAE), constitutes the first step in this endeavor. Engaging in the exercise of documenting and sharing adaptive strategies of the poor with the poor, and with policy makers including governments, development agents and the donor community, has become a priority program area. This will be done in partnership with local institutions and communities in five countries in East and Southern Africa and the Sahel.
IISD experience in Africa to date is drawn from the current poverty and empowerment program staff who have lived and worked in Africa, two (2) board members resident in Nairobi, the Africa Case Studies project implemented in collaboration with Synergos Institute and the African Association for Literacy and Adult Education (AALAE), as well as through participants in workshops held in Nairobi, Toronto and Winnipeg . The Institute's comparative advantage in engaging in an activity on adaptive strategies in Africa is drawn from this experience which has given us the capacity to access a network of institutions that work closely with the poor. In addition, through our past work on Poverty and Empowerment we have established an understanding of the systems approach to impoverishment and sustainable development, empowerment for sustainable development and policy adjustments, poverty and sustainability, and we are now well placed to undertake a more focused, concrete piece of work drawing on this work. We are now prepared to work in arid and semi-arid lands in other regions in which we might be able to network effectively. Our capacity to leverage resources, our experience in influencing decision-making in sustainable development and our in-depth knowledge of the broader issues of sustainability, offer other key advantages.
The conditions that were enunciated by the Brundtland Commission, UNCED and Agenda 21 with regard to the poor in developing countries remain unchanged. For instance, population growth in Africa where the ecological base is fragile and deteriorating, is projected to be the most rapid. External and internal central urban institutions and individuals such as governments and commercial interests continue to extend their power, ownership and exploitation of rural areas.
Under existing conditions of externally driven development policies, concentration on the cash economy and existing trade relations, the typical responses of the poor have been to: appropriate common property resources; intensify agriculture on marginal lands; increase heads of livestock and shorten fallow periods; migrate on a seasonal or permanent basis to cities, towns, agricultural plantations and more vulnerable and marginal lands; and resort to large families in order to diversify sources of income and labor.
These responses have not provided long-term benefits to the poor. However, there is a growing interest in the poor as agents for their own self improvement guided by their own knowledge base and strategies which could lead to sustainable livelihoods. Our preparatory workshops have confirmed the need for clear and detailed documentation of adaptive strategies that have led to sustainable livelihoods and the policy issues that enhance or constrain the development and implementation of these strategies. These strategies are likely to have evolved from an interaction between contemporary and indigenous knowledge. Hence the initiative seeks to capture the synergies and the conditions and processes which produced and reinforced them. It is recognized that these strategies are diverse and include adaptations to ecological, social, political and cultural risks.
I.C The Study Focus
IISD recognizes that the problems enunciated above occur globally in diverse socio-ecological systems. Initially, the initiative will focus on agropastoralists in arid and semi-arid areas in Africa with the view of using the lessons learned from this experience to develop similar initiatives in other regions and socio-ecological systems. Our entry point is the identification of adaptive strategies, which are the result of indigenous knowledge and experiences, contemporary knowledge including scientific and technological innovations and social and economic issues, and which have led to sustainable livelihoods in arid and semi-arid lands. (see graphic, above).
The purpose of this project is to galvanize the transition from poverty to sustainable livelihoods in arid and semi-arid lands. The project seeks ways to empower communities to mobilize their options for making the transition from poverty to sustainable livelihoods. The project will contribute to this result through model efforts with communities to articulate and share relevant information on successful adaptive strategies. Through policy analyses and assessments of the contribution of contemporary knowledge, the project will help reinforce such strategies and provide policy makers with information to help them design more appropriate interventions.
The objectives are:
The Outputs will be:
I.F Working Definitions
Coping and adaptive strategies
Davies (1993) draws a distinction between coping and adaptive strategies based on the type of risk faced by households and communities. For instance, coping strategies are defined as "the bundle of poor people's responses to declining food availability and entitlements in abnormal seasons or years". Thus coping strategies are characteristic of secure livelihood systems used only during periods of food stress; they constitute a fall-back mechanism during periods of decline in access to food. Adaptive strategies, on the other hand, are characteristic of vulnerable socio-ecological systems and modes of production, they constitute a permanent change in the mix of productive activities and require modification of community rules and institutions to meet livelihood needs.
"A livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets (stores, resources, claims and access) and activities required for a means of living: a livelihood is sustainable which can cope with and recover from stress and shocks, maintain and enhance its capabilities and assets and provide sustainable livelihood opportunities for the next generation; and which contributes net benefits to other livelihoods at the local and global levels and in the short and long term". (Chambers and Conway, 1992)
Alternatively, we might view sustainable livelihoods as concerned with people's capacities to generate and maintain their means of living, enhance their well-being and that of future generations. These capacities are contingent upon the availability and accessibility of options which are ecological, socio-cultural, economic and political and are predicated on equity, ownership of resources and participatory decision making. Both notions of sustainable development and sustainable livelihoods incorporate the idea of change and uncertainty.
I.G Criteria for Community Selection
Communities which possess many of the following characteristics as available will be chosen:
I.H Participating Countries
I.I. Project Strategy and Implementation Arrangements
The overall design of the project strategy and implementation arrangements is aimed at ensuring ownership of the results by the local communities as well as to give policy makers insights into communities' perceptions of sustainable livelihoods.
The lead implementing agency will be the IISD. However, IISD will work in close collaboration with other institutions such as UNDP, IDRC, UNEP and locally based Non-government organizations. The Institute will act as convener and facilitator of the project management team meetings, coordinate the process with the project coordinator resident in the region and vet the quality of work produced.
The Project Management Team includes:
The International Advisory Group(IAG) will bring expertise in the areas of policy, community engagement, ecology, socio-economic and political issues, communications, and small business development skills. The IAG will provide guidance and advise on the overall implementation strategy, the design and final quality of the outputs. Members of the IAG include Charlie Shackleton from the University of the Witwatersrand Rural Facility in South Africa; Costantinos Berhe of Environment and Development Society in Ethiopia; Anil Gupta of SRISTI in India; Walter Luisigi from the World Bank, Eugene Aw, regional coordinator for Africa 2000 network; Joachim Voss from IDRC and representatives from CIDA and UNEP.
Lead institutions in participating countries will provide local project coordinators, who will in turn, put together a multidisciplinary team to conduct the research. The skills within each research team must at the minimum include economics, sociology, ecology, agriculture and anthropology. The lead institutions or local partners include ENDA-Zimbabwe, Wits Rural Facility, Environment and Development Society and KENGO. The fifth local partner from Burkina Faso is still to be named.
I.J Project Review, Reporting and Evaluation
This project will be subject to review by IISD and UNDP six months after implementation. IISD, in collaboration with the UNDP and local partners, will prepare a report for submission to the preparatory committee of the World Summit on Social Development.
Additional continuous review of progress will be done by the International Advisory Committee which will meet twice during the implementation period. At the end of the project cycle, an evaluation will be done to capture the experiences and lessons learned, and to monitor the impact of the exercise and the outputs on communities and policy makers.
I.K Ownership of Results
The project is designed to encourage local ownership of the results, especially outputs 1 and 2. As far as possible, ownership will reside with the local communities and this will be appropriately acknowledged. This, however, will not prevent IISD from further using the information in whatever way it may see fit.
Ownership of the other outputs will reside with IISD. Appropriate quantities of the reports will be available to international and local partners and their contribution to the project will be duly acknowledged.
Appropriate arrangements will be made with other partner institutions
Section II. The Protocol
This research protocol is intended as a concise statement of what is expected of each in-country program. It presents questions, guidelines and issues which each study site must address and adhere to.
In order to realize the goals and objectives of the adaptive strategy initiative, researchers will seek to capture the synergies arising out of the interaction between contemporary and indigenous knowledge, and the conditions and processes which produce and reinforce adaptive strategies.
II.A. The Role of the RPC and LPCs
The Regional Project Co-ordinator (RPC) will manage the implementation of the project at national levels, liaise with local project co-ordinators, monitor progress and synthesize policy reviews from the five participating countries.
The Local Project Co-ordinators (LPCs) will be the lead researchers who must work directly in the field with other researchers and the community; and must reside within the community together with team members over the duration of fieldwork. Delegation at this level will be inconsistent with the thrust of the project.
The actual field implementation of the project commences in October of 1994 and will end in August of 1995. Preliminary reports are expected in mid-December to allow for inputs into the World Summit for Social Development (WSSD) third preparatory committee meeting in January, 1995.
II.C Structure and Content
This section describes the questions which the research report should address, and indicates the structure and contents of the report.
The context provides the national historical and macro-policy environment in which communities exist and function and will largely be based on existing literature, but can be supplemented by interviews with appropriate individuals. Special emphasis should be placed on those policies which impact on communities.
1.a) Historical context
Key question: What kinds of ecosystem, socio-economic and political changes have occurred in the project countries?
(Time-frame - emphasis might be placed on the post-colonial period. However, other strategic issues may be considered.)
In this section researchers need to describe the signals and indicators of change. Consider a tabular presentation of national and community data to put community data in perspective. Examples of indicators follow:
1.b) Macro-policy context
Key question: What national and international policies, i.e., agricultural, economic, environmental, social, impede or facilitate the achievement of sustainable livelihoods?
Policies to be considered include macro-policy adjustments including structural adjustment programs, trade policy, and the role of the formal and informal sectors.
2) Community Profile
2.a) Defining community
Specify the size (density, size of territory), nature (ethnicity, agro-pastoralist vs. pastoralist), migration patterns and relationships with other communities.
(It may be necessary to use a sampling design.)
2.b) Indicators of change
In addition to indicators outlined in (1.a) above, use community knowledge to describe the following indicators of change:
(Note here that the time boundary may be as far as communities can recall.)
2.c) Common property institutions
Issues to consider include boundary rules, resource allocation rules, and mechanism for conflict resolution and enforcement (sanctions).
(Include, for example, traditional institutions of managing quarantine as opposed to modern quarantine rules which restrict the free movement of livestock.)
2.d) Values, beliefs and practices
What are the values, beliefs and practices of communities which support or impede adaptive strategies? What relevant cultural changes have occurred over time and how have these impacted on values and livelihood systems?
It should be recognized that values, beliefs and practices are dynamic. In some instances beliefs may not be translated into practices and in others merely used for convenience or as excuses.
2.e) Technological innovations
Identify and describe local technological innovations such as water conservation, soil stabilization, etc.
(It has been suggested that weather prediction is the most important technological need of communities. Are meteorological forecasts available to them? What are the traditional methods of weather prediction?)
2.f) Possible indicators of sustainability
2.g) Community responses
3) Identification of adaptive strategies that lead to sustainable livelihoods
4) Community Methodology
5) Policy review analysis
A separate but closely linked review of policy will be conducted, which will follow the following process:
5.a) Identification of policy priorities
The LPCs will identify policy priorities one month after commencement of field work, i.e., at the end of October. They will also reflect on how policy has affected communities, for example, the impact of policies on incentives/disincentives to utilize certain adaptive strategies; and then have communities respond.
5.b) National seminars
The Regional Project Co-ordinator (RPC), the International Advisory Group (IAG), and LPCs will help to identify the author of a lead policy paper for each participating country; and appropriate policy makers and analysts to participate in a seminar held in February, 1995.
The outputs of the seminars will be two-fold: