In many West African dry lands, populations are rising, climate is changing and current land use systems do not produce sufficient food, feed and fuel wood. Especially where soils are poor and markets far away, this leads to soil degradation, biodiversity loss, river bed sedimentation and conflicts amongst local populations over scarce resources, all contributing to deepening poverty and rural depopulation. This implies that a sustainable intensification of agriculture is necessary, without high-cost production means, providing work to many, while leaving enough space for bush land and biodiversity conservation.
Within the ESPRIT project, five university centres for sustainable environment in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon and The Netherlands are working together in the field of sustainable dryland management. Elements of this process include investments in new forms of animal husbandry, soil and water conservation, nutrient management, biodiversity conservation and last but not least, in the institutions that support these changes and that are to put into place more efficient agricultural and environmental protection policies. Hence the need to establish a local knowledge base on sustainable management in Sahelian and Niger River Basin drylands.
The ESPRIT project seeks to strengthen the education and research capacity and academic synergies of its African partner HEIs in the field of sustainable dryland management. This will be done by bringing together the expertise available in all five participating institutions by joint research and publications, and the development of courses through multiple South-South and South-North missions by African staff. Other joint project activities such as organising and visiting seminars and conferences will further strengthen the interlinkages between the African partner institutions. In all activities, the European partners will play a supportive, co-ordinating and monitoring role.
The ESPRIT research will focus on carefully selected study areas in the Sahelian and Niger River Basin zones in three African countries that are known for the sustainability problems described above. Master students, PhD students and staff of the African partner HEIs will work at the recognition and subsequent modelling of drivers of land use change, and at the role of biodiversity use and protection through sustainable management. Ultimately, the project aims to identify key mechanisms of current unsustainable land use practices so that sustainability recommendations to (non) governmental actors can be made. The results will be published in the form of theses and articles in peer-reviewed journals such as the African Journal of Environmental Sciences. This journal, first published in 2004, is supported by the ESPRIT project for the release of new issues.
Stakeholder meetings with local actors such as farmer organizations, village chiefs, NGOs and local and national governments at the beginning and the end of the project allow gearing the research subjects to locally felt needs and to give feedback about the project’s results. In addition, there will be systematic bilateral contacts between the African partners and the stakeholder organisations. Such contacts already exist but will be intensified so as to guarantee optimum information exchange. Other specific outreach activities include, in addition to the scientific journal mentioned above, presentations at appropriate platforms and conferences and an international seminar to be organised by the University of Ouagadougou.
The ESPRIT course development activities will concentrate on the elaboration of two new Masters-level courses of 60 hours each in the field of sustainable dryland management. The contents of the new courses will be closely linked to the problems addressed and methodologies applied by the ESPRIT research component described above. Knowledge in this field is already available within the five partner institutions, but it is scattered, incomplete, and partly overlapping. Bringing together this knowledge (and partly filling in the gaps with the results of the joint research) will allow the construction of up-to-date education modules that are currently lacking within the African partner institutions. The outcome will be the teaching materials and the teaching capacities for these courses. When the project ends, the courses will be taught fully or partially in each African partner institution, embedded in the wider university curricula.
The ESPRIT project will foster the academic integration of the three African partner institutions and will increase their educational and research capacities in the field of sustainable dryland management. The incorporation of the developed courses into the existing university curricula is essential for raising awareness and supplying information to future executives and policy makers with regard to sustainable agricultural intensification and biodiversity management. In this way, the higher education system of the African partner countries will be enriched with knowledge concerning one of their most massive and pressing sustainability problems, namely the future of their millions of dryland farmers.
|Project Coordinator||University of Groningen, The Netherlands|
24/12/2008 to 23/12/2011
|EU Co-funding||EUR 485.982,00|
|Total Budget||EUR 635.082,00|
Dr. Peter D.M. Weesie
P.O. Box 221
Tel: +31 503 632 256
Email: p.d.m.weesie[at]rug.nl (*)
(*) please replace [at] by @