News >> The ‘Jali ardhi’ [Care for the land] Project

The ‘Jali ardhi’ [Care for the land] Project

Thursday, 2 February, 2017


The ‘Jali ardhi’ [Care for the land] Project - socio-ecological resilience to soil erosion driven by extreme events: past, present and future challenges in East Africa

Dartington Hall through Ecological Design Thinking programme at Schumacher College has joined a multidisciplinary research project  in collaboration with Plymouth University, Exeter University, Nelson Mandala African Institute in Tanzania, The International Water Management Institute (an CGIAR organisation). The ‘Jali ardhi’ [Care for the land] project investigates the socio-ecological resilience to soil erosion driven by extreme events in East Africa.

Soil erosion and downstream siltation problems challenge water, food and energy security with growing threats from climate change. Even under ‘normal’ climatic conditions, soil erosion by water reduces water and nutrient retention, biodiversity and plant primary productivity on agricultural land stressing food production, notwithstanding ecosystem and water resource damage downstream. This undermines the resilience of communities that depend on soil and water resources, and shocks are often amplified by physical and societal positive feedback mechanisms.

The East African Rift System (EARS) region has the highest catchment sediment yields of sub-Saharan Africa linked in part to topography and rainfall but also to recent and historic land conversion to agriculture and, in particular, increasing livestock numbers on grasslands. There is a real risk that, in the absence of community-owned soil management programmes, recent land use change (e.g., conversion of forest to agricultural and grazing land) will amplify hydro-climatic and consequent societal impacts. This is exacerbated by socio-cultural lock-ins such as power and esteem gained by owning livestock, putting pressure on fragile ecosystems and ecosystem services, with repercussions for economic and human health.

The ‘Jali ardhi’ project will use a transdisciplinary approach to develop knowledge of complex interlinkages between soil degradation, climate change, and community resilience in the EARS region, as well as to explore pathways to possible solutions.

This multi-partner international research project is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council, as part of the Global Challenge Research Fund.

The disciplines involved in the projects are Catchment science ( Dr Will Blake, Plymouth University), Physical geography ( Professor Neil Roberts, Plymouth University), River Science ( Professor David Gilvear, Plymouth University), Human Geography( Professor Geoff Wilson and Dr Claire Kelly, Plymouth University), Social Psychology (Dr Anna Rabinovich, Exeter University) , Agricultural Science ( Professor Patrick Ndakidemi, Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology), Ecological Design Thinking ( Dr Mona Nasseri, Schumacher College).

The project is funded for 9 months and due to complete in July 2017.