Background information and recommendations of the consultation
Food security is a universal goal and especially a major concern to FAO. It is clearly linked with a sustainable level of food production. The limits to the latter are set both by the availability of land and water resources and by the human capacity to increase the productivity of these resources without depleting or degrading them.
The potential contribution of wetland or inland valley resources to food security is vast and varied. Mobilizing this potential depends largely on people's ability to understand and wisely use the many interactions (social, physical, hydrological, chemical and biological) which ultimately determine the functions of a wetland. Agro-technology development and transfer can effectively benefit the sustainable utilization of wetlands only if these resources are appropriately characterized and classified for different uses.
Wetlands are found in a wide range of ecological conditions from coastal deltas to high altitude inland swamps. Traditionally, they are called vleis, mbugas or dambos in Eastern and Southern Africa.
According to different sources, the physical potential of inland valley swamps in Sub-Saharan Africa can be conservatively estimated at 135 million hectares. Only 1.3 % of this potential is currently cultivated. The reasons include lack of appropriate characterization and classification, lack of appropriate water management and other agro-technologies, health risks, the complexity of these fragile ecosystems and an overall unfavourable socio-economic environment. To understand the great heterogeneity and complexity of inland valley swamps is still a major challenge and a prerequisite to the sustainable use of these agro-ecosystems.
It was in line with the afore-mentioned concerns that FAO decided to establish, in 1990, a Technical Cooperation Network for Wetland Development and Management (WEDEM). The Network aims at:
In the Eastern and Southern African sub-region, national wetland coverage varies between 3 and 10 %. Dambos are an important resource for a stable environment and the socio-economic development of people with access to them. The potential for gainful use is high and varied. Crop production, livestock husbandry, fishing, construction materials, wildlife habitat and sources of water for irrigation and domestic use are among the livelihood options dambos offer.
At country level, there have been many wetland initiatives. These include a series of technical meetings such as the FAO initiated symposium in Zambia (1985), the Wetland Conservation Conference for Southern Africa (1991) and the Conference on Dambo Farming in Zimbabwe (1994). A review of the on-going activities in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, clearly indicates that wetland mapping, characterization and classification are of high priority. Yet, it appears that there has been no co-ordinated sub-regional initiative directed towards wetland mapping and characterization for potential agricultural use.
From 29 January to 2 February 1996, several countries from Eastern and Southern Africa attended the WEDEM Workshop on Sustainable Inland Valley Use which was held in Cotonou, Benin, with the co-sponsorship of the Inland Valley Consortium (IVC). Among the conclusions of the meeting, lack of common approach to characterization and classification of wetlands was identified as one of the major obstacles to national and sub-regional research and development programmes. Country representatives expressed interest in the multi-scale characterization methodology developed by IVC in West Africa.
As a result of this Workshop and with regard to the characterization/classification scheme FAO expressed the following:
The characterization/classification scheme should provide the means for assessing the suitability of wetlands for agricultural development. The type of agricultural development remaining unspecified, FAO wishes to be advised of, and have the capability to assess, different development options.
The characterization/classification scheme should address agricultural development in a sustainable context. Agricultural development may involve manipulation of the wetlands: such manipulations should be considered in the context of sustainability.
FAO recognizes that agricultural development will change the function of wetlands; consequently they wish to be advised upon the nature and magnitude of the impacts of different development options, and to move towards the means to assess the impacts of a particular development option.
FAO also fully recognizes that there are a number of constraints upon wetland development and consequently wishes to be advised upon the nature of these constraints, and to move towards the means to assess the constraints upon a particular development option. Agricultural strategies should be considered in relation to other wetland strategies to place matters in their correct context.
A wetland characterization/classification scheme, taking into account these considerations and objectives, would be an appropriate foundation for the development of wetland agricultural strategies which, if implemented in full, would result in the implementation of the agricultural development of wetlands in a manner which has been shown to be sustainable in hydrological, economic and conservation terms.
The present Consultation, organized by FAO, is a follow-up of the Cotonou Workshop. Its main objectives are:
Within this context it is important to emphasize that:
The Consultation was attended by fourteen specialists from eight countries in the sub-region of Southern and East Africa: Angola, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The specialist from Burundi unfortunately didn't receive the entry visa at Harare airport and was sent back to his country. The two specialists from Malawi were not able to participate due to other urgent obligations. Three people of the Inland Valley Consortium participated as well as sixteen representatives from different national and international institutions. Besides the above representatives five FAO officials attended the Consultation: two from FAO Headquarters in Rome, Italy, one from the FAO Regional Office for Africa (RAFR) in Accra, Ghana, and two from the FAO Sub-regional Office for Southern and East Africa (SAFR) in Harare, Zimbabwe. In total 38 people participated, of whom 7 were women (Annex 1).
The Consultation, convened by the FAO Sub-regional Office for Southern and East Africa, was held at the Holiday Inn in Harare, Zimbabwe. The opening address took place on 2 December 1997 at 17.00 hours by the Honourable Minister of Mines, Environment and Tourism.
The welcome address by the FAO Sub-regional Representative for Southern and East Africa took place on 3 December 1997 at 09.15 hours. The rest of the day was devoted to the presentation of the country papers by the country participants.
The morning of 4 December 1997 was devoted to the presentation of six resource papers, while in the afternoon the Inland Valley Consortium was presented: its creation and membership, objectives, scope, structure, activities and future directions.
Working group discussions took place in the morning of 5 December 1997, a field visit to a dambo in Seke was organized in the afternoon.
The morning of 6 December 1997 was devoted to the presentation and discussion of the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the working groups and to the presentation and the adoption of the recommendations of the Consultation. The closing session of the Consultation took place at 14.00 hours.
Annex 2 contains the opening addresses and Annex 3 the agenda of the Consultation. Annex 4 contains the summary of the presentations of the country papers.
This technical consultation, held in Harare during 2 to 6 December 1997, concluded and recommended the following:
Guidelines for sustainable management of small wetlands.
The title had been changed by the group from "Guidelines for sustainable dambo development" into "Guidelines for sustainable management of small wetlands", in order to include development as well as conservation.
Discussion took place on actual activities in different types of wetlands in the different countries and regional projects. Different wetlands are subject to research. For the network the group agreed on the small, upstream valleys and small depressions. Impact on downstream parts was included. Major floodplains, large lakes, coastal wetlands were excluded.
For sustainable management, the knowledge of small wetlands should be increased. For agro-ecological characterization information must be collected on biophysical and socio-economic parameters such as:
Agro-ecological characterization as well as experimentation, development and conservation must be implemented at watershed level.
Common minimum data sets for characterization and classification of small wetlands are essential for the exchange of information between network partners.
Multi-scale approach was discussed by the group but no clear steps were agreed upon.
Tools proposed to be used to process and store data are: remote survey, GIS, databases and modelling.
According to the group, activities should not start from zero, but use existing information systems like the FAO system. Generic hydrological models using existing data.
Agro-ecological characterization will guide sustainable management of small wetlands. This includes conservation and development, considering:
Guidelines for sustainable management should be developed for different decision makers, like:
It is difficult to have commitment at this moment to implement activities. First, awareness should be increased:
Food security and sustainable dambo development
Definition of food security
Access for all at all times to a level of food sufficiency for an active and healthy life.
Definition of dambos
Are seasonally waterlogged, predominantly grass-covered, shallow depressions in the headwater zone of rivers. They are generally less than 5 km2.
Dambo contribution towards food security
Critical issues and needs
1. The group recognizes the important contribution and future potential of dambos towards food security and poverty alleviation, especially in years of drought. While scattered work exists in this respect, compilation of all information available is recommended.
2. Country specific plans of action within the sub-regional framework are required, including the activities mentioned under 3 below.
3. Characterization of dambos for their food security potential (by country).
3.1. On the technical, environmental and socio-economic aspects of dambo utilization the following is recommended:
- Research and development of appropriate technologies.
- Training (capacity building)
- Dissemination of information
- Monitoring and evaluation
3.2. Within the context of environmentally sound, sustainable development due consideration will be given to all aspects related to:
- Within the dambo
- The area downstream
- The wider catchment area
3.3. Within the context of socio-economic impact, the following should be considered:
- Control and access
- Stakeholders participation
- National policies and strategies and corresponding legislation creating the enabling environment for the sustainable development of dambos without
undue environmental impacts.
4. Regional cooperation.
5. Development of guidelines for appropriate technology at national level.
Technical cooperation approach: Network/Consortium
1. There is a need to establish a Regional network for sustainable development of freshwater wetlands.
This issue was seriously discussed, as it appears that the perception of inland valleys or wetlands is different from one country to another. For some of the countries, the focus should be mainly on small inland valleys, excluding large marshlands. For others, all freshwater wetlands should be considered.
Another issue was the development of those areas. Some participants proposed to restrict it to `agricultural production', but finally the general term `development' was adopted.
2. The needs and justifications for such networking are:
3. Mechanisms for networking:
3.1. At regional level, the network should be a regional network for Eastern and Southern Africa, linking the member countries through focal points in the member countries. International and other relevant organizations should be members of the network.
3.2. At national level, every member country will appoint a focal point, constituted by relevant institutions working on sustainable utilization of freshwater wetlands (research, universities, ministries, extension services, NGOs, ...)
4. Program of activities for establishment of a Regional Network on freshwater wetlands could be:
4.1. At national level, the following tasks should be immediately undertaken in preparation of establishment of the network:
- Immediate feed back by participants of the consultations to the relevant national institutions;
- Organization of a national workshop to establish a national program for networking and to prepare for the next regional meeting;
- Establishment of national working groups, comprised of representatives from different institutions and organizations dealing with the issues of freshwater wetlands;
- Establishment of a national network on freshwater wetlands, composed of every relevant institution and organization;
- Identification by relevant institutions/authorities of the institution which will act as the focal point for the network.
4.2. At regional level
- FAO will assume the role of coordination until a Regional Coordinating Unit is established;
- The network should involves countries, and regional and international institutions;
- FAO should organize the next regional meeting within 6-12 months, to elaborate on mechanisms of the network. This meeting will use the results of the work done by national meetings, workshops, working groups and networks.
5. Funds for networking preparation
Participants in this working group agreed on the importance of setting-up such a network. It should involve all relevant partners in the countries, and specifically take into consideration the final stakeholders, the farmers.