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Using indigenous knowledge to reverse land degradation in Angola

FAO supports land rehabilitation in Angola’s indigenous and pastoral communities.

Key facts

Angola has a total land area of about 1 247 million km² of which 43 percent is under permanent meadows and pastures. Indigenous groups such as the Herero, the Khoisan and the Muimba, who rely on their traditions for the management of their pastoral and agro-pastoral systems, live in Angola’s southern provinces (Namibe, Cunene and some municipalities of Huila). Continuous drought occurring in the past years, overgrazing and other elements are forcing them to adapt to the new reality. Improved pasture management is currently ever more crucial in order to provide enough feed for the animals, which are the socio-cultural capital and economic reserve of indigenous communities. Thanks to financial support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), participation of indigenous communities and their ancestral knowledge, FAO has helped strengthen the capacity of agro-pastoralists in south western Angola to reduce the impact of land degradation and to increase the rehabilitation of degraded lands.

FAO's top three priorities in improving livelihoods in Angola are strengthening smallholder production and productivity to improve food security and nutrition, strengthening sustainable management of natural resources and increasing resilience of rural livelihoods to climatic shock and climate change.

Angola has a total land area of about 1 247 million km² of which 43 percent is under permanent meadows and pastures. Indigenous groups such as the Herero, the Khoisan and the Muimba, who rely on their traditions for the management of their pastoral and agro-pastoral systems, live in Angola’s southern provinces. Continuous drought occurring in the past years, overgrazing and other elements are forcing them to adapt to the new reality.

Rehabilitating lands and improving livelihoods
To address the major issue of land degradation and promote sustainable food and agricultural systems in Angola, FAO has been promoting a “Land Programme” for the past ten years.

One current intervention, targeting the southwestern provinces of Angola, aims to mitigate the impact of degradation processes and rehabilitate lands affected by mainstreaming locally adapted Sustainable Land Management (SLM) technologies into agro-pastoral and agricultural development activities. Activities are designed to support

2 800 families of smallholder agro-pastoralists via Farmer Field Schools. In addition to creating a more enabling environment that supports sustained flow of agro-ecosystem services, the project is helping to strengthen and diversify both livestock and non-livestock value chains. 

The shrinking of fertile land accompanied by a growing population is a main cause for disputes in the area, particularly between peasant and commercial farmers, traditional herders, commercial cattle rangers and returning refugees reclaiming their land-use rights. Techniques such as the rehabilitation of pastoral areas with leguminous trees and shrubs increase and maintain soil fertility, allowing communities to diversify their livelihoods.

Mainstreaming local best practices
For centuries, Angola’s pastoral system has demonstrated to be the most adapted for the arid and semiarid ecosystems in the area, with a high level of resilience and adaptability to ever-changing contexts. Hence, FAO's work is based on the participation of indigenous communities, their ancestral knowledge and on mainstreaming local best practices to reverse land degradation processes.  The two main tools used are Agro-pastoral Farmer Field School (APFS) and the Participatory and Negotiated Territorial Development (PNTD).

Currently, FAO is developing a strong network of APFS in the project area which promote knowledge sharing among the beneficiaries with an endogenous approach, i.e. local communities define where and how they want to be supported. So far, a core group of 40 APFS master trainers belonging to governmental institutions, NGOs and CSOs have been accredited and are now instructing more than 80 APFS facilitators who are either agro-pastoralists or pastoralists. Their role is to mobilize pastoralist communities and facilitate the development of practical comparative experiences based on the learning curricula developed by the APFS members.

“When there is no rain, people face big problems. They become very poor and start asking other people for help,” says a beneficiary from the Mucubal tribe, a subgroup of the Herero Peoples in the state of Namibia. “Now we understand that we have to share our knowledge and help each other so nobody is poor.”

The PNTD approach, on the other hand, is a facilitative process that strives for development through dialogue and negotiation. It aims to facilitate the creation of negotiation tables where different stakeholders (often with opposite interests) can sit together trying to find a common agreement on the development of their territory.

By 2018, the prospective end date of the intervention, the project aims to achieve two main objectives: to directly benefit 2 800 people, ensuring at least 30 percent of them are women and to indirectly benefit more than 20 000 people.

Global Environment Facility (GEF)
FAO is an implementing agency of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), an international co-financing mechanism that provides grants to countries to invest in global environmental projects addressing the critical nexus between agriculture and the environment. This includes climate change, biodiversity, land degradation, international waters and chemicals. With the global population set to exceed 9 billion by 2050, the challenge is to sustainably intensify food production by 60 percent over the same time period, while maintaining the natural resource base for future generations.

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