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Community / Land projects / International. Jali Ardhi [Care for the Land] project: Realising land management change in degraded Maasai gr

International. Jali Ardhi [Care for the Land] project: Realising land management change in degraded Maasai gr


11/17 - 01/20


This project is part of


Jali Ardhi' means 'Care for the Land' in Swahili. This is the short project name for the interdisciplinary Global Challenges Research Fund project "Socio-ecological resilience to soil erosion driven by extreme events: past, present and future challenges in East Africa" upon which this innovation proposal is based. Soil erosion and downstream siltation problems challenge water, food and energy (i.e. HEP) 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 putting stress on food production, notwithstanding ecosystem and water resource damage downstream. This undermines the environmental and economic resilience of communities that depend on soil and water resources, and shocks are often amplified by physical and socio-cultural positive feedback mechanisms. At community level, soil erosion has severe impacts through undermining food and water security and curtailing mobility between communities, resources and markets in fragmented landscapes. Environmental shocks can, however, lead to a learning experience that propels a system to a qualitatively different pathway and can support greater-than-previous levels of resilience (sometimes termed 'bounce back'). Co-design of sustainable land management practices and implementation of appropriate community-focussed legislation will enable rural communities to (1) recover from environmental impacts to a resilience level beyond the prior state through restoration/enhancement of degraded landscapes and (2) withstand shock of future extreme climatic events with longer-term sustainability and socio-economic benefits. This Innovation follow-on grant proposal draws on in-depth evidence of soil erosion causes, processes and impacts in rural Tanzania, specifically Maasai communities that are in a fragile state of transition from pastoralism to more sedentary and mixed agri-pastoral livelihoods. It builds on proven and interdisciplinary stakeholder engagement to deliver a new action framework for the development of bottom-up policy instruments (byelaws) to achieve credible change in land management practice with long-term socio-economic benefits for these impoverished rural communities. The Innovation programme will build on the resulting research evidence base of the problem and potential pathways to land management change that, in turn, underpin specific and tangible outcomes for the end-user communities such as diversification of agricultural activity, adoption of conservation agriculture/grazing approaches and alternative, sustainable livelihood development. Facilitating a step change in land management practice to reduce complex soil erosion impacts is a fundamental target within the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (e.g. SDG15, target 3 reducing land degradation while enabling communities to become more resilient e.g. SDG13), a challenge that requires the interdisciplinary approach developed and proven by our team. Working with key partners in local government, a soil conservation NGO, specialists in participatory approaches and end-user communities (with whom we have a close working relationship from prior research), our proposed innovation activities will provide an exemplar for how land management change can be realised from research evidence. While this small innovation project offers an opportunity to demonstrate a new evidence-based, bottom-up approach with communities, scaling up the impact of the Jali Ardhi approach to the East African region remains our wider ambition.


The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) supports cutting-edge research to address challenges faced by developing countries. The fund addresses the UN sustainable development goals. It aims to maximise the impact of research and innovation to improve lives and opportunity in the developing world.

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