Intro & Aims

Miombo and mopane woodlands

Miombo and mopane woodlands support the livelihoods of 100s of millions of the world’s poorest people (Campbell 1996b). They are dominant vegetation types in southern Africa (White 1983) and present a unique social-ecological system characterised by relatively high population densities, rapidly growing populations, shifting cultivation, a reliance on biomass for energy (Clarke et al. 1996) and complex ecological interactions involving an interplay of trees, grass and multiple disturbances including fire (Frost 1996; Ryan and Williams 2011). There are extremely tight linkages between social and ecological components of the system; rural households derive much of their wellbeing from the woodlands (Cavendish 2000; Shackleton et al. 2007) and associated agricultural systems, and the role of ecosystem services (ES) in mitigating poverty has been well documented (Dewees et al. 2008). However, demand for agricultural land and energy is driving rapid rates of deforestation and forest degradation, altering the ecosystem structure from which these services are derived (Ryan et al. 2012).
In addition to these internal dynamics, new external forces are altering the system. Historically, these woodlands have been of little use to commercial timber and farming interests (Dewees et al. 2008), being relatively infertile, prone to tsetse, and with sparse stocks of commercial timber. This is changing, with a new influx of capital and technology from the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS), and new linkages to commodity chains bringing increasing exposure to the global demand for land and protein (Lambin and Meyfroidt 2011). The expansion of commercial agriculture (InfraCo 2010; Nhantumbo and Salomao 2010; ABC 2012) and improving agricultural returns are seen as key routes to development (Jones and Tarp 2012) and are the first objective of Mozambique’s Poverty Reduction Action Plan (PARP 2011), but the trade-offs in terms of altered ES and the wellbeing of the poorest are not yet understood.
The way in which individuals, households (hh) and communities in woodlands respond and adapt to changing ecosystem structure, function and services has not been well documented (Campbell 1996a). However, the available evidence shows that a range of adaptive responses allow hhs to sustain their wellbeing in the short term as woodland resources decline (Campbell et al. 2000a), including substituting some resources with external inputs such as fertiliser, changing consumption patterns, and making efficiencies (Remme et al. 1997). However the broader literature shows that not all groups can adapt in this way, and substituting out of natural resource dependence is particularly challenging for poor, remote and female-headed hhs (Little et al. 2001; Fisher 2004). There may exist concomitant processes whereby thresholds of ecosystem structure are exceeded and adaptation is constrained by limited access to non-natural capitals, precipitating poverty traps (Berkes and Folke 1998; Seixas et al. 2002). Thus we hypothesise that there are abrupt changes in wellbeing as ecosystem services change with woodland loss. The identification of any such thresholds of abrupt change is crucial to inform management of land use change to minimise poverty, especially given the absence of social safety nets (Dewees et al. 2008).
The challenge of developing and implementing effective land use policy is great, and the confluence of a declining woodland resource, growing populations, and new external pressures mean that it will not get easier. The multiple uses of woodlands, as well as their ecological complexity, mean they have historically not been managed to benefit the rural poor (Dewees et al. 2008), despite an agenda of management decentralisation. Overall there is little national policy, let alone practice, that acknowledges the importance of ES for wellbeing or which tries to manage the decline in ES as woodlands are converted or degraded. We will build on our track record of successfully influencing national land use policy in Mozambique (documented in Nhantumbo and Salomao 2010; Nhantumbo 2012; Sitoe et al. 2012). Through the co-production of a research framework, the generation of robust empirical data, the articulation of realistic future scenarios and the creation of communities of practice, this project will lead to better pro-poor land use policy in the woodlands of Mozambique.
Aim and Objectives
ACES will contribute to poverty alleviation in Mozambique by co-producing new knowledge of the dynamic links between land use change, ES and the wellbeing of the rural poor, meeting the demand from policy makers and practitioners for ways to better manage Mozambique’s woodlands (Dewees et al. 2008; Wiggins et al. 2012). To achieve this we will:

  • Create a framework to analyse the key relationships between land use, ES and wellbeing that are of greatest relevance to the rural poor, civil society, private businesses and decision makers in Mozambique, using trusted conduits to engage key stakeholders: Work Package (WP) 1.
  • Collect data and empirically analyse the key relationships between land use, ES and wellbeing at three sites representing the main land use intensification gradients in Mozambique (WP2 and 3), including one location of increased investment in agriculture by the BRICS.
  • Formally test hypotheses about the relationships between land use, ES, and wellbeing. In particular we will examine whether land use intensification is likely to cause abrupt changes in ES provision and wellbeing (WP4).
  • Create plausible future scenarios of land use in Mozambique. These scenarios will articulate ways in which rural poverty can be alleviated by the optimal management of landscapes to support ES and human wellbeing (WP5).
  • Build communities of practice at multiple levels able to turn this new information into better land use policy and practice (Pathways to Impact).