Drylands Transform - ecosystem restoration

Last changed: 18 April 2023

The research at SLU is connected to ecosystem restorations in a very high level. One major project is towards drylands in East Africa. Drylands cover 40 % of the global land area, host 2 billion people, and support approximately 50% of the world’s livestock population. Professor Ingrid Öborn will tell us more.

Tell us a little about your research project Drylands Transform

I am leading one research project within the area of ’Ecosystem restoration’ carried out by SLU and six partners – Makerere University, University of Nairobi, Gothenburgh University, Umeå University, ICRAF and IGAD. The project is called Drylands Transform, or in full ’ Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in East African drylands: Pathways and challenges towards a social-ecological transformation of landscapes, livestock and livelihoods’.

In Drylands Transform, we study the links between land health, livestock-based livelihoods, human well-being, and land management and governance. We will contribute with new knowledge for transformative change and sustainable development of rangelands in the border region between Kenya and Uganda. Drylands Transform is a 4-year 20mSEK project funded by the Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development, Formas, within their call for ’Realising the global Sustainable Development Goals’.

How is this research important in practice?

The practical work will take place in four project sites that have been selected in semi-arid and arid areas of north-western Kenya and north-eastern Uganda together with county and local leaders and communities (see the Dry, drier, driest, news). The study of land health is going on and a team is surveying the land use and land cover (vegetation composition and structure, including an inventory of trees, shrubs and herbaceous vegetation), land degradation and soil health (erosion prevalence, soil organic matter, nutrients, etc) in 10x10 km landscapes (sites).

Preparations are going on for a household survey where women and men will be interviewed to understand the resilience of food and livelihood strategies in a variable climate and how they can be improved. Land governance, rights to resources and conflicts around resource use will also be studied. Interviews and focus group discussions will be conducted in the same areas as the land health survey.

Livestock Cafés will be set up within the study areas, starting in June 2021, and serve as the experimental sites and knowledge sharing hubs where people will meet, discuss and learn together about sustainable land management and restoration practices. Different forage (fodder) grasses, legumes and shrubs will be tested together with different types of controlled grazing. Traditionally they graze over large areas all the time but the idea here is to make enclosures to keep out (or in) livestock at certain times. Together local and regional actors, communities and researchers will develop scenarios for sustainable drylands development. Scenarios will be evaluated through interactive platforms and engagement workshops with policy makers and practitioners at local to regional and global scale. The scenario workshops will be a concrete method for the translation of empirical results into policy-relevant pathways towards a sustainable dryland transformation.