I conducted a local ecological study about drivers of land use change and agroforestry practices in Uvira, South Kivu, DRC between December 2010 and February 2011. The work was undertaken in the framework of ICRAF’s technical backstopping mandate in the Lake Tanganyika Regional Integrated Catchment Management Project and in partnership with WWF East Africa. The aim of this participatory research was to support the design of sustainable agroforestry interventions to reduce sediment loading and improve local livelihoods in the catchment. The results of this study show that excessive deforestation as a result of agricultural expansion, with unsustainable farming practices on marginal land, and charcoal production are the main drivers to land degradation. Knowledge held by farmers and local extension staff about field management practices and tree species differed widely. Extension workers had theoretical knowledge of exotic tree species and species occurring in the lower catchment but limited knowledge of native species. In addition to the urgency in increasing soil fertility in fields and pastures, farmers suggested priority intervention niches (excessive landslide zones in the upper catchment, river banks, mountain paths, head-waters) informed by their detailed explanatory knowledge about land degradation and perturbations in the local river regimes. Previous agroforestry practices (multi-strata fruit gardens, boundary planting and live fences) was existing in the past but had been largely destroyed or abandoned as a result of the wars. Farmers suggested that these practices could be built on to improve livelihoods and reduce erosion. Various native species were identified as important to improve soil fertility and control erosion in fields. With the urgency of securing fuelwood and construction wood, woodlots on degraded upslope land are an option farmers consider and further research on alternative fast growing species to Eucalyptus spp. is needed in the area. The study concludes that further research about native species in the area is also needed and that efforts should be channeled to increase knowledge transfers across farmer groups, scientists and extension workers to ensure synergies can be built in the design and application of local agroforestry interventions.
Photo credit: Emilie Smith Dumont, 2011.
Presented in the ICRAF annual report 2011-2012: