Perceptions of land-degradation, forest restoration and fire management: A case study from Malawi

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<ul><li><p>IONE S</p><p>ARD</p><p>h, Pr, Mer</p><p>Marc</p><p>TRA</p><p>e mang siareaf signoldss wedefoalistiitysd tha</p><p>local environmental problems can help to identify barriers tosuch as soil erosion (Mkanda 2002) are a significant</p><p>problem. Rates of forest loss in Malawi are generally high</p><p>with recent figures showing a decline from 3.9 to 3.4 million</p><p>land degradation &amp; development</p><p>Land Degrad. Develop. 21: 546556 (2010)</p><p>Published online 28 June 2010 in Wiley Online Library*Correspondence to: G. M. Davies, School of Forest Resources, Universitykey words: community development; flooding; gully; Miombo woodland; participatory research; soil erosion; Malawi</p><p>INTRODUCTION</p><p>Local peoples experiences of rural development projects are</p><p>often not reported despite strong arguments that locally-</p><p>based, small scale projects are those most likely to achieve a</p><p>win-win conservation/development scenario (Wunder</p><p>2001), to meet development targets (Blaikie 2006) and that</p><p>a communitys willingness to become involved in develop-</p><p>ment projects is closely linked to their past experiences</p><p>(Walters et al. 1999). Integrating understanding of peoples</p><p>perceptions with observations of the functioning of</p><p>environmental systems is critical for developing sustainable</p><p>resource management activities (Redman 1999; Hanna</p><p>2001). Previous work examining farmers perceptions of</p><p>degradation has shown that they often have acute and</p><p>accurate awareness of problems even if, to outsiders, they</p><p>appear unable or unwilling to tackle them (Kiome and</p><p>Stocking 1995; Okoba and Sterk 2006; Mairura et al. 2008).</p><p>The insights that community-based studies provide into</p><p>participation in development activities and the rational</p><p>behind continued use of practices that cause degradation.</p><p>Previous studies have identified a wide range of potential</p><p>barriers including, for example, concern over the impacts of</p><p>change on food security (Moges and Holden 2007),</p><p>inadequate resource governance systems and common</p><p>property rights (Reed et al. 2007), gender-based differences</p><p>in perceptions of problems (Wezel and Haigis 2000) and a</p><p>lack of simple tools by which farmers can assess existing</p><p>problems and the effects of intervention (Okoba and Sterk</p><p>2006).</p><p>Malawi faces a number of development challenges many</p><p>of which have been thoroughly reviewed elsewhere (e.g.</p><p>Dorward and Kydd 2004). With regards to natural resources,</p><p>a growing population has created an increasing demand for</p><p>agricultural land (Mlotha 2001,Walker and Peters 2006) and</p><p>fuel wood. Timber shortages (Hudak and Wessman 2000;</p><p>Bandyopadhyay et al. 2006) and land-degradation processservices. Copyright # 2010 John Wiley &amp; Sons, Ltd.influenced by recent extension work and a desire to secure ownership of utilisable resource. Ecologists in themiombo zone should focus onimproving fire management practices and involving communities in creating diverse secondary woodlands that provide a range of goods andPERCEPTIONS OF LAND-DEGRADATMANAGEMENT: A CAS</p><p>G. M. DAVIES1,2*, L. POLL1The Shanti Trust, c/o Makuzi Beac</p><p>2School of Forest Resources, University of Washington</p><p>Received 7 July 2009; Revised 16</p><p>ABS</p><p>Understanding local perceptions of degradation and attitudes to firimproving livelihoods. Deforestation and annual burning are causinorthernMalawi. We mapped evidence of soil erosion and remainingwith heavily utilised footpaths. Areas between gullies showed signs obut were small, degraded and isolated. We interviewed local househperceived cause and preferred methods for restoration. All householdof flood damage. Most households believed erosion was a result ofproblems. Changing fire management practice was not seen as reperceived to be too difficult to control. Tree planting was the communexotic fruit and timber trees around houses and they often requesteof Washington, Merrill Hall, Box 354115, Seattle, WA 98195-4115, USA.E-mail:</p><p>Copyright # 2010 John Wiley &amp; Sons, Ltd., FOREST RESTORATION AND FIRETUDY FROM MALAWI</p><p>1 AND M. D. MWENDA1</p><p>ivate Bag 12, Chintheche, Malawirill Hall, Box 354115, Seattle, WA 98195-4115, USA</p><p>h 2010; Accepted 24 March 2010</p><p>CT</p><p>nagement are critical for gaining support for restoration work andgnificant land degradation problems in the area around Bandawe,s of woodland. Gully erosion was common and primarily associatedificant soil movement. Remnant patches of nativewoodland existedto understand local awareness and impacts of land-degradation, itsre aware of the presence of gullies and reported associated problemsrestation. Burning practices were seen to have exacerbated erosionc as it risked reducing the productivity of grasses and fires werepreferred approach to tackling erosion. Their focus was on plantingt such work be done by volunteers. Such attitudes may have been</p><p>( DOI: 10.1002/ldr.995ha between 1990 and 2005 (United Nations FAO 2006).</p><p>Previous estimates have however shown considerable</p></li><li><p>The climate of the area is characterised by a dry season</p><p>PERCEPTIONS OF LAND-DEGRADATION AND FIRE MANAGEMENT IN MALAWI 547variation in rates of loss and include 2.3 per cent per annum</p><p>between 1972 and 1990 (Bunderson and Hayes 1995) and</p><p>1.8 per cent per annum between 1981 and 1992 (Hudak and</p><p>Wessman 2000). Heavy grazing or frequent fire, the latter</p><p>being an issue in our community, can have significant effects</p><p>on slope hydrology affecting rates of run-off, soil erosion</p><p>and soil fertility (e.g. Descheemaeker et al. 2006;</p><p>Descheemaeker et al. 2009). Though clearance for agricul-</p><p>tural land and firewood largely explain current high rates of</p><p>forest loss and land-degradation, several studies draw</p><p>attention to the importance of understanding particular</p><p>local causes of these processes (e.g. Abbot and Homewood</p><p>1999; Mlotha 2001).</p><p>Miombo woodlands, which formerly covered large areas</p><p>of Malawi, are dominated by species of Brachystegia,</p><p>Julbernardia and Isoberlinia (Campbell 1996). They</p><p>provide a wide range of resources including timber,</p><p>firewood, edible fruits and mushrooms, fodder for animals,</p><p>medicinal plants and bush meat. A number of authors (e.g.</p><p>Hyde and Kohlin 2000; Fisher 2004; Bandyopadhyay et al.</p><p>2006; Lowore 2006) describe them as safety nets that can</p><p>provide resources or tradable goods in times when normal</p><p>food resources become depleted. As well as utilisable</p><p>products they provide a range of ecosystem services such as</p><p>watershed and flood protection, maintenance of soil fertility</p><p>and carbon storage (Harvey et al. 2003, Walker and</p><p>Desanker 2004; Lowore 2006; Williams et al. 2008). Recent</p><p>research has suggested that a number of these products have</p><p>the potential for domestication and the provision of goods</p><p>and services with a market value for increasing household</p><p>incomes (Akinifessi et al. 2006). Fire plays a crucial role in</p><p>the ecology of miombo woodlands but there is evidence to</p><p>suggest that frequent fire, or a combination of burning and</p><p>grazing can cause the degradation of existing woodlands and</p><p>prevent the regeneration of characteristic species. For</p><p>instance Gambiza et al. (2000) and Sankaran et al. (2008)</p><p>found that fire return intervals longer than 415 years are</p><p>necessary if miombo woodland cover is to be retained. The</p><p>continued decline in Malawis forest cover, its need for a</p><p>sustainable timber and fuelwood supply and the wide range</p><p>of other goods and services provided bymiombowoodlands</p><p>suggests that their restoration and sustainable management</p><p>could play an important role in rural community develop-</p><p>ment.</p><p>The Shanti Trust, a small development organisation based</p><p>in Bandawe, initiated a community-led development</p><p>programme to tackle the causes and effects of land-</p><p>degradation and forest loss. The Trust has developed a tree</p><p>nursery, providing a mixture of exotic and native timber and</p><p>fruit trees, with the aim of helping local communities to</p><p>restore and expand their forest resource base. In the current</p><p>work we aimed to develop an understanding of the</p><p>differential perspectives of local people and developmentCopyright # 2010 John Wiley &amp; Sons, Ltd.that lasts from June to October (mean monthly precipitation</p><p>18mm) and wet season from November to May (mean</p><p>monthly precipitation 243mm). Average maximum</p><p>temperature ranges from a high of 30.4 8C in Novemberto 25.8 8C in June (data from http://www.climate-charts.comfor Nkhata Bay (Lat 11836S, 34818E); accessed 9th March2010).</p><p>From the lakeshore (480m a.s.l.) the land rises about 50m</p><p>to a flat plateau that reaches to the foot of forested hills</p><p>roughly 5 km away. Soils in the area immediately</p><p>surrounding the villages are infertile and sandy with an</p><p>extremely low organic content. The vegetation mostly</p><p>consists of a mixture of tussocky perennial grasses that can</p><p>grow over 2m in height. These are cut to provide thatching</p><p>for homes that are re-roofed at the end of each rainy season.</p><p>Grassland areas are burnt on an annual fire cycle. Aroundfacilitators (in this case the authors). We had four key</p><p>objectives: to generate a semi-quantitative picture of the</p><p>extent and impact of land-degradation processes around</p><p>Bandawe including the effect of the current fire regime on</p><p>these processes; to understand the perceptions of local</p><p>people with regards to land-degradation and fire manage-</p><p>ment; to document their ideas for possible solutions; and to</p><p>identify trade-offs that local people made between</p><p>sustainable land-management and economic necessity. Such</p><p>an approach is crucial to identifying physical, economic and</p><p>sociological barriers to participation and to identify how</p><p>communities prioritise involvement in development pro-</p><p>jects. Through such work facilitators can develop objectives</p><p>that match peoples needs and desires, identify educational</p><p>requirements and provide a quick return on the communitys</p><p>investment.</p><p>MATERIALS AND METHODS</p><p>Project site</p><p>Bandawe is located in the Northern Region of Malawi, on</p><p>the shores of Lake Malawi, close to the town of Chintheche</p><p>(Lat. 11855S, Long. 34810E). The regional capital ofMzuzu is roughly 120 km to the NNE. Bandawe is of</p><p>significant cultural and historical interest being the location</p><p>to which the Livingstonian Mission moved from Cape</p><p>MacClear in 1881. The original mission church dating from</p><p>1900 still exists and a local graveyard contains the remains</p><p>of several missionaries. Tourism is an important provider of</p><p>local employment with several lakeside lodges located</p><p>nearby. Most of the local population live in three near-</p><p>contiguous villages that stretch along the shores of the lake.</p><p>Each village is administered by one of three local chiefs:</p><p>Chimbano, Yakucha and Mkuwayi. The local people largely</p><p>belong to the Tonga ethnic group.LAND DEGRADATION &amp; DEVELOPMENT, 21: 546556 (2010)</p></li><li><p>548 G. M. DAVIES ET AL.homesteads there are frequently dense stands of mature</p><p>mango (Mangifera indica), cashew (Anacardium occiden-</p><p>tale) and occasional baobab (Adansonia digitata) that form</p><p>an almost continuous canopy in a narrow band just above the</p><p>lakeshore.</p><p>Despite the low soil fertility some of the area is given over</p><p>to cassava fields but the majority of the land area of concern</p><p>is currently fallow. Grassland areas are cleared for planting</p><p>cassava and used for a number of years before being left</p><p>fallow. Land tenure is complex, individual families, the</p><p>church and local tourist lodges all own land. Community-</p><p>owned land also exists and this is largely administered by the</p><p>chiefs. There is significant variation in the amount of land</p><p>that individual households control and wealthier families</p><p>currently own some livestock (goats and cattle).</p><p>Surveying land-degradation</p><p>We assessed evidence of land-degradation by walking three</p><p>transects parallel to the lake shore. Transects ran parallel to</p><p>the ridge-line and were located near the top, middle and</p><p>bottom of the slope from the plateau above the village to the</p><p>lakeshore.We noted evidence for sheet-wash, rill and inter-rill</p><p>erosion as well as more severe signs of erosion such as</p><p>exposed tree roots and building foundations and gullies.</p><p>Gullies were marked with a GPS where they crossed a</p><p>transect, then followed up and down slope to locate their top</p><p>and bottom. We recorded gully height and width and the</p><p>extent of vegetation on their sides and bed. We also recorded</p><p>prominent local landmarks and the location of remnant areas</p><p>of woodland. The latter are important as they provide a seed</p><p>source for tree re-establishment and possible nuclei for future</p><p>woodland restoration. It also allowed us to identify species</p><p>that are robust to the effects of frequent fire (and that might</p><p>therefore be appropriate for planting) or that are valued by the</p><p>community (and hence protected from burning).</p><p>Household interviews</p><p>Along each transect all households that we passed at a</p><p>distance of than 200m were selected for interview. We used</p><p>a semi-structured interview that had a number of pre-defined</p><p>starting questions concerning soil erosion, fire management</p><p>and land-restoration (Appendix 1). Interviews were largely</p><p>conducted in the local language, Chitonga, with translation</p><p>into English. Once conversation on a topic was initiated it</p><p>was allowed to roam freely until exhausted at which point a</p><p>new topic was begun. We ensured that interviewees had the</p><p>opportunity to ask the authors questions at the end. Notes</p><p>were taken on individuals responses. Following the</p><p>interview we recorded tree species found within a c. 50m</p><p>radius around the property and whether the buildings roofs</p><p>were of corrugated iron or thatch.</p><p>A total of 20 households were interviewed during the</p><p>course of the survey (Figure 1). Main participants (familyCopyright # 2010 John Wiley &amp; Sons, Ltd.and inter-rill erosion. A significant number of the houses and</p><p>trees had exposed foundations and roots that suggested</p><p>losses of up to 1.5m in places. Where gullies emerged, there</p><p>were often significant deposits of bare, loose sand and a</p><p>number of houses had been inundated.</p><p>Remaining woodland</p><p>Most homesteads were surrounded by a large number of</p><p>mature exotic fruit trees (mostly Mangifera indica) and a</p><p>number of small Eucalyptus woodlots. A number of small</p><p>patches of native woodland remain (Figure 1) but these were</p><p>predominantly dominated by small, shrubby fire tolerant</p><p>species such as Combretum spp. and Rourea orientalis.groups often congregated during the course of the inter-</p><p>views) were classed into three age categories: young adults</p><p>(6), middle-aged (10) and elders (4). Seven of the main</p><p>participants were female and 13 male.</p><p>We used deductive content analysis (Weber 1990) to</p><p>identify themes and groupings amongst responses within</p><p>each topic area. When we asked interviewees about their</p><p>preferred tree species for restoration work some individuals</p><p>needed to be prompted with potential examples. We</p><p>calculated species preference scores with unprompted</p><p>responses for a species scoring 1 point and prompted</p><p>responses (i.e. agreement that a suggested species was a</p><p>good idea) half a point.</p><p>RESULTS</p><p>Patterns of land degradation</p><p>Soil erosion</p><p>Our survey revealed significant evidence of gully erosion</p><p>(Figure 1, Table I). The majority of gullies were associated</p><p>wit...</p></li></ul>


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