Project Proposal

Summary of project

Poverty reduction and ecosystem management in Africa cannot be achieved by means that do not utilise both the global science of academics and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) of local people. So far, the unequal relationship between these two knowledge systems has been a key barrier for pro-poor management of ecosystem services. This project redresses this issue by developing a new and more equitable methodological framework for bridging local and global science. This novel framework will be applied to a model system – the introduction of Jatropha curcas, a new agricultural crop with uncertain ecological impacts and economic values. The overarching goal of this project is to bring together farmers’ and scientists’ ethno-ecological knowledge and evidence from Jatropha as a crop that can support the development of a pro-poor ecosystem service, focusing especially on soil fertility and pest management. At the moment, Jatropha curcas is mainly planted as a ‘provider’ of biofuel but other services could be provided by the crop that are currently underutilised, but which may be important if commercial biofuel production does not take off.

Main findings/expected findings

The challenge and novelty of the framework lies not primarily in the knowledge which it captures or integrates (although that is highly relevant), but rather in the PROCESS of creating decision support tools using Boolean and fuzzy logic for ES management that can (a) bridge TEK and scientific knowledge and (b) be used to design policies for sustainable and equitable ES. More specifically, we will deliver:

1. An expert knowledge system (based on heuristics) that local small-scale farmers can use to grow Jatropha curcas successfully, safely and regularly (and local agronomists can use to advise on its growth) in eastern Zambia, based on a fusion of local and scientific knowledge that is compatible with current local conditions of resources, culture, law and environmental variability.

2. A general methodology for bridging, or reconciling more effectively, TEK and external scientific knowledge into a coherent advisory and developmental package that can be used in other areas, with other crops and with other poor farmers

It is anticipated that this project: (a) provides academic insights and furthers the debate about bridging global and local knowledge systems; and (b) addresses some of the outputs as indicated by ESPA such as: (i) developing theories and methods to upgrade the quality of policy making with regard to ES and trade-offs; (ii) gaining a better understanding and accommodating farmers’ values and interests when designing pro-poor ES management guidelines; (iii) facilitating participatory decision making processes at different levels (community, village, district, regional and national); and (iv) ultimately deliver pro-poor ES that reflect the interrelationship between biophysical measurements and socio-cultural and legal dynamics.