Land Use and Biodiversity in Unprotected Landscapes: The Case of Noncultivated Plant Use and Management by Rural Communities in Benin and Togo

Society and Natural Resources (Impact Factor: 1.09). 06/2012; 25(12). DOI: 10.1080/08941920.2012.674628

ABSTRACT To contribute to the development of strategies for sustainable agricultural land use and biodiversity conservation in landscapes without formal protection status, we investigated the local use and management of noncultivated plants as important ecosystem functions of inland valleys in south Benin and Togo, and local perceptions on changes in plant biodiversity and causes for these changes. Local users of noncultivated plants perceived agriculture and construction as major factors contributing to the reduction of (noncultivated) plant biodiversity. However, they also collect many useful species from agricultural fields and the village. A small community forest reserve and a 2-ha community garden were the only organized forms of conservation management. Observed ad hoc conservation initiatives were selective harvesting of plant parts, preserving trees during land clearing, and allowing useful weed species in the field. Future development and conservation efforts in unprotected landscapes with multiple ecosystem functions should acknowledge knowledge, interests, and needs of local communities

1 Bookmark
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: While weeds generally are considered as the most important overarching production constraints in inland-valley cropping systems in West Africa, little is known about species' associations with environmental and crop management factors. Weed species' associations with seasonal and environmental factors, such as their position on the catena, soils and cropping systems, were studied during two seasons (dry and wet) in 45 arable fields of three inland valleys in south-western Benin, Africa. The three most dominant weed species were Dactyloctenium aegyptium, Commelina benghalensis and Digitaria horizontalis on the inland-valley crests (uplands), Ludwigia hyssopifolia, Corchorus aestuans and Ludwigia octovalvis on the sloping hydromorphic fringes and Leersia hexandra, Ipomoea aquatica and Fimbristylis ferruginea in the valley bottoms (lowlands). Echinochloa colona, Cleome viscosa and Talinum triangulare were the three most dominant species in the dry-season crops (maize or vegetables) and Leer. hexandra, I. aquatica and Sphenoclea zeylanica were the three most dominant species in the wet-season crop (rice). Ageratum conyzoides, Synedrella nodiflora and D. horizontalis were observed throughout the catena. Problem weeds in inland-valley agro-ecosystems are those that combine a high frequency with a high submergence tolerance and ecological plasticity, C4 grasses, perennial C3 species with persistent root structures and broad-leaved species with high propagation rates. Weed management strategies that are aimed at increasing the resilience of rice-based cropping systems in the inland valleys of the southern Guinea Savanna of Africa should address the categories of problem species that were identified in this study. This can be done best by following an integrated approach, including the use of more weed-competitive cultivars and rotation crops.
    Weed Biology and Management 05/2014; 14(2). DOI:10.1111/wbm.12040 · 0.60 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: With an estimated surface area of 190 M ha, inland valleys are common landscapes in Africa. Due to their general high agricultural production potential, based on relatively high and secure water availability and high soil fertility levels compared to the surrounding uplands, these landscapes could play a pivotal role in attaining the regional objectives of food security and poverty alleviation. Besides agricultural production, i.e. mainly rice-based systems including fish-, vegetable- fruit- and livestock production, inland valleys provide local communities with forest, forage, hunting and fishing resources and they are important as water buffer and biodiversity hot spots. Degradation of natural resources in these vulnerable ecosystems, caused by indiscriminate development for the sole purpose of agricultural production, should be avoided. We estimate that, following improved water and weed management, production derived from less than 10% of the total inland valley area could equal the total current demand for rice in Africa. A significant part of the inland valley area in Africa could hence be safeguarded for other purposes. The objective of this paper is to provide a methodology to facilitate fulfilment of the regional agricultural potential of inland valleys in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) such that local rural livelihoods are benefited and regional objectives of reducing poverty and increasing food safety are met, while safeguarding other inland-valley ecosystem services of local and regional importance. High-potential inland valleys should be carefully selected and developed and highly productive and resource-efficient crop production methods should be applied. This paper describes a participatory, holistic and localized approach to seize the regional potential of inland valleys to contribute to food security and poverty alleviation in sub-Saharan Africa. We analyzed over a 100 papers, reference works and databases and synthesized this with insights obtained from nearly two decades of research carried out by the Africa Rice Center and partners. We conclude that sustainable rice production in inland valleys requires a step-wise approach including: (1) the selection of ‘best-bet’ inland valleys, either new or already used ones, based on spatial modelling and a detailed feasibility study, (2) a stakeholder-participatory land use planning within the inland valley based on multi-criteria decision making (MCDM) methods and using multi-stakeholder platforms (MSP), (3) participatory inland-valley development, and (4) identification of local production constraints combining model simulations and farmer participatory priority exercises to select and adapt appropriate practices and technologies following integrated management principles.
    Agricultural Systems 10/2013; 123. DOI:10.1016/j.agsy.2013.09.004 · 2.50 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Agrobiodiversity is said to contribute to the sustainability of agricultural systems and food security. However, how this is achieved especially in smallholder farming systems in arid and semi-arid areas is rarely documented. In this study, we explored two contrasting regions in Benin to investigate how agroecological and socioeconomic contexts shape the diversity and utilization of edible plants in these regions. Data were collected through focus group discussions in 12 villages with four in Bassila (semi-arid Sudano-Guinean region) and eight in Boukoumbé (arid Sudanian region). Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 180 farmers (90 in each region). Species richness and Shannon-Wiener diversity index were estimated based on presence-absence data obtained from the focus group discussions using species accumulation curves. Our results indicated that 115 species belonging to 48 families and 92 genera were used to address food security. Overall, wild species represent 61% of edible plants collected (60% in the semi-arid area and 54% in the arid area). About 25% of wild edible plants were under domestication. Edible species richness and diversity in the semi-arid area were significantly higher than in the arid area. However, farmers in the arid area have developed advanced resource-conserving practices compared to their counterparts in the semi-arid area where slash-and-burn cultivation is still ongoing, resulting in natural resources degradation and loss of biodiversity. There is no significant difference between the two areas for cultivated species richness. The interplay of socio-cultural attributes and agroecological conditions explains the diversity of food plants selected by communities. We conclude that if food security has to be addressed, the production and consumption policies must be re-oriented toward the recognition of the place of wild edible plants. For this to happen we suggest a number of policy and strategic decisions as well as research and development actions such as a thorough documentation of wild edible plants and their contribution to household diet, promotion of the ‘’bringing into cultivation” practices, strengthening of livestock-crop integration.
    Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 12/2014; 10(1):80. DOI:10.1186/1746-4269-10-80 · 1.98 Impact Factor


Available from
Jun 10, 2014