This report is a situation analysis of the links between ecosystem services and poverty alleviation in the arid and semi-arid lands of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). It reviews the available evidence and focuses on the opportunities for poverty alleviation through the provision and management of ecosystem services. The study was undertaken between September 2007 and March 2008, and addressed five key questions:
- Which ecosystems services are important, and in what way, for the well-being of the poor?
- What are recent trends of changes in the supply of these ecosystems goods and services and what factors are driving such changes?
- What capacity exists in the region to manage ecosystems to optimise benefits to the poor?
- What knowledge gaps exist that limit the implementation of policies and practices to manage ecosystems better to contribute to human well-being, especially of the poor?
- What success stories exist from the region where ecosystems have been managed with poverty alleviation as a key goal?
The report concludes with general conclusions and lessons learned both with respect to the ESPA programme and regarding the execution of this situation analysis. The most significant of these conclusions are first, that investments in managing and securing ecosystem services alone will not eradicate poverty. It needs to be a significant part of broader poverty alleviation initiatives; second, that there is inadequate consideration of poverty alleviation issues by ecosystem management agencies, and there is practically no consideration of ecosystem resources and impacts by social welfare or economic development agencies (other than tourism projects); third, that provisioning services are a significant component of diversified livelihood portfolios, both for home consumption and income generation. Poverty alleviation initiatives need to build on the inherent diversity of rural livelihoods rather than constrain it, through promoting a diversity of options, of which provisioning services should be seen as only one component of a suite of options and fourth, that support and management for delivery of ecosystem services will benefit all inhabitants of the region, including the poor. Since the poor are more directly reliant on ecosystem services for a larger share of their livelihoods, an investment in securing ecosystem services will be of greater benefit to them than other sectors.