Environment, natural resources and climate change

Climate change is exacerbating pressure on natural resources caused by human activities and hindering sustainable development in rural areas, especially in the South. Iram develops and implements different procedures to help reconcile socio-economic development with environmental protection.

Human development, environmental protection and climate change

Rural societies in many developing countries have had to contend with major institutional, socio-economic and ecological changes over the last few decades: climatic disturbances, strong demographic growth, inequality, poverty, rapid urbanisation, State withdrawal, integration into regional and international markets, etc. Agriculture is increasingly at risk from climate change, while the growing need for agricultural products (food and non-food) is intensifying pressure on natural resources in developing countries. In addition to this,

  • Customary rules regulating access to natural resources – which often contradict national legislation – are losing their legitimacy and relevance, thereby increasing the risk of conflict between resource users in these countries.
  • Access to land is problematic, especially in Africa, due the coexistence of different rights (customary, community, private, etc.), migration to less populated areas driven by soaring population growth, and agricultural land grabbing by private investors. All this contributes to the growing scarcity of available land in rural areas and increases conflicts between migrants and indigenous residents, herders and farmers, etc.
  • Efforts to safeguard biodiversity and promote human development in protected areas are seldom made in tandem. These areas are often managed by excluding local populations, yet policies to protect biodiversity will only be effective if they are supported by local communities. Outside protected areas, the prevailing logic of economic growth often undermines efforts to protect biodiversity. Therefore, technical and economic models need to change to ensure that development strategies take account of biodiversity.
  • The many uncertainties surrounding climate change make it hard to identify techniques that will help limit its impact on agricultural yields and livestock productivity.

Iram’s approach

In order to address these issues, Iram aims to reconcile human development with environmental protection, by:

  • Promoting joint practices and rules for natural resource management. These rules should be defined and validated by user groups and local institutions that manage shared natural resources, so that they have local legitimacy. Iram uses three complementary procedures for work in this field: (1) supporting institutions and strengthening management organisations, (2) developing techniques to exploit and manage natural resources (set aside, timber regeneration, harvesting tools, etc.), (3) economic development of protected resources (ecotourism, rural timber markets, etc.).
  • Securing different users’ access to land and natural resources by formalising and strengthening traditional management rules, and recognising the different rights that apply to a single parcel – rights of way, ownership, use, grazing, etc.
  • Reconciling socio-economic development with biodiversity conservation by sharing the benefits generated by biodiversity fairly and equitably between actors. This entails making better economic use of biodiversity, building local people’s capacities, and developing a range of technical agricultural models that are adapted to local environmental constraints. These models should:
    • focus on non-specialised production systems, varied ecosystems, diversified crops and integrated agriculture and livestock rearing;
    • use the same parcel for crop species and/or livestock breeds with different trophic cycles and requirements;
    • grow and rear a wide variety of species and breeds in order to avoid genetic homogeneity.
  • Adapting rural ecosystems and societies to climate change. Effective climate adaptation policies should make rural production systems less vulnerable by supporting their resilience mechanisms (biodiversity in ecosystems and cultivated systems, sustainable natural resource management, etc.) and strengthening the bodies responsible for consultation and conflict management. This will require investment and an appropriate legal framework. Climate adaptation policies should also include measures to prevent and manage crises associated with climatic shocks, such as:
    • producing and disseminating relevant information so that actors can adapt their strategies;
    • market interventions during crises to limit their impacts;
    • post-crisis support to help reconstruct rural economies.