Integrated Natural Resources Management (INRM)
The agricultural systems of sub-Saharan Africa are diverse and vast, with water a transient resource in both space and time. Advances in productivity have been patchy and disappointing, given the considerable investment in public agricultural research. Problems of impoverishment and degradation of cropping areas, pastures, forests and water remain while new drivers (climatic, economic, political) provide additional challenges to the coping ability of rural populations. Furthermore, the status quo is undesirable for many social actors. This Flagship Program aims to develop integrating and sustainable approaches (taking into account ecological, social and economic factors) to the management of agricultural landscapes, instead of fragmented sectoral approaches that currently characterize most agricultural research. INRM seeks to respond to major drivers of land-use and land-use change, such as climate change, health pandemics, rural-urban migration and large scale changes to technology adoption. It aims to help solve complex real-world problems affecting natural resources in agroecosystems in order to improve livelihoods, agroecosystem resilience, agricultural productivity and environmental services.
As we enter the 21st century, the challenges we now face are ‘wicked problems’:
- they often have many causes, interacting in complex and conditional ways;
- the causes and consequences are often scale-dependent, or operated across scales;
- they are ‘middle-number’ problems, with neither a sufficiently small number of parts that can be isolated and manipulated while the other factors are held constant, ie solved using the tools of classical experimental science, nor are the elements so numerous that statistical emergent properties are easily apprehended;
- they often have their roots in differences in human value systems.
This calls for a different way of doing research. It differs more in style and process than intent and principle – an evolution rather than a revolution. Where reductionism works, we should use it. But increasingly it is, by itself, inadequate. There is therefore an urgent need for a broader perspective that acknowledges complexity, multi-scale interactions, institutional dimensions to these challenges and the potential to move toward more desirable scenarios or “domains of attraction”.
The program currently has two overarching aims:
1. Sustainably improving the livelihoods of small holder farmers in Africa and the landscapes they live in by harnessing, adapting or mitigating opportunities and challenges arising from processes of rapid change.
2. Engagement with policy processes to support strategic choices regarding development pathways, policies and investments.