New training on ecosystem services aims to cut poverty in Africa

Mairi Dupar (ESPA) and Cheryl-Samantha Owen (TBA)
November 2, 2017

ESPA has commissioned a new training programme for African university lecturers, to train them in educating a new generation of leaders on managing ecosystem services for poverty alleviation in Africa.

The project is led by Tobias Nyumba of ESPA, a Kenyan with years of field experience in managing human-wildlife conflict. His previous jobs include working with communities in the north of Kenya to live harmoniously with elephants and to ensure that the objectives of wildlife parks, pastoralist communities, and smallholder farmers can be reconciled. The programme will be organised by Tobias, together with a team from the Tropical Biology Association (TBA), which is based in Cambridge, UK and has extensive networks in Africa.

Since 2011, ESPA has been gathering and sharing cutting-edge evidence on the value of ecosystem services, and their role in alleviating poverty. During that time, the concept of ecosystem services has evolved considerably because many factors affect how the natural environment benefits people, including changing conditions and policy. ESPA has promoted high quality inter-disciplinary research, leading to a growing base of evidence to help determine priorities and influence decision-makers on managing ecosystem services. ESPA’s researchers have also developed a unique and cutting edge set of tools and frameworks to help decision-makers manage the complex trade-offs and interdependencies among ecosystem services and their uses.

A key challenge now is to incorporate the latest thinking about ecosystem services in academic teaching and professional training in Africa, so that knowledge is accessible to shape future policy and practice. That’s why ESPA and the TBA are working hard to ensure that these research results are accessible and useful for African natural and social scientists. The TBA will run courses for academics and conservation managers in Kenya, Madagascar and Malawi in early 2018.

Tobias Nyumba said: “This project needs a critical mass of participants who are really enthusiastic and willing to take it to the next level. We are getting the project started with a gap analysis: to understand where African university lecturers’ knowledge is strong and where there are gaps to be filled.”

TBA Director, Rosie Trevelyan, added: “From our wide network of contacts and alumni in Africa, we know that there is great demand for this type of training. It’s a constantly evolving discipline.”