ACES: Abrupt Changes in Ecosystem Services and Wellbeing in Mozambican Woodlands
This project examined how woodland loss is changing ecosystem services and the wellbeing of the rural poor in Mozambique. It aimed to integrate this information in to land use policy and practice to alleviate poverty in the country.
Many poor rural households in Mozambique depend deeply on ecosystem services derived from woodlands. However, little is known about the impacts of woodland degradation and agricultural expansion on rural wellbeing. It is likely that gradual land use change can cause abrupt changes to rural livelihoods, but the ecological and social processes involved remained opaque. At all levels of land use policy and practice, there is a clear need for empirical evidence on the impacts of land use change on rural livelihoods.
This project delivered such evidence, within a framework designed for, and by, those involved in land use decisions. It did so through a novel mixture of stakeholder participation in the construction of Bayesian Belief Networks, the collection of large scale socio-ecological data sets along gradients of land use change, and their quantitative and qualitative analysis. The project used these methods to create future scenarios of the impacts of land use change.
These methods allowed the incorporation of different types of knowledge, a systems approach to complex realities, and the co-production of outputs, by scientists and communities, that would maximise the potential for impact.
This work moved beyond the existing literature which describes how the rural poor rely on woodlands towards an integrated understanding of the socio-ecological processes at play. This informed debate and policy formulation related to the expansion of commercial agriculture, intensification of small-holder agriculture, rural development, and trade-offs in management of woodlands for food, energy, timber, carbon and biodiversity.
The project involved three post doctoral students from Mozambique working closely with post doctoral students from Northern Universities, and scientists from Southern and Northern institutions jointly led each area of work. A steering committee of experienced scientists and practitioners from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Brazil and Europe provided strategic guidance and international policy linkages. The project built on decades of work at three sites in Mozambique, and long involvement in pro-poor science-based policy on land management in Mozambique.