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GIS and natural resource management : prospect and problems Kanyati Communal Lands, Zimbabwe
H. Huizing1 , A.G. Toxopeus 1 , E. Dopheide 1 , and B.M. Kariaga 2
1) International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), PO Box 6, 7500
Enschede, The Netherlands
2) Monash University, Private Bag X60, Ruimsig, Roodepoort, South Africa
Information on the variability and distribution of natural resources and natural resource problems is needed to support decisions in natural resource management (NRM). However, despite availability of this information, its actual use in decision-making processes at the local level is often disappointing. The use of GIS might reduce this problem. A GIS makes it easier to visualize the spatial diversity of resources; to analyze and integrate data sets; and to assess impacts of interventions, thereby enhancing the transparency of decisions regarding natural resource use.
In this paper, potentials and limitations of introducing GIS are explored for the Kanyati Communal Lands, Nyaminyami Rural District, Zimbabwe. Rural District Councils in Zimbabwe have the legal power to manage natural resources of communal lands for the benefit of the people. Detailed natural resource maps and reports covering soils, vegetation, land use, land capability and population were available, but not utilized to support decisions on NRM. It was expected that GIS could contribute to a more effective use of the available information.
The exploration started with a problem identification workshop with local stakeholders. They identified as main problems: lack of water for livestock and domestic use; inadequate land and facilities for crop and livestock production; and damage of crops by wildlife. Subsequently, utilizing available natural resource and socio-economic data, staff of ITC and the University of Zimbabwe prepared a GIS-based information system and developed the following GIS applications based on the identified problems:
Natural resources play a critical role in the welfare of developing countries. With growing populations and increasing pressures on natural resources, efforts of people and institutions to improve the efficiency and sustainability of resource use are increasing. For such efforts to be effective, knowledge and information on the resources and their distribution in space and time are essential (Young, 1998; FAO and UNEP, 1999). However, experiences in many developing countries indicate that, even when information is available, this information is often not used to support decisions on their use and management. Reasons for the under-utilization of resource information are various (Dalal-Clayton and Dent, 1993):
2. The Kanyati Communal Lands
All communal land in Zimbabwe is state land. Rural District Councils have the legal power to manage communal resources for the benefits of the people. The Kanyati Communal Lands belong to the Nyaminyami Rural District and are located in North Zimbabwe. Resources like grazing land and woodland in Kanyati are held under communal tenure. Arable land and residential land in the communal areas, on the other hand, are held under a traditional freehold tenure that gives exclusive rights of use to families. These rights are transferable within a family (Sibanda, 2001). Kanyati consists of two wards and ten villages. Each village has a Village Development Committee (VIDCO) headed by a chairman. Ward councillors represent the VIDCO chairmen in the Nyaminyami Rural District Council. Several ministries and government departments have offices or representatives at the headquarters of the Council.
The study area lies 800 m to 1,000 m above sea level and is mainly underlain by metamorphic and igneous rocks. Soils vary in depth, but are mostly shallow and sandy. The climate is semi-arid with an annual rainfall of between 600 and 900 mm and a rainy season of 3 to 5 months. In the early 1980’s, few people lived in the area. Eradication of tsetse in the mid-1980’s caused a great influx of people from other parts of Zimbabwe. In 1992, about 5,600 persons lived in the area. Their main occupation is crop growing, mainly maize and cotton, and animal husbandry (mainly cattle). The main source of fuel is firewood obtained from the remaining woodlands. In villages close to wildlife areas, damage of crops by wildlife is common.
3. Objectives and approach
In this paper, potentials and limitations of introducing GIS are explored for the Kanyati Communal Lands. The paper is based on joint work of staff of the Department of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Zimbabwe, and ITC in The Netherlands. The objectives of the study are:
Table 1. Ranking of problems identified during workshop in Kanyati.
4. The GIS database
For the ten villages of the Kanyati Communal Lands, natural resource maps and reports (ARDA, 1992) covering themes like soils, vegetation, land use, land capability, proposed land use, location of boreholes and settlements, population characteristics, village and ward boundaries and village-based land use plans are available at a scale of 1:12,500. Until now, little use was made of these maps and reports. In addition, information is available on contours, drainage and infrastructure from 1:50,000 topographic maps. Data on wildlife and crop damage exist in different government departments and WWF. Rainfall data is available for several rainfall stations in the study area and its neighbourhood.
The main data source for the GIS database is ARDA data and maps of 1992. ARDA maps are hand-drawn, not very accurate and include geo-referencing mistakes that had to be corrected during the digitizing of the maps. Satellite data (Landsat TM images covering the period 1973 to 1998) and aerial photos of the 1970’s, 1980’s and late 1990’s and the results of several MSc studies by students of ITC and the University of Zimbabwe contributed to the completion of the database.
5. GIS applications for natural resource management
Lack of water, transport and communication, and problems related to crops, livestock and wildlife are the main natural resource problems perceived in the study area (Table 1). A GIS database should be able to help in the analysis of these problems and to contribute to the setting of priorities for spending scarce financial resources to reduce the problems (Ceccarelli, 1997). The identified problems were the basis for the development of sample applications that were used to demonstrate the potentials of a GIS-based information system. They include:
The study area contains ten villages (Figure 1). Table 2 shows data related to natural resources in the villages and their use (ARDA, 1992). The table shows that there are considerable differences between villages with respect to cropped area, number of livestock per household and grazing area per livestock unit.
Figure 1. The ten villages of the Kanyati Communal Lands
Table 2. Village data and natural resource use, Kanyati Communal Lands
Notes: hh = household; LU = livestock unit; “arable land” (ha) is based on land capability assessment and mainly includes land marginal for crop growing (ARDA, 1992)
Application B. Access to water for domestic use; Water sources for human consumption are mainly boreholes and wells, as most rivers and reservoirs are without water during the dry season. Locally, permanent pools with standing water occur during the dry season, but water from these pools is often too dirty for drinking purposes. The preferred maximum distance from settlements to water collecting places is 500 meter with a maximum of 2,000 m. Important information for the planning of new wells or boreholes is how many households have access to drinking water at distances within 500 m, 500-2,000 m and more than 2,000 m. This information can be used to plan new boreholes or to evaluate to which extent plans for new boreholes will be effective in solving the problem of access to water for domestic use. For this case, maps showing (i) settlements; (ii) boreholes/wells; and (iii) proposed boreholes/wells are used as input maps. From these maps, a new map is created that shows settlements and their distance from existing and proposed water collecting points (Figure 2).
Availability of dinking water is a major problem in the study area (Table 1). Table 3 confirms this. Only 19 percent of all settlements in the area lie within 500 m of a well/borehole. In Chitete village, 39 percent of the settlements are located 2 to 5 km away from a well/borehole. The location of the proposed new boreholes contributes little to improvement of this situation in the most problematic villages (Chitete, Hurenje and Nyajena). Figure 2 and Table 3 show the variation of the problem of access to domestic water and the limited effect of the proposed new boreholes and wells in solving the problem.
Figure 2. Distance between existing and proposed drinking water (collecting) places (boreholes and wells) and settlements.
Table 3. Settlements within villages and distance from well/boreholes.
Application C. Access to water for livestock
Livestock in the study area grazes on communal land, usually up-hill in summer and in lower areas and arable fields in winter (Agritex, 1996; Nguru, 1998). Livestock is herded by households and sometimes by groups of households. During nights, livestock is mainly kept in fenced areas (“kraals”) near residential sites. In daytime, livestock has to walk to watering places. The water sources in the dry season are mainly boreholes, pools and wells, as most rivers and small reservoirs dry up. Preferred distances to boreholes, wells and pools are less than 2 km; the maximum distance is 5 km. ARDA (1992) developed a plan with locations of new boreholes and wells. The aim of this case is to find out whether the proposed new boreholes/wells are useful and have a correct location. Another aim is to determine alternative locations for boreholes/wells in each village.
Figure 3 shows distances of grazing areas from existing watering points for livestock. The location of the proposed new boreholes indicates whether or not these will be effective in reducing access to water for livestock.
Figure 3. Distance grazing areas and drinking places for livestock in dry season.
Availability of water is a problem for local communities. It is clear from Figure 3 that the proposed boreholes in are roughly in proper locations for livestock watering, although they could be spread a bit more. In some villages (central Makande and east Nyadara), the proposed boreholes are not useful at all for livestock watering because watering points already exist at proper locations. Several potential grazing areas will remain too far away from water after construction of the proposed boreholes.
Application D. Livestock carrying capacity and current stocking densities
This application shows the variation among the villages regarding amount of forage available for livestock and actual stocking densities. The numbers of livestock are expressed in Tropical Livestock Unit Equivalents (LUs1) for this purpose. By comparing the potential LU numbers (carrying capacity) of each village with the actual LU numbers, the LU balance per village was estimated. When the potential LUs are lower than the actual LUs, the village is expected to be overgrazed (Table 4).
The total number of livestock (expressed in LUs) was calculated for each village based on (i) actual livestock numbers per species per village in 1992 and (ii) the conversion values shown in footnote 1. Next, the carrying capacity (potential livestock numbers LUs per village) was calculated based on field staff estimates of the carrying capacity of mapping units shown on the available vegetation maps produced by ARDA (Figure 4).
Conversion values of livestock species kept in the study area:
Cattle: bulls (LU = 0.75); oxen (LU = 0.94); cows (LU = 0.64); steers (LU = 0.61); heifers (LU = 0.55); calves (LU = 0.28)
Other: goats (LU = 0.07); sheep (LU = 0.07); donkey (LU = 0.40).
Figure 4. Carrying capacity for livestock (ha/LU) of different vegetation units
Table 4. Comparison of livestock carrying capacity, number of livestock in 1992 and LU-balance which shows whether village land is likely to be overstocked (negative values) or understocked.
Table 4 indicates that Makande, Nyadara and Kanyati villages are overstocked. Most of the other villages still have surplus of forage, when considering the number of livestock in relation to potentially available forage.
Case E. Crop damage by wildlife
Wildlife incidents in the ten villages have been recorded by the Campfire Association from 1993 up till 1998 (Mwiya, 1998) and by Agritex/WWF. Data from the two sources (Table 5) are not the same but of the same orders of magnitude. Table 5 shows that the most northern villages that border conservation areas suffer most.
Table 5. Number of incidents with elephants and other wildlife species (column “other”) and total number of wildlife incidents from 1993 to 1998 based on Agritex/WWF data. The column Campfire shows total wildlife incidents over the same period, recorded by Campfire.
Application F. Land use plan of 1992 and actual land use in 1992 and 1999
A final application was developed to compare (i) the land use of 1992, (ii) the land use as proposed in a plan of 1992 and (iii) the actual situation seven years later. This was done for Makande village for which information on the 1999 land use situation was available (Sadiki, 2000). In the land use plan, land allocated to grazing is divided in paddocks. In 1999, four large paddocks had been fenced. These paddocks are used for grazing in the wet season. Figure 5 shows that cropland expanded at the expense of grazing land from 1992 to 1999, but not exactly according to the plan of 1992. It is likely that the fencing of grazing land reduced further expansion of cropland into grazing land. Residential areas were scattered in 1999, probably similar to the situation in 1992, while the land use plan proposed consolidation of residential areas.
The applications shown in the previous sections show that a GIS-based information system makes it possible to visualize and make transparent the variation of the magnitude of natural resource management problems between spatial units, in this case villages. Ranking the villages on the basis of some of the identified problems shows, for example, that the village of Nyajena is relatively worse of than other villages in terms of the problems of access to water for domestic use; overgrazing; and crop damage by wildlife. Although the selected indicators do not give a comprehensive overview of the problems, a more complete set of indicators has the potential to support decisions on the allocation of resources between the villages. No information was obtained on the actual spending of public resources in the various villages.
In addition to support decisions on spatial resource allocation, the developed GIS applications have the potential to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness and the implementation of various natural resource management plans, e.g. planned locations of boreholes for domestic use as well a for livestock; land use plans. Finally, the applications show that information from different sources, e.g. location of residential areas and locations of water points, can be related and integrated.
Figure 5. Land cover/use in 1992, proposed land cover/use (land use plan of 1992) and actual land use in 1999, Makande village, Kanyati Communal Lands
A well-structured database makes it possible to provide answers to many questions with regard to land resources and their use and, thereby, is useful tool for decision making with regard to the use of natural resources. Such a tool can increase the efficiency of institutions responsible for land use planning and natural resource management.
However, reviewing the development of the GIS applications in this real-world situation and evaluating the response of the local institutions, particularly the Rural District Council, the reported case suggests that the actual use and success of GIS for natural resource management in developing countries is certainly not self-evident. There may be limitations and/or conditions that are not optimal for the implementation and use of a GIS-based information system. As far as implementation issues are concerned a number of obstacles will have to be overcome. In our case, we experienced that some essential data were of low quality, out of date or lacking, funds for new data acquisition was not be available and trained staff for implementing and updating the GIS database were not present. Also the initial awareness of the potential of a GIS information system was virtually absent. But even when these barriers to GIS implementation were overcome through the acceptance of lower data quality, the provision of the minimum hardware and software, a short training course and demonstration of the developed applications, the response among leading local staff remained low. Middle-level technical local staff clearly became aware of the benefits of the system, but interest and willingness of higher staff to actual use and develop the GIS applications further for their own use was lacking.
This lack of interest among higher staff can be partially explained by a still limited awareness of the potential of a GIS-information system for local level decision making and a lack of insight of how an information system could support decisions with regard to the use of natural resources. But the reluctance to actually start using the information system might also be inherent in the prevailing governance settings. Information on the magnitude of the problems among the various villages, for example, is possibly not the most required for actual public decision making in the area. The potential of an information system to make public decisions more efficient and transparent may in some governmental settings be less desired than is often assumed from an outsiders' point of view.
Applications of a GIS-based information system shown in this paper have the potential to make decisions with respect to natural resources more efficient and transparent. Although the development of the GIS information-system for the Nyaminyami Rural District Council was, on purpose, low profile, the lessons learnt are clear. A number of barriers that hamper GIS implementation, like lack of training in GIS and limited software and hardware resources in local institutions need to be overcome. However, lack of interest among key decision-makers to understand and use available information appeared to be the most limiting factor in establishing an operational GIS-based information system as an integral part of the natural resource management planning activities at the local level. The low response of the local institutions reveals and confirms the need to pay sufficient attention to issues of utilisation of GIS in actual government in addition to issues of implementation.
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