The TAITATOO project: THEMES

Theme 1: CONNECTIVITY ANALYSIS UTILISING GIS
Theme 2: TAITA HILLS ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
Theme 3: COMMUNITY-BASED NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
Theme 4: INTEGRATING GIS AND PRA METHODS

Theme 1: CONNECTIVITY ANALYSIS UTILISING GIS

Landscape connectivity is the degree to which the landscape facilitates or impedes movement of organisms among source patches. Connectivity is therefore specific to individual species, with varying mobility and behaviour, as well as on the characteristics of the landscape itself. The landscape is represented in a GIS as a spatial raster grid where each individual pixel is assigned the land cover class. The resistance of a grid cell is a value representing the permeability of the pixel for the movement of an individual of a specific species given the process under investigation. Permeability can be conceived of as the fraction of individuals unwilling or unable to cross a landscape element; a measure of reluctance to use a specific land cover type for movement.

Setting the species-specific resistance value for each land cover type in the Taita Hills area will be based on the detailed ecological knowledge of behaviour, population densities, and survival and dispersal rates calculated from mark-recapture analysis undertaken by workers from the University of Ghent. Once defined, the resistance values and land cover map are used to generate a GIS raster data layer giving the resistance values for each individual pixel. The land cover relating to the species habitat is getting minimum resistant values, whilst land use unfavourable to movement is given higher resistance values. Other barriers to movement can be modelled by adding their contribution to the resistance weighting for a pixel. For example, the digital elevation model is used to derive slope and aspect, altitude, and relative relief measures on a per-pixel basis.

Connectivity between forest habitat patches is modelled in a GIS as the “cost” of movement through the landscape, calculated from source patch(es) to target habitat(s) by summing the resistance values of each individual pixel traversed. The outcome of a cost-distance analysis is a “cost” layer where the calculated value for each pixel represents the “effective distance”. The least-cost path is the route that offers the organism the greatest chance of survival in traversing the distance between a source and a target habitat patch.

Connectivity modelling for the forest remnants and their corridors in the Taita Hills would allow for the quantitative assessment and evaluation of various plausible land use scenarios by modifying the land cover data layer and re-running the least-cost model. In this way, the likely effects of proposed land use changes on specific endangered species can be estimated, and conservation and management decisions validated.

The base land cover data layer for this work would be derived from the visual analysis of the airborne digital camera data acquired in 2003 and 2004. In addition, digital pixel-based classifiers and object based methods, such as textural segmentation will also be investigated.

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Theme 2: TAITA HILLS ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

The spatiotemporal data created in the TAITA project will be compiled in THEMS for data distribution among partners. The coverage of the database is the coverage of nine topographic map sheets (1:50,000) covering together 75 by 75 km. The file formats are ESRI Shapefile for vector data and GeoTIFF for raster data since they are widely used and supported by ArcIMS map server. The current layers in the database include vector data and raster data of varying types: digital elevation model (DEM), road network, administrative borders, human population, land cover in 0.5 m and 20 m scale, rainfall and soil, for example.

The final purpose is to compile all the geographic data acquired and developed by the project and other research teams working in the area. Besides adding new layers, also the geographical area of the database will be increased. The coverage will be enlarged to the whole Taita Taveta district except the Tsavo National Parks for wider use and capacity building.

The THEMS as such will be a model for environmental monitoring systems for land use, land cover and land degradation studies in East Africa. Such a database can be used for ecological modeling, soil erosion modeling or rural planning.

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Theme 3: COMMUNITY-BASED NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

The conservation goals in Taita Hills should be integrated with the development objective of meeting human needs. People place different values and expectations on this integration and the effectiveness of efforts is the focus of debate. While some put priority on ecosystem viability, others put priority on community viability. A theoretical framework is proposed and it is based on a hypothesis that “ecosystem conservation and community survival are interdependent and should be given equal emphasis if both are to benefit”. In the Taita Hills groups of individuals living around some forest patches have shown keen interest in environmental issues. Future conservation efforts should be focused on promoting their activities and capacity in natural resource management. Initiating indigenous tree nurseries for agroforestry and promoting prudent fuelwood collection and use are possible target activities. The recognition of the importance of the forest as forest and water reserves to the majority of the local people requires awareness raising work.

Different people place different values and meanings on forests. The meaning of the forests has been changing along with the post-modern. Traditional knowledge about medicinal herbs decreases and the traditional ceremonies have diminished and there are only few people using the sacred places in the forests for ritual purposes. It is important to find out whether the forests are considered precious as themselves or if they are valued more because of the forest products at hand. The perceptions on forest related fears will be studied and the areas in and adjacent to forests, which locals consider valuable and less valuable will be identified and mapped. RRA (Rapid Rural Appraisal), PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal) and PLA (Participatory Learning Activities) approaches will be used as they offer tools for visualized analyses as well as methods for interviewing and sampling.

It is essential to study the possibilities of agroforestry on the potential forest corridor area. Semi-structured interviews and matrix scoring and ranking will be used to find out how various plants and tree species on fields are valued and preferences expressed. The farmers´ opinions about the possibilities to plant more indigenous trees on their land will be studied. One goal is to raise the question as well as awareness about the benefits of forest corridors in firewood production. The landowners´ estimations about the maximal size of wood covered area on their shambas, that is still economically beneficial, counts. This data will be gathered in order to model how large area of forested shambas could be used as stepping stones in the forest corridor.

The urgent need for biodiversity conservation in Taita Hills has been noticed world wide. As the Eastern Arc Mountains are known as biodiversity hotspots, many researchers and projects have acted in the area for more than two decades. Still, lack of coordination among various conservation projects and stakeholders and the piecemeal implementation of interventions are identified as key challenges in the area. Community- based conservation will have fresh forms as the Forest Department released the new Forest Bill in 2005, which includes by-laws concerning participatory forest management.

An institutional analysis will be conducted among the forest adjacent communities as it can give valuable information about the communities social formations and level of empowerment. The gathered data will enlighten the facts in the institutional pattern affecting peoples capacity to manage their environment. One of the interests lays on locals opinions about profits and constraints that participatory forest management shall bring along.

Economic reasons are one of the biggest reasons for arising conservation. Livelihoods which originate from healthy, viable and large forests should be developed. Potential small-scale businesses in Taita Hills forests are apiculture, butterfly farming and ecotourism related activities like cliff-climbing, bird-watching and accommodating travellers in homestays. The possibilities for suitable alternative livelihoods around the forest patches will be listed, compared and preferences will be expressed.

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Theme 4: INTEGRATING GIS AND PRA METHODS

The combination of GIS and PRA provides a method, which allows the local people to influence the resource management and environmental planning of their land. It can also be used for supporting local villages’ capacities to make landscape analyses of their local environment. Since applications and technology should match local capacities and settings the methods need to be modified for Taita Hills.

Mapping is the beginning of the participation process and GIS has a great deal of assets to offer for visualisation, management, analysis and understanding of maps created by the local people. The maps created with PRA methods are often very informative but lack geographical accuracy, which is important for overlying that data with remote sensing data. The accuracy of the maps created in PRA can be validated with GPS receivers. Ground truthing of the PRA data is also a part of the accuracy assessment. The research on integration focuses on the development of methods for a better integration of GIS with PRA methods in order to support community-based natural resource management in Taita Hills. The aim is to collect, analyse and visualize information on local environmental knowledge, cultural and ecological information and indigenous practices, which is not accessible through remote sensing technology. The aim will be achieved through the combination of GIS and PRA methods during the field research period. The developed methods will be built on social maps based on Venn diagrams, mental maps, nutrient flow maps, comparative diagram analyses and transect maps.

As a result of the data analysis, the research project will produce a classification of values for each place and area, specified and located by the local informants. This classification will be visualized in different map layers and the exact locations of each place and area will be validated so that the layers can be used with other GIS databases collected during the project.

The objective of the research is to support the local capacity building for community-based natural resource management in Taita Hills. The collected data will increase understanding of the value of the natural resources for local people and may help to avoid conflicts in land use planning, especially in the establishment of forest corridors and stepping stones. The GIS raster data layers will be supplemented with social maps, so the THEMS is supplemented with social GIS database containing data on local peoples’ values, attitudes and culture. The social values have a huge effect on the peoples’ behaviour towards nature and should be taken into account in conservation planning. The created database will provide them an entry point and a communication tool for a more genuine participation in the planning process with local, regional and national authorities.

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