Africa - July 2017

AfroMont Mountain Research and News Digest, July-August 2017

201707 Intro
AfroMont, a knowledge sharing platform, was initiated in 2007 by the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI) to focus research attention on the diverse issues and challenges facing the mountainous regions of sub-Saharan Africa. AfroMont is an online media platform, now with ten years of activities, all with a focus on Africa mountain research and Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) in African countries. We follow advances in African mountain research and issues including news and specialized opinion articles covering all aspects of global change in mountains.

Photo credit: Sue Taylor. Towards Lesotho and the Maloti Mountains, South Africa.



Editorial – 2016 set to be named the ‘hottest’ year yet

It is very likely that 2016 will be declared the hottest year on record, hotter even than 2015, named the ‘hottest year on record’ back then. It seems likely that each year will be the ‘hottest’ year. Records showed that 2016’s global temperatures were approximately 1.6 °C above pre-industrial levels according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). For those of you who follow the climate change negotiations, we as a global society, are supposed to be taking strenuous action to prevent the world temperature from reaching 2.0°C above pre-industrial levels. It seems that we don’t have much room to play with now.

When I started as a climate change activist in 2007, the atmospheric CO2 level was 380 ppm, up from 280 ppm in 1750. How we all rubbed our hands in concern about this level, and wondered about future increases. It is clear that we do have a problem and that climate change is real! The deadliest climate change-linked event in 2016 was Hurricane Matthew, causing Haiti’s worst disaster since the Haiti earthquake. The world can expect further extreme weather linked calamities on an ongoing basis. Sobering stuff.

Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continue to increase even though global emissions are beginning to stabilize. As Scipps Institute of Oceanography explains, even though we have reduced our global CO2 emissions slightly, we have seen the atmospheric CO2 concentration hit a record in April 2016 of 410.14 ppm. To stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels would require an immediate 50 percent cut in emissions, at which point the remaining emissions would be offset by the sinks (oceans and forests), at least for a while.

201707 CO2 Concentration

The now famous Scripp’s Keeling curve (full record).

Eventually, additional emissions cuts would be required because the sinks will slowly lose their efficiency as the land and ocean start to saturate. A permanent stabilization at current levels therefore requires both an immediate 50-percent cut as well as a slow tapering thereafter, eventually approaching zero emissions.

Sourced :


Read the full AfroMont News Digest here!


Newsletter compilations - See compilations of the 2014, 2015 and 2016 Afromont newsletters on the AfroMont website :



AfroMontane Research Unit (ARU) symposium June 2017

In late June, the AfroMontane Research Unit held a 2 day mountain research seminar and workshop to feature both local academic research, inputs by staff from the provincial departments and institutes like Bloem Water which provides bulk water to municipalities in the Eastern Free State, and to discuss new research ideas. Also invited was Prof Courtney Flint, Professor of Natural Research Sociology at Utah State University who spoke on the transdisciplinary research modes of today (Photo: Dr Sue Taylor (right) and other delegates discuss new project ideas).

201707 ARU Symposium

The AFroMontane Research Unit is ideally positioned to research mountain livelihoods and ecosystems in and around the Maloti-Drakensberg, The Kingdom of Lesotho and the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, all in the area.



Chainsaw massacre - the character of mountain tourism towns is not always appreciated by all

I often report on my trips to Clarens, a small town near the Lesotho border, famed as a tourist destination. Apart from magnificent views of sandstone cliffs and the Maloti Mountains, one of the lovely features of this town is the avenues of poplar trees, which although exotic, are part of the ambience of the area.

201707 Chainsaw1

On a recent trip, we noticed that a row of these trees near the small shopping centre was being cut down and after reporting this to the Clarens Conservancy, we went to investigate. It seemed that one of the local shop keepers had asked the local municipality to cut five poplar trees down to make way for additional parking and the municipality had agreed. There was apparently no consultation with other shopkeepers or the local residents or with the Clarens Conservancy. Also, this is a region where it is usually difficult to get the municipality to take action on important issues, so it was puzzling that this intervention happened so quickly. I interviewed the shop keeper and he told me that he had undertaken to plant a new row of poplar trees, and that the new trees would be stepped back from the road to allow for more parking. It seems that the age of the existing trees (around 60 years) and the time for the new saplings to grow (around 60 years) was not considered. It seemed a shame as I don’t think the motorists complain about parking – they just park further along the road and walk. But evidently, the shop keeper wanted more parking right in front of his unappealing general store – and now has it.

201707 Chainsaw2



International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)

If you need to follow the UN SDG process in detail, have a look at the UNSDG knowledge hub -
Also see Monthly forecasts



Zotero is a powerful tool for gathering, analysing and sharing research materials of all kinds and it has been specifically developed to help scholars keep control of digital materials that can be found online. There are online tutorials to help you get going. Download and install the standalone version of Zotero on your own laptop. Install the browser extension for your preferred browser. Setup an account on the Zotero servers (this will allow you to sync your data to the Zotero cloud, and to share with other researchers).

The key features of Zotero include:
• The ability to automatically harvest references from libraries, newspapers and online catalogues (including the South African National Archives repository);
• Full text harvesting and indexing of pdf files;
• Automated extraction of annotations and highlights from PDF files;
• Document types (like video, letter, manuscript) that match the research materials of humanities researchers;
• Tagging, search and infinite rich text annotation for note takingl
• Automated synchronisation and backup of data in the Internet Cloud;
• Very powerful collaboration amongst researchers, and between supervisors and their students;
• It is free

Information sourced from a University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, WISER email. Thanks guys! WISER is the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research. See their website



Global Water Initiative and Dams

In February 2017, the Global Water Initiative (GWI) West Africa released an animation explaining how policymakers can work with local communities to protect the rights of people affected by large dams in West Africa. The animation is the first in a series of three animations looking at community rights around large dams. It is available in English and French, and can be viewed at the IIED website.



Climate Resilient Altitudinal Gradients (CRAGs)

Just seen something on this project - CRAG stands for Climate Resilient Altitudinal Gradients and are defined as multi-scale landscape units with a minimum altitudinal range of 1,000 meters that are characterized by climate resilient biodiversity and ecosystem service values. The Climate Resilient Altitudinal Gradients (CRAGs) Project - based in Kigali, Rwanda which emerged from a workshop in Entebbe. This workshop helped develop the 2012 MacArthur-funded Conservation Strategy for the Great Lakes Region (GLR) of East and Central Africa. In this Strategy, the Lake Kivu and Rusizi River catchments were identified as potential sites for intervention. The project has been called “Enhancing Climate Change Resilience in Great Lakes Region Watersheds: the Lake Kivu Catchment and Rusizi River (CRAG).”

Anyone know anything more about CRAG???



BirdLife International has opened a brand new office in Rwanda!

The new BirdLife ‘Kigali Project Office’ hosts part of the Regional Implementation Team (RIT) for the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund’s investment in the Eastern Afromontane Hotspot. The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation, and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. More information on CEPF can be found at BirdLife International, together with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society (BirdLife in Ethiopia) form the Regional Implementation Team (RIT) for the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) investment in the Eastern Afromontane Hotspot (2012-2017). The investment will support civil society in applying innovative approaches to conservation in under-capacitated and underfunded protected areas, Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) and priority corridors in the region.



Dr Tedros, a Malaria Champion, becomes first African to Lead the World Health Organisation (WHO)

We all know that the dynamic between mountains and lowlands has often got to do with malaria. Mountains have been refuges from malaria, but no longer, making malaria eradication ever more urgent. Now an African medical leader in the fight against malaria has been appointed as the Director General of WHO.

201707 DrTedros
During the World Health Assembly, on May 23 2017, global health leaders and policymakers gave a resounding nod to Africa and its potential to show the way for the rest of the world, through the election of Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as the first African to serve in the position of Director General for the World Health Organization. Dr Tedros Adhanom, who formerly served as Minister of Health and Minister of Foreign Affairs for Ethiopia, was nominated by the Government of Ethiopia, and endorsed as the African candidate; he will begin his five-year term on 1 July 2017. Dr Tedros has a vision of “a world where everyone can lead healthy and productive lives, regardless of who they are and where they live.”

Photo: Dr Tedros (newly elected WHO Director-General) (left) and Dr Kamwi (E8 Ambassador, right).

Among his many accomplishments, Dr Tedros has provided leadership for a number of global milestones on the path to malaria elimination. During his tenure as the Chair of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, he introduced transformational new initiatives to enhance impact of the Fund’s investments, and mobilized unprecedented new resources for global health, including malaria. As the Chair of Roll Back Malaria Board, he provided leadership for the development of the Global Malaria Action Plan, which served as the first comprehensive blueprint for malaria control and elimination globally.

At home in Ethiopia, his leadership of an ambitious and innovative health extension worker programme has become global best practice in strengthening health systems. During his tenure, Dr Tedros Adhanom oversaw the training and deployment of 38'000 health extension workers, creating a community-based and community-driven system of health service delivery, which has since been replicated in countries across the African continent. Similar approaches of task shifting community case management to community cadres are also now being championed for their potential to accelerate malaria control and elimination efforts across the E8 sub-region and beyond.

See link of Dr Tedros' Biography:



Editor’s Choice - selected new literature

Chorological and taxonomic notes on African plants, 2. Alexander P. Sukhorukov, Filip Verloove, M. Ángeles Alonso, Irina V. Belyaeva, Christopher Chapano, Manuel B. Crespo, Mohamed H. El Aouni, Ridha El Mokni, Alfred Maroyi, Munyaradzi Davis Shekede, Alicia Vicente, Alex Dreyer & Maria Kushunina (2017):, Botany Letters,

Abstract: The taxonomy of complicated native African taxa, Biscutella maritima (Brassicaceae) and annual species of Sesuvium (Aizoaceae) is discussed. The distribution of B. maritima is widened to the most of the coastal areas of NE Algeria and N Tunisia. Morphological differences with regard to other North African members of Biscutella ser. Biscutella are reported to facilitate the identification of B. maritima. We propose to accept four annual Sesuvium species (instead of the one previously accepted species, S. sesuvioides sensu amplissimo) with different distributions in Africa: S. digynum, S. hydaspicum, S. sesuvioides s.str. and S. nyasicum. A delimitation key based on morphological and carpological characters is provided. Lectotypes of S. digynum, S. digynum var.angustifolium, S. hydaspicum, S. nyasicum, Diplochonium sesuvioides (Sesuvium sesuvioides) and Trianthema polysperma (synonym of Sesuvium hydaspicum) are selected. Other discussed taxa belong to the alien elements of the flora. Atriplex semibaccata (Amaranthaceae-Chenopodiaceae) is reported as a new species for Cape Verde. Gaillardia × grandiflora (Asteraceae) is discovered as a new species for Africa found in Morocco. Prosopis velutina (Fabaceae) is collected for the first time in Northern Africa (Morocco). Mollugo verticillata (Molluginaceae) is recorded as a new species for DR Congo. Its morphology, including seed ornamentation, is discussed in reference to other similar-looking Molluginaceae. Incidence of American species Heterotheca subaxillaris (Asteraceae) in North Africa is discussed. Vernonanthura polyanthes (Asteraceae) is recorded as a naturalized invasive species in eastern Zimbabwe. It seems to be the first documented discovery of this ergasiophyte in Africa.


Beyond size: The potential of a geometric morphometric analysis of shape and form for the assessment of sex in hand stencils in rock art. Nelson E; Hall J; Randolph-Quinney P and Sinclair A (2017). Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 78, February 2017, Pages 202–213.

Abstract: Hand stencils are some of the most enduring images in Upper Palaeolithic rock art sites across the world; the earliest have been dated to over 40 Kya in Sulawesi and 37 Kya in Europe. The analysis of these marks may permit us to know more about who was involved in the making the of prehistoric images as well as expanding the literature on the evolution of human behaviour. A number of researchers have previously attempted to identify the sex of the makers of Upper Palaeolithic hand stencils using methods based on hand size and digit length ratios obtained from digital or photo-based images of modern reference samples. Some analyses report that it was males who were responsible for the majority of hand stencils, whilst the most recent analysis determined that females produced the majority of hand stencils. Taken together, however, these studies generate contrasting and incompatible interpretations. In this study we critically review where we currently stand with methods of sexing the makers of hand stencils and the problems for the interpretation of hand markings of Palaeolithic age. We then present the results of a new method of predicting the sex of individuals from their hand stencils using a geometric morphometric approach that detects sexual differences in hand shape and hand form (size and shape). The method has the additional advantage of being able to detect these differences in both complete, as well as partial hand stencils. Finally we urge researchers to test this method on other ethnic groups and populations and consider ways of combining efforts towards a common goal of developing a robust, predictive methodology based on diverse modern samples before it is applied to Upper Palaeolithic hand stencils.


Interacting effects of land use and climate on rodent-borne pathogens in central Kenya. Young, HS; McCauley, DJ; Dirzo, R; Nunn, CL; Campana, MG; Agwanda, B; Otarola-Castillo, ER; Castillo, ER; Pringle, RM; Veblen, KE; Salkeld, DJ; Stewardson, K; Fleischer, R; Lambin, EF; Palmer, TM; Helgen, KM (2017). PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, 372 (1722):10.1098/rstb.2016.0116 JUN 5 2017

Abstract: Understanding the effects of anthropogenic disturbance on zoonotic disease risk is both a critical conservation objective and a public health priority. Here, we evaluate the effects of multiple forms of anthropogenic disturbance across a precipitation gradient on the abundance of pathogen-infected small mammal hosts in a multi-host, multi-pathogen system in central Kenya . Our results suggest that conversion to cropland and wildlife loss alone drive systematic increases in rodent-borne pathogen prevalence, but that pastoral conversion has no such systematic effects. The effects are most likely explained both by changes in total small mammal abundance, and by changes in relative abundance of a few high-competence species, although changes in vector assemblages may also be involved. Several pathogens responded to interactions between disturbance type and climatic conditions, suggesting the potential for synergistic effects of anthropogenic disturbance and climate change on the distribution of disease risk. Overall, these results indicate that conservation can be an effective tool for reducing abundance of rodent-borne pathogens in some contexts (e.g. wildlife loss alone); however, given the strong variation in effects across disturbance types, pathogen taxa and environmental conditions, the use of conservation as public health interventions will need to be carefully tailored to specific pathogens and human contexts.


Diversity and composition of tropical butterflies along an Afromontane agricultural gradient in the Jimma Highlands, Ethiopia. Norfolk, O; Asale, A; Temesgen, T; Denu, D; Platts, PJ; Marchant, R; Yewhalaw, D (2017). BIOTROPICA, 49 (3):346-354; 10.1111/btp.12421 MAY 2017

Abstract: Afromontane landscapes are typically characterized by a mosaic of smallholder farms and the biodiversity impacts of these practices will vary in accordance to local management and landscape context. Here, we assess how tropical butterfly diversity is maintained across an agricultural landscape in the Jimma Highlands of Ethiopia. We used transect surveys to sample understory butterfly communities within degraded natural forest, semi-managed coffee forest (SMCF), exotic timber plantations, open woodland, croplands and pasture. Surveys were conducted in 29 one-hectare plots and repeated five times between January and June 2013. We found that natural forest supports higher butterfly diversity than all agricultural plots (measured with Hill's numbers). SMCF and timber plantations retain relatively high abundance and diversity, but these metrics drop off sharply in open woodland, cropland and pasture. SMCF and timber plantations share the majority of their species with natural forest and support an equivalent abundance of forest -dependent species, with no increase in widespread species. There was some incongruence in the responses of families and sub-families, notably that Lycaenidae are strongly associated with open woodland and pasture. Adult butterflies clearly utilize forested agricultural practices such as SMCF and timber plantations, but species diversity declines steeply with distance from natural forest suggesting that earlier life-stages may depend on host plants and/or microclimatic conditions that are lost under agricultural management.
From a management perspective, the protection of natural forest remains a priority for tropical butterfly conservation, but understanding functioning of the wider landscape mosaic is important as SMCF and timber plantations may act as habitat corridors that facilitate movement between forest fragments.


Beyond committees: Hybrid forest governance for equity and sustainability. Rana, P; Chhatre, A (2017). FOREST POLICY AND ECONOMICS, 78 40-50; 10.1016/j.forpol.2017.01.007 MAY 2017

Abstract: The overwhelming emphasis on 'user committees' under decentralized forestry management in recent times may further reinforce the segmentation of forest governance space regarding management strategies. This segmentation has appeared in the form of artificial boundaries such as "state-managed," "community-managed, "private concessions" etc. Each of these governance modes, on its own, does not have all the strengths and capabilities needed for effective forest governance, especially public forests . These open access forests have multiple and overlapping uses, scale-determined production of goods and services, and high costs of excluding free-riding individuals. The paper shows that by selectively mixing useful elements from each of the modes of governance, we can achieve equity and sustainability in forest governance to a greater extent. These hybrid forms of governance mechanisms ensure accountable and transparent decision-making, include diverse and local perspectives, and co-produce innovative ideas to solve the complex and multi-scaler forestry problems. We demonstrate this through an experiment in the Indian Himalayas, where the unique strengths of each mode - state (authority, scientific expertise), community (local knowledge), elected governments (democratic space and deliberations) were selectively combined to address the principal weaknesses of the existing policy for the distribution of subsidized timber trees from public forests to local households. The paper calls for unpacking hybridity in forest governance through greater conceptual exploration of relational spaces in which different actors interact and negotiate environmental aspects, and co-produce innovative solutions to complex, scaler and interdependent problems. The study is highly relevant in the context that majority of forests in the developing world are state-owned and managed and any introduction of elements of hybrid forms through state-mode can potentially improve social and ecological outcomes.


Response of streamflow to climate variability and changes in human activities in the semiarid highlands of northern Ethiopia. Fenta, AA; Yasuda, H; Shimizu, K; Haregeweyn, N (2017). REGIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE, 17 (4):1229-1240; SI 10.1007/s10113-017-1103-y APR 2017

Abstract: Climate variability and human activities are two major drivers influencing changes in streamflow response of a watershed, and thus assessing their relative effect is essential for developing sustainable water resources planning and management strategies at watershed-scale. In this study, a runoff model driven by rainfall and potential evapotranspiration was established to estimate the effect of climate variability on the changes in annual streamflow of Agula watershed in northern Ethiopia. Significant decreasing trends were observed for annual and wet season streamflow between 1992 and 2012, while dry season streamflow showed an increasing trend. Analyses of seasonal and annual rainfall records showed no significant trends. The change-point test revealed that an abrupt change in annual streamflow occurred in 2000. In the period 2000-2012, the mean annual and wet season streamflow decreased by 36 and 49%, respectively compared with 1992-1999, while dry season streamflow increased by 57%. Climate variability was estimated to account for 22% of the total reduction in mean annual streamflow, whereas human activities (e.g., proper watershed management practices and associated changes in land use /land cover among other factors) were responsible for 78%; indicating that human activities were the major drivers of changes in the streamflow response. The results of this study point to the potential that reduced wet season flow and improved dry season water availability can be achieved by proper planning and implementation of appropriate watershed management practices.


Hydrological system analysis and modelling of the Kara River basin (West Africa ) using a lumped metric conceptual model. Badjana, HM; Fink, M; Helmschrot, J; Diekkruger, B; Kralisch, S; Afouda, AA; Wala, K (2017). HYDROLOGICAL SCIENCES JOURNAL-JOURNAL DES SCIENCES HYDROLOGIQUES, 62 (7):1094-1113; 10.1080/02626667.2017.1307571 2017

Abstract: This paper discusses the analysis and modelling of the hydrological system of the basin of the Kara River, a transboundary river in Togo and Benin, as a necessary step towards sustainable water resources management. The methodological approach integrates the use of discharge parameters, flow duration curves and the lumped conceptual model IHACRES. A Sobol sensitivity analysis is performed and the model is calibrated by applying the shuffled complex evolution algorithm. Results show that discharge generation in three nested catchments of the basin is affected by landscape physical characteristics. The IHACRES model adequately simulates the rainfall-runoff dynamics in the basin with a mean modified Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency measure of 0.6. Modelling results indicate that parameters controlling rainfall transformation to effective rainfall are more sensitive than those routing the streamflow. This study provides insights into understanding the catchment's hydrological system. Nevertheless, further investigations are required to better understand detailed runoff generation processes.


Changes in community perspectives on the roles and rules of church forests in northern Ethiopia : evidence from a panel survey of four Ethiopian Orthodox communities. Reynolds, TW; Stave, KA; Sisay, TS; Eshete, AW (2017). INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF THE COMMONS, 11 (1):355-387; 10.18352/ijc.707 2017

Abstract: Some of the only Afromontane forest in northern Ethiopia today is on lands managed by followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, where for centuries priests and communities have conserved forest groves around church buildings. The ecological value of the thousands of church forests in Ethiopia has been widely acknowledged, but little is known about the diverse local institutions that govern these resources, or how such institutions might be changing in response to Ethiopia's rapid recent economic development. This study uses a unique panel survey to explore changes in community perspectives on the social and ecological roles of church forests , and rules governing church forest use, in four Orthodox communities over time. Our sample consists of 122 household surveys conducted in 2002 and a further 122 surveys from 2014, with 71 households interviewed in both periods. We find that reported uses of church forests vary across forests and over time, with larger forests more likely to be used for extractive purposes such as firewood and construction timber, while smaller forests have become more restricted to renewable or non-extractive uses such as natural medicines, honey, and prayer. Results of logistic regression suggest church followers' support for preserving church forests increases with age and access to alternative sources of firewood - including exotic Eucalyptus spp. plantations which are increasingly widespread in northern Ethiopia . We also observe a shift since 2002 away from an expectation that church followers themselves hold responsibility for rule enforcement in church forests to a perceived sharing of responsibility by church authorities (i.e. priests) and government (i. e. police) in 2014. Together the progressive introduction of exotic tree species in church forests combined with the erosion of religious norms surrounding local forest governance may threaten the integrity and diversity of these unique social-ecological systems.