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Ensuring the preservation of crucial wetlands in East and Southern Africa

Wetlands play a crucial role in the lives of thousands of people in East and Southern Africa, so ensuring their preservation is critical. But balancing this with the need to live and earn money is also essential.

Research undertaken by a University of Worcester geographer has had a considerable impact on the management and maintenance of these ecosystems, through working with the people who use them for their livelihoods.

Dr Alan Dixon is a consultant for the not-for-profit, Wetland Action group, and has spent recent years working closely with local people and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) across East and Southern Africa.

His research originated as a response to concerns about wetland sustainability in Ethiopia, where wetlands play a crucial role in the development needs of local people, and explored whether these concerns were justified by examining local peoples’ wetland management practices. It has since been extended to Malawi and Zambia, where it is being integrated into food security and climate change adaptation programmes.

Dr Dixon’s research has informed field project design and subsequent policy-making amongst NGOs and government; had a direct impact on the livelihoods of project beneficiaries; and informed the broader wetlands-livelihoods policy agenda. An impact study of his work in Ethiopia, from 2009, suggested that people had experienced a significant improvement in livelihood security and wetland environmental conditions since the start of the project.