We live in a time of confusing uncertainties. The world seems to be changing at an ever faster pace. Nothing, it appears, can be taken for granted anymore. Everything – from politics to the economy to the environment and the climate – appears to be in flux, and the outcomes unpredictable. Among those uncertainties are current social and environmental changes that are occurring at unprecedented rates and amplitudes. Not only global climate change, but also increasing population growth, changes in patterns of land tenure, industrialization and weak systems of governance have exacerbated previously localized environmental problems such as soil erosion, water depletion, loss of forests and grazing land as well as falling soil fertility and biodiversity in many parts of the world.
In East Africa, as in many other places, these processes have affected societies in diverse ways, threatening food security, altering land use strategies and social relations, spurring population movements and fueling identity politics. Novel approaches to resolve these challenges are urgently needed.
While seeing these changes happening everywhere, we struggle to comprehend their causes, contexts and consequences.
How can we understand the interlocking environmental and social changes that have been occurring in Kenya and Tanzania ? How can we get a better idea of the challenges ecosystems and societies have been confronted with ? How can we grasp under what circumstances social and ecological systems were resilient, able to accommodate changes ?
This web documentary focuses on attempts at answering these questions. It showcases the diverse methods applied by researchers on the ground in East Africa. Short films takes us closer, offering insights into how social and environmental transformations are explored empirically, helping us untangle the complexities.
The web documentary presents research conducted by the REAL (Resilience in East African Landscapes) project. REAL is a Marie Curie Actions Innovative Training Network (ITN), funded by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme. Based on the premise that the past is the key to understanding the present and planning for the future, we focus on the temporal, spatial and social dynamics of human-environment interactions in East Africa over the last millennium. Our aim is to provide a long-term historical perspective on such interactions to enable sustainable use of East Africa’s fragile environments and resources. By bringing together archaeologists, anthropologists, ecologists, geographers and historians, we provide cross-disciplinary training to a new generation of researchers.