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REAL - Resilience in East African Landscapes - Marie Curie ITN - FP7 2013-2017

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Resilience in East African Landscapes. Identifying critical thresholds and sustainable trajectories - past, present and future — Projet Marie Curie ITN - FP7 2013-2017

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research ; technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 606879.

Partenaires  :

Uppsala Universitet (Paul Lane, archaeologist), Stockholm Universitet (Mats Widgren, geographer & Loewe Börjeson, geographer), University of York (Rob Marchant, Palaeoecology and ecosystem modelling), University of Warwick (David Anderson, Historian), Universitaet zu Koeln (Michael Bollig, Anthropologist), Universiteit Gent (Dirk Verschuren, Liminology), IIAC (UMR 81 77 CNRS / EHESS, coord. Benoit Hazard, anthropologist).

Associated partners : 

National Museums of Kenya, African Conservation Centre (ACC) & Bayer East Africa

Site web du programme :

Project Overview

The strong temporal dynamics of the East African landscape and natural-resource distributions have always encouraged people to innovate and adapt to changing conditions. However, the realities of current social and environmental changes are occurring at unprecedented rates and amplitudes. Increasing population growth, changes in patterns of land tenure, industrialization, weak systems of governance, and global climate change have exacerbated previously localized environmental problems such as soil erosion, water depletion, loss of forests and grazing land, falling soil fertility and biodiversity. Novel approaches for resolving these challenges are thus urgently needed. Based on the premise that the past is the key to understanding the present and planning for the future, this project will establish a leading European training network devoted to combining state-of-the-art-research methods to tap into under-appreciated knowledge of how indigenous peoples have previously adapted to East Africa’s intrinsically variable climate and land/water resources.

By bringing together ecologists, archaeologists, anthropologists, geographers, historians and agronomists (Figure 1), the ITN will provide cross-disciplinary training to a new generation of researchers, enabling them to interpret data relating to past and present socio-cultural and ecological dynamics from across the environmental and social sciences and the humanities. Organized by researchers from seven European universities in partnership with private actors, the ITN will cooperate closely with academic counterparts, private-sector stakeholders, NGOs and local communities in East Africa. It will highlight how detailed awareness of the complex history of human-environment interaction in East Africa is central to well-founded and ecologically sustainable resource management. This will be useful for restoring the important functions of indigenous know-how crucial for devising development policies and climate-risk management for specific regions and train a new generation of future ecosystem-service managers, policy makers and entrepreneurs.

European Commission CORDIS summary

Project structure

The REAL ITN consists of three research work packages (WP2-4), and two cross-cutting work packages dedicated respectively to management and training (WP1), and dissemination and capacity building (WP5). The entire ITN comprises twelve Early Stage Researcher (ESR) and two Experienced Researcher (ER) projects, split between the seven research institutions. The different projects will fill knowledge and methodological gaps and embody REAL’s inter-sectoral and interdisciplinary nature. The research work packages are structured around three temporal foci : the more distant past of the last millennium (ca. Common Era [CE] 900-1930), the more recent past and present (ca. CE 1930-2012), and the future (ca. CE 2012-2100). Results are disseminated through a series of academic papers, workshops and conferences ; doctoral dissertations ; meetings and workshops with stakeholders and policy makers ; local radio programmes ; the project website and social media.

Scientific objectives

The REAL ITN Partners strongly believe that planning for the long-term sustainable use of East Africa’s fragile environments with multiple stakeholders requires a longer-term historical perspective on human-environment interactions than is currently available. The individual research projects and the network training to be undertaken as part of the REAL ITN have thus been designed to focus on the temporal, spatial and social aspects of this history. To create new synergies, the main geographical focus of the project is on the Ewaso Basin and Eastern Rift Valley in central Kenya and the Pangani Basin and Amboseli catchment in north-eastern Tanzania and south-eastern Kenya (Figure 1). These cover a range of environments, social-ecological histories and probable future trajectories and hence are ideally suited for comparative analysis and as a training environment. In particular, the strong climatic moisture-balance gradient associated with the mixed topography between the Rift Valley and adjacent uplands creates a mosaic of landscapes covering the full range of ecological and economic carrying capacity. A core consideration is on how societies, landscapes and ecosystems have responded to climate change both currently and in the past under different conditions, so as to better understand how they may respond to future climate change.

Figure 1 - Focus regions within the REAL project. 1) Laikipai and Ewaso Basin, 2) Baringo-Naivasha Basins of the Eastern Rift Valley, 3) Amboseli Basin, and 4) Kilimanjaro-Pare-Pangani Mountains.

By providing cross-disciplinary training spanning the environmental and social sciences and the humanities, the REAL ITN plans to :

 Integrate available records of past environmental change (from different sites a diverse range of indicators) to accurately document past ecosystem dynamics in East Africa. More recent ecosystem changes will be reconstructed from historical maps, aerial photographs and satellite remote-sensing data to produce high spatial and temporal reconstructions of ecosystem, land use and settlement change at the landscape scale.
_ Develop methods to extrapolate site-scale data on past ecological and environmental conditions to the landscape scale.

 Unravel the connection between ecosystems, livelihoods, conservation and climate change and use this knowledge to assess impacts on livelihoods in the vital economic sectors underpinned by ecosystem resource planning and policy (e.g. agriculture and tourism), both within the research area, and more generically across Africa.

REAL conduct multi-disciplinary research aimed at answering five key research questions in each of four study sites in East Africa. These are :

  • What magnitude and spatial pattern of natural, climate-driven ecotone change has occurred in East Africa at different temporal scales over the last ca. 1500 years ?
  • How much variability were East African social-ecological systems able to accommodate without reaching potentially crippling tipping points or thresholds ?
  • What is the temporal scale at which climate change becomes a major driving force for societal change ?
    4) At what point do changes in ecological and social boundary conditions become so significant that restructuring of society is needed ?
    5) Which past and present adaptation and mitigation practices can fruitfully inform decision-making and governance structures to result in sustainable resource use ?

List of Fellows’ individual projects

ESR/ ER Project Title Host  WP
Duration  Indicative start date
ESR 1 Settlement & economic change and continuity, c. AD 900-1750, Lake Baringo, Kenya UU 2 36 1/9/13
ESR 2 Settlement & economic change and continuity, c. AD 900-1750, Amboseli Basin, Kenya UU 2 36 1/9/13
ESR 3 Millennial scale ecosystem dynamics and societal interactions in the northern Rift Valley & Mt. Kilimanjaro region from lake sediments Gent 2 36 1/10/13
ESR 4 Millennial scale ecosystem dynamics and societal interactions in the northern Rift Valley & Mt. Kilimanjaro region from swamp sediments UY 2 36 1/10/13
ESR 5 Historical changes of the Ewaso-Laikipia region Gent 3 36 1/10/13
ESR 6 Historical changes in the wider Kilimanjaro lowlands  UW 3 36 1/10/13
ESR 7 Changing patterns of land use between town & hinterland : the expansion of horticultural industries, commoditized food production & natural resources harvesting  UCO 3 36 1/9/13
ESR 8 Recent dynamics and current trends in smallholder vs. large scale irrigation farming in the Baringo & Pangani areas  SU 3 36 1/9/13
ESR 9 Landuse and the struggle for resources in Naivasha, Baringo and the Central Rift lakes EHESS 4 36 1/9/13
ESR 10 Fragmentation of Land-Use in the Ewaso Catchment & Laikipia Plateau UCO 4 36 1/9/13
ESR 11 Smallholders investments in the “agro-ecological matrix” : the role of local dynamics vs. external forces in the Pangani and Ewaso basins SU 4 36 1/9/13
ESR 12 Developing ecosystem functional types for Eastern Africa UY 4 36 1/10/14
ER 1 Training Coordination and Management UY 1 24 1/9/13
ER 2 Dissemination & Capacity Building for Sustainable Ecosystems and Livelihoods UU 5 24 1/8/15

More about the project...

Research component at EHESS

REAL involved two researchers from the Institut Interdisciplinaire d’Anthropologie du Contemporain (UMR 81 77 CNRS/EHESS) for the research component of the project.

Dr Benoit Hazard is an Anthropologist, researcher at CNRS and is based at Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) Paris. He’s the Principal Investigator of REAL at EHESS and is co-supervising (with Jean Bernard Ouédraogo, DR CNRS) the research of Christine Adongo (ESR 9) on Land use and the struggle for resources in the Central Rift lakes. Within Real, his research held on the future of pastoral landscapes in the anthropocene by focusing on interaction between pastoralism, conservation and large scale investment in rangeland of Kenya. The social change occurring in the central rift valley is captured through the ethnography of resilience, adaptation and resistance of the margins to their inclusion in the global economy. This ethnography allow to discuss the bio cultural frontiers of pastoralism in the anthropocene by looking at how the natural resources (water, pastures, forest) on which pastoralist depend are impacted by conservation project as well as large scale investment in the rangeland such as geothermal project. This research aim to understand the role of livelihood diversification in the persistence of pastoralism and the building of news subjectivities and discuss the relation between claims for land and ethnicity.

Christine Adongo is the ESR 9 within the REAL Project based at EHESS. She is a doing a PhD in Anthropology under the direction of Prof. Jean Bernard Ouédraogo, DR CNRS and co-direction of Dr. Benoit Hazard, who is also the principal investigator of REAL at EHESS. Within Real, her research falls within Work package 4, which addresses : future scenarios (from present to 2100 AD). Her research is titled Dynamiques socio-écologiques et conflits sur les ressources dans le district de Naivasha, Kenya. It explores the adoption and implementation of a ‘green’ project — geothermal development in the greater olkaria geothermal area, which has renewed the struggle and conflict over resources in the central Rift valley. Through the study of the link between this geothermal industry and socio-ecological transition of a transect (Olkaria to mount Suswa) comprising of different ecological gradients, and occupied by a single subsection of the Maasai (Kekonyukie) ; this study seeks to understand the anxiety, processes, positions, negotiations, roles and conflict between and among the implicated stakeholders in this struggle. Within this study, I try to understand how the local Masai community have struggled to retain their ancestral lands, livelihoods and identity (resilience) while sandwiched between geothermal development presented as a form of green industry and conservation, in the face of disharmonious and duplicated public policies.

Study area of the team.



Adongo, C & Hazard, B (2015)

The steaming landscapes. REAL Magazine publication (under press).

« La géothermie : entre développement et énergie verte en Afrique de l’Est », in COP 21 Déprogrammer l’apocalypse, ss. dir. de Raymond Woessner, éditions Atlande.

Hazard Benoit 

1- « Anthropocène » in COP 21 Déprogrammer l’apocalypse, Sous la direction de Raymond Woessner, éditions Atlande.

2- « Scénario du changement climatique en Afrique de l’Est », in Cop 21. Changement climatique, impact anthropique, COP 21 Déprogrammer l’apocalypse, sous la direction de Raymond Woessner, éditions Atlande.


Hazard, B et al. Comments on Environmental Impact Assessment Study Report for the proposed 140 MW Olkaria V Geothermal Power Plant in Greater Olkaria Area in Naivasha Sub-County, Nakuru County (2014). Nature Kenya, Nairobi. Rapport pubié sous l’égide de Nature Kenya (Fichier pdf)

Communications : 


Hazard, Benoit & Paul Lane, 

How might East African landscapes Respond to Future Climate Change ? Panel REAL in Our Common Future under climate change. International Scientific Conference, UNESCO, 7-10 july, Paris, France. (programme and session abract pdf).

Adongo, Christine

a) Exploring Resilience in Socio-ecological Change ; Tribulations of a Pastoral Society by Geothermal Development Projects in the Central Rift Valley, Kenya, Journée d’étude Lectures croisés sur la résilience, 11 mai 2015, EHESS-Paris.

b) Socio-ecological implications of a green economy on pastoral landscapes in central Rift valley, Kenya in 3rd International Conference : biodiversity and food security — From Trade-offs to Synergies, October 29-31, 2014, Aix en Provence. (Poster)


Hazard, Benoit

Technology, power and conflict in a geothermal project in Central Rift Valley, Kenya in Political Ecologies of the Green Economy, NMBU, Oslo Litteraturhuset, 10-11 décembre 2014.

Training and workshop (IIAC —EHESS, Paris and IFRA, Nairobi)


* Worshop « resilience (s) ? Lectures croisées sur la résilience, Atelier de l’anthropocene & Axe environnement (IIAC, UMR 8177), May 11 2015, EHESS, Paris (PI : Benoit Hazard). (programme pdf)

* Resilience in East African Landscapes Symposium. Resilience Concepts in Comparative Disciplinary Perspective,  University of Ghent, Belgium — 17th June 2015 (programme pdf)

* Scientific video report/documentary production training. From writting to editing , 1-6 june 2015, Nairobi, Kenya, IFRA, British Institute of Eastern Africa, French Embassy Kenya, CNRS, EHESS, iiAC, IRD, REAL (PI : Benoit Hazard, Arghyro Paouri & Juliette Vivier) « Documenting socio-ecological changes on film within a research framework".

- Program (PDF)

- Results 

« Exceptional Arboretum » by Christine Adongo, Edward Lodenyo, John Mwacharo, Lydia, Wangui Kimari. Durée : 5 min. Date de production : 2015
Version(s) : Anglais

« The Allure of the Arboretum » By Adriana Blache, Annemiek Pas Schrijver, Chris de Bont, Mordecai Ogada, Nick Petek. Durée : 4 min. Date de production : 2015. Version(s) : Anglais

« The river » By Anna Shoemaker, Colin Courtney Mustaphi, Eric M. Kioko, Marie Gravesen, Durée : 4 min. Date de production : 2015. Version(s) : Anglais.


* Workshop on archival sources & historical research methods BIEA, Kenya National Archive and Nema, Nairobi, 24-25 march 2014 (PI : David Anderson, Warwick University & Benoit Hazard, CNRS).

- Program (Pdf)

- Overview of existing report at Nema library (pdf)

Network Training and workshop 


*REAL-RCR Workshop, January 8-11 Socio-ecological transitions, exchange and emergence : resilience and vulnerability in the wider Baringo basin and adjoining highlands, Global South Center, Cologne, Germany (Programme PDF).

* REAL ITN Associate partners meeting, British Institute in Eastern Africa, 20th March 2014, Nairobi, Kenya.

* REAL-AAREA-EnvIron Workshop 29th November 2014 — King’s Manor, Department of Archaeology, University of York [Link : AAREA project] [Programme] [Map]

* Nov 27-28 — University of York — Creative process and publishing workshop — The REAL project book with John Issitt

* Nov 24-26 — University of York — Transferable career skills development workshops (with the MC ITN CAPACITIE team)


* REAL kick-off meetings and project introduction, Nov 20-22 — Uppsala University, Sweden — [Schedule]




Plateforme mapping and GIS


En collaboration avec S. Robert (GGH Terre EHESS) & E. Mermet (plateforme SIG EHESS)