Improving human well-being is at the core of sustainable development efforts in Africa. Environmental goods-and- services, including supporting services such as soil formation, provisioning services such as wood, regulating services such as water purification, and cultural services provide important opportunities for meeting human development goals (MA 2005a).

Human well-being is multidimensional. It is the ability of all people to determine and meet their needs and to have a range of choices and opportunities to fulfil their potential (Prescott-Allen 2001). It includes tackling a diverse range of challenges – environmental, social and economic – and widening the options available to people to make a living and to participate actively in society. Sustainable livelihoods that guarantee access and entitlement to a range of assets and opportunities are essential to achieving human well-being. Such livelihoods are not limited to, for example, a particular level of income, paid labour or ability to meet household food security, but must include opportunities for investment and business, national economic stability and reliable and accountable governance systems.

Figure 5: Sustainable livelihoods framework A livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets (including natural, social, human, physical and financial) and activities required for a means of living. A livelihood is sustainable when it can cope with and recover from stresses and shocks, maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets, while not undermining the natural resource base (Scoones 1998). Figure 5 depicts the livelihood framework, illustrating the linkages between the various livelihood aspects.

Environmental and economic changes can introduce vulnerabilities to human well-being and undercut opportunities for development. Improved human well- being is critical to increasing the range of options, choices and responses people are able to make to mitigate and adapt to such changes.

Coping mechanisms, in poor communities, often include intensification of existing productive activity, diversification by adopting additional productive activities and migration to develop productive activity elsewhere.

Figure 6: Total economic value Income and services derived from environmental resources, including land, forests and woodlands, freshwater and wetlands, coastal and marine resources, and wildlife (flora and fauna) are central to the livelihoods of many rural people and to Africa’s economy as a whole. People derive multiple values from natural resources, including use and non-use values. Option values may include use and non-use aspects, and refer to the value placed on the resource as an option for further use. Existence value refers to the benefits derived from knowing the resource exists, such values often being associated with religious and cultural meaning. Bequest value is the value placed on being able to pass natural resource assets onto future generations. These values are reflected in Figure 6.

Poor people have not been able to effectively capture the full benefits associated with the use of natural resources. This is partly because resources are used primarily for subsistence and value-adding and marketing is neglected. Maximizing the opportunities requires moving beyond a subsistence framework which focuses on minimum or basic needs, to using the available resource in an efficient, equitable, productive and sustainable manner. Increasingly, livelihood approaches have focused on how this resource can be used as an asset for improved human well-being and promoting development. Options for increased investment, employment creation in processing, trade and related services, and small and micronatural resources-based entrepreneurship are increasingly considered. The commercialization of wild resources offers important opportunities for improving income and other aspects of well-being. Widening the options for poor people requires promoting opportunities for them to capture a greater share of the value generated through, among other things, better market access, less bureaucratic restraints on trade and better access to capital and other resources. Achieving better opportunities requires complementary policy development in other areas including good governance, tenure regimes and global trade.

Box 2: Natural resources as key assets
Box 2: Natural resources as key assets
Arable land is an important asset, as most people in Africa rely on agriculture directly and indirectly for their well-being. Agriculture contributes more than 50 per cent to most African countries’ economies, and in most countries is the basis for at least 70 per cent of livelihoods, whether through employment, income generation or subsistence food production (WRI and others 2005).
   Forests provide a wide variety of highly valuable ecological, economic and social services, including: the conservation of biological diversity; carbon storage; soil and water conservation; and provision of employment, enhanced livelihoods and agricultural production systems (FAO 1999). Important non-timber forest products include edible products (such as mushrooms, wild fruits, wild vegetables, bushmeat and bee products) and livestock fodder, as well as goods-and-services (FAO 2005). Medicinal plants used in traditional medicine may be collected directly by the user or the traditional healers, while some are obtained through local markets. There is a growing export market for NTFPs as ingredients for other products, as unprocessed or processed materials.

Number of fish species:24
Number of fish endemics: 7
Number of amphibian species: 42
Number of Ramsar sites: 2
Number of wetland-dependent IBAs: 7
Number of endemic bird areas: 2
Per cent protected area: 4.7

   Wetlands have a multiplicity of benefits for people living in and outside their proximity. They are most important for dry season farming and grazing, inland fisheries, and regulation of stream flows and floods and in treating effluents. These uses of wetlands provide an effective strategy for risk diversification. Other values include fishing, crop cultivation, livestock grazing, grass for domestic use, natural products and medicine, water treatment and purification.

Sources: WRI and others 2005, FAO 1999, FAO 2005

Table 2: Wetland economic values in selected African countries
Table 2: Wetland economic values in selected African countries

The Zambezi basin is one of Africa’s most productive freshwater resources.


Wetland Goods or Service Economic Values per Wetland (2002 US$/yr*1000) Wetland
1 Crop cultivation/Agriculture 59.8 Nakivubo
  10 652.6 Hadejia-Jama
  1 293.8 Lake Chilwa
  49 655.2 Zambezi Basin
2 Papyrus harvesting 9.5 Nakivubo
3 Fuelwood 1 601.7 Hadejia-Jama
4 Doum Palm 130.2 Hadejia-Jama
5 Potash 0.89 Hadejia-Jama
6 Vegetation (reeds, bamboo, grass) 13.5 Lake Chilwa
7 Brick-making 17.4 Nakivubo
8 Fishing 3 465.1 Hadejia-Jama
  18 675.5 Lake Chilwa
  78 620.7 Zambezi Basin
9 Fish farming 3.3 Nakivubo
10 Grassland/Livestock farming 638.0 Lake Chilwa
  70 620.7 Zambezi Basin
11 Water treatment and purification 968.9 Nakivubo
12 Water transport 435.7 Lake Chilwa
13 Wildlife services and goods –1 144.8 Zambezi Basin
14 Ecotourism 813.8 Zambezi Basin
15 Biodiversity 67.6 Zambezi Basin
16 Natural products and medicine 2 620.7 Zambezi Basin

Source: Schuijt 2002