Implementation of a socio-ecological system navigation approach to human development in Sub-Saharan African communities

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  • Gianni Gilioli
    Department of Molecular and Translational Medicine, Medical School, University of Brescia, Italy.
  • Anna Maria Caroli
    Department of Molecular and Translational Medicine, Medical School, University of Brescia, Italy.
  • Getachew Tikubet
    African Bioeconomy Capacity Development Institute, BioEconomy Africa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
  • Hans R. Herren
    Millennium Institute, Washington, DC, United States.
  • Johann Baumgärtner
    Millennium Institute, Washington, DC, United States.


This paper presents a framework for the development of socio-eco- logical systems towards enhanced sustainability. Emphasis is given to the dynamic properties of complex, adaptive social-ecological systems, their structure and to the fundamental role of agriculture. The tangible components that meet the needs of specific projects executed in Kenya and Ethiopia encompass project objectives, innovation, facilitation, continuous recording and analyses of monitoring data, that allow adaptive management and system navigation. Two case studies deal with system navigation through the mitigation of key constraints; they aim to improve human health thanks to anopheline malaria vectors control in Nyabondo (Kenya), and to improve cattle health through tsetse control and antitrypanosomal drug administration to cattle in Luke (Ethiopia). The second case deals with a socio-ecological navigation system to enhance sustainability, establishing a periurban diversified enterprise in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) and developing a rural sustainable social-ecological system in Luke (Ethiopia). The project procedures are briefly described here and their outcomes are analysed in relation to the stated objectives. The methodology for human and cattle disease vector control were easier to implement than the navigation of social-ecological systems towards sustainability enhancement. The achievements considerably differed between key constraints removal and sustainability enhancement projects. Some recommendations are made to rationalise human and cattle health improvement efforts and to smoothen the road towards enhanced sustainability: i) technology system implementation should be carried out through an innovation system; ii) transparent monitoring information should be continuously acquired and evaluated for assessing the state of the system in relation to stated objectives for (a) improving the insight into the systems behaviour and (b) rationalizing decision support; iii) the different views of all stakeholders should be reconciled in a pragmatic approach to social-ecological system management.

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