BIORegMeru - A Pilot Project for Sustainable Development in Meru (Kenya)
BIORegMeru is an acronym for a pilot development project based on a bioregional approach to sustainable development. The new strategy developed at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany is planned to be implemented as a pilot project in Meru District of Kenya by the university’s Sustainable Development Group based in the Faculty of Biology and Geography. The implementation will be supported by the Programme for Academic Cooperation and Transfer (PACT), currently being designed to be run between the University of Duisburg–Essen and the corresponding institutions in Kenya. PACT, will, among others, serve as a long term back up for the bioregional approach to sustainable development in providing for the manpower development, research and planning programmes and basing these on technical, educational and scientific expert advice in order to support the active participation of the local residents.
BIORegMeru development strategy aims at integrating the ecology and resource conservation of a bioregion with the socio-cultural and economical developments therein. A bioregion is defined as a geographical area scientifically delineated using its nested natural ecosystems and landforms and characterised by its unique flora, fauna, its socioeconomic activities and the culture and history of its human populations. The bioregional strategy is developed on the understanding that the gravity of the growing poverty, that devastates Africa today, is likely to be compounded in the future driven by the diminishing ecological resources and the emerging socio-cultural and environmental conflicts. The dispersal, into the urban areas and across international boarders, of those emerging problems is also likely to accelerate during this century if these trends are not reversed.
The Bioregional strategy emphasises that ecosystem health is a prerequisite to sustainable development. By bringing together research and development experts from developed and developing countries, we hope to equip the resident population of the bioregions with the necessary know-how and tools to effectively respond to the environmental, cultural and social-economical problems and to initiate a culture of sustainable development activities in the bioregion.
In Africa “[…] nature conservation is one of the most important instruments in the fight against poverty in Africa [...]. This is particularly the case because nature and its resources are the main sources of income for the majority of the poverty stricken rural populations in the continent” (TOEPFER 2003, recommendation letter for the BIORegMeru project). To avoid the past mistakes responsible for the current landscape fragmentation and destruction of the cultural ties between the people and their environment, implementation of the BIORegMeru strategy will be based on, a) extensive multidisciplinary research on the natural, social and economical aspects of the bioregion including the nexus between those aspects that may be responsible for the bioregion’s status quo, b) integration of cultural and the social knowledge and values of the population, and c) participation of the local residents in research, plan development and plan implementation.
In so doing, it is our hope that the BIORegMeru strategy will respond to the UNEP Executive Director, Prof. Dr. Klaus Toepfer’s call, that “[…] we have all the resources, both financial and technological, to build Africa and the lives of its citizens and to conserve its astonishing biological richness and diversity” (UNEP 2002).