A global agricultural research-for-development partnership against desertification

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Oasis’ strategy is described in more detail in two attached documents. The ‘Research Lessons and Opportunities’ paper (51 pages, over 200 references) provides a global overview of the topic. The 5-page Oasis Concept Note gives in brief the rationale for Oasis, more description of the KStreams, and how Oasis will be implemented if approved to become a Challenge Programme.

Oasis’ strategy is briefly summed up by its motto, ‘Building Lives, Saving Lands.’ This motto reflects Oasis’ recognition that land users must find more prosperous yet sustainable livelihoods if dryland degradation is to be halted. It is not enough to simply address narrow biophysical or institutional problems in isolation of other factors that simultaneously affect how people survive from the land. Research is needed to open new opportunities that reward land-users for better land care.

Based on initial discussions, the following five areas, which we call ‘Knowledge Streams’ or KStreams for short, are proposed for emphasis:

KStream 1. Understanding and assessing human-induced degradation of dryland agricultural and natural ecosystems

KStream 2. Improving dryland landscape, soil, water, nutrient and biodiversity management

KStream 3. Improving dryland policy, market, and institutional options to combat desertification

KStream 4. Development pathways and livelihood options that lead to more sustainable, diverse, remunerative, and resilient dryland management

KStream 5. Improving co-learning by linking sources of local and scientific knowledge in the drylands

Oasis is confident that by integrating environmental considerations into agricultural research, and taking holistic approaches that include land-user and community motivations and knowledge resources, innovative win-win solutions can be found that benefit both people and the environment. This is called the 'integrated ecosystem approach', derived from the ecosystem approach pioneered by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD 2004).

Integrated Ecosystem Approach
The Table below (evolved from the concepts of White et. al. 2002) illustrates some ways in which this integrated ecosystem approach is distinguishable from conventional agricultural research approaches.

Conventional versus the integrated ecosystem approach





Conventional Approach


Integrated Ecosystem Approach


Natural ecosystems seen as input suppliers (land, fertility etc.) for current or future commodity production

Natural and managed ecosystems viewed as part of one interdependent whole, providing a wide range of goods and services


A few commodities or products

A wide array of both managed and natural goods and services


Maximize yield, production, and net present value by intensifying the use of land, labor, and capital

Optimize total ecosystem goods and services output over time


Reductionist: high-resolution measurement of a small number of factors

System-oriented, including both quantitative and qualitative assessments with close attention to interactions, flows, asset balances, tradeoffs

Approach to diversity

Reduce diversity for more predictable results, more targeted interventions, and greater economies of scale

Take advantage of diversity to exploit niche potential, meet a wider range of needs, preserve future options, and reduce total system risk

Scales of work

Political and ownership boundaries

Ecosystem and landscape, societal plus biophysical

Role of science

Applied science focused on biophysical resources, geared towards simple one-size-fits-all technology solutions

Combine biophysical with social and policy analysis, create prototypes to be customized differently in different locations


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