(with particular reference to the development of the Mount Elgon Region of Uganda/Kenya/Nzoia River

"Waste in the Lake basin is a two-lane highway: flowing down into the Lake is the waste and pollution generated upstream. In the opposite
direction, leaving the basin, flows the region's wealth in different forms: exploitation of fish, and the rich gold mines in Macalder and Kitere".
Oyugi Aseto


Oyugi Aseto's working paper on the development of Lake Victoria Basin, published in 1979, is now a classic introduction to integrated regional planning. His message was that a set of integrated concepts was needed to turn the idea of planned development along the basin into action. Three decades passed and action to make Aseto's dream a reality came in 2009 when a document was produced by the World Bank: (Report No: 45313-AFR February 3, 2009) for funding, based on the strategic context and rationale of the Lake's development issues.

Lake Victoria: Issues

In 1998, the United Nations’ Environment Programme, through the Convention on Biological Diversity, at its meeting in Malawi, launched the ‘ecosystem approach’ to conservation management. From then on, ecosystem services have become the targets of international development. The Malawi conference defined the ecosystem approach as a cross-cutting process of nature conservation through four thematic areas linking ecosystems at a landscape level with culture. These themes of cultural ecology were categorised as ‘marine and coastal’, ‘inland waters’, ‘agricultural’, and ‘forests’, recognising that other themes were likely to be developed.

However the UNEP did not define the management planning system that is necessary to turn strategies into action on the ground. This is the aim of the Conservation Management System Consortium, a not for profit organisation based in the UK. It develops and markets the Conservation Management System (CMS), which is being adopted across Europe to manage nature sites to the highest professional standards.

This latest edition of the CMS planning guide takes up the idea that ecosystem services can be the deliverables of a conservation plan. The standpoint is that there is clearly a need to deal with ecosystem services as a component of the management planning process where they can be dealt with as features of a plan. To the extent that a plan maintains habitats and species in favourable condition, the ecosystem services dependent on this condition will also be maintained. These are the conclusions drawn from the UK experience of six decades of managing nature reserves. The management of nature sites for ecosystem services throws up issues only if it is decided that the maintenance of a particular service compromises the condition of a valued habitat or species. A CMS plan can define this conflict by assigning feature status to the ecosystem service and then controlling the factors that define its state. The planning process will reveal and help resolve any conflicts between objectives for wildlife and ecosystem services. This seems a perfectly logical conclusion, prompting the question, why it has taken so long for the concept of ecosystem services to enter conservation management?.

The answer surely lies in the long established philosophy in western culture of separating humanity from nature. In modern times it dominated the mindset of the early ecologists as they formulated the theoretical and practical aims of their subject and so became preoccupied in a search for ‘pristine nature’. We now understand that by the late Pleistocene, tribal survival kits based on hunting and fire had already shaped animal and plant communities across the globe. Now, there is no place on planet Earth that has not been incorporated into our plans for tapping into the ecosystems of other beings to extend our own ecological niche. Like all other species in the life or death dynamics of natural selection we are playing the survival game of cultural ecology. We are indeed part of nature in everything we do, from painting a house to managing a nature site. Our peculiar advantage is that we have foresight, which, generation to generation, enabled the social evolution of resource management to maintain the inputs of ecosystem services for bettering our lifestyles. This has produced the two ecological hallmarks of human impact on the environment, namely, simplified food webs, and landscape homogenization. Both of these principles of human survival are related to the cost-effective management of ecosystem services based on high nutrient and energy inputs into the human foodchain. This is the backdrop to the new emphasis on ecosystem services in the 2015 edition of the CMS planning guide, which, with respect to the management of wildlife, remains more or less the same.

To explore the practicalites of using the CMS logic to manage ecosystem services, the CMSC is modelling the conservation issues of the Lake Victoria Basin. This feature is being developed as a conceptual process model for education and training in making and operating management plans for ecosystem services.

The geographical contexts and the preliminary process management model are presented below

1 Lake Victoria Basin: major river catchments


Go to live mindmap

2 Mount Elgon Region: Uganda/Kenya

3 Kagera Basin


4 Nzoia Basin



5 Mara Basin

mara basin.jpg

6 Preliminary process management model