CETRAD research activities are conducted within the framework of four major thrusts:
Thrust 1: Strategies for Sustainable Development
This is an overarching thrust that deals with strategies for sustainable development cutting across the other three key thrusts of Land Use Planning, Natural Resources Management and Non-farm/Non-pastoral economic activities. This thrust addresses also other cross-cutting issues relevant to ASAL development such as Participatory Methodologies and Approaches, Resource Assessment and Planning Tools, Gender, Governance, Drought management, Conflict transformation, Food security, Vulnerability and HIV/AIDS, among others.
Thrust 2: Land Use Planning for sustained livelihood and Optimal Resource Use
Land Use Planning for sustained livelihood requires, among other aspects, determination of quantities, quality and geographical distributions of resources, pressures exerted on resources, current and potential products that can be extracted, natural rate of renewal of resources and land tenure systems. The challenges undermining land use planning in the ASALs are among others, national, tribal and administrative/political boundaries (which do not help to define appropriate spatial planning units for achieving the required optimisation of resource inputs on the basis of needs, but instead, more often than not tend to encourage distribution of resources based on special interests and political representation); increased conflicts among land users (pastoralists, agro-pastoralists, ranchers and wildlife conservationists); highly dynamic and unclearly defined resources access regimes; breakdown of natural systems maintaining ecological balance, and lack of policies that adequately address the felt needs of the local communities.
CETRAD supports programmes that empower planners and change agents, including the ASAL population to access available technologies through research, training and information dissemination activities that help to a) prepare ASAL communities for the inevitable changes in their livelihood systems, b) integrate indigenous technical and social knowledge with scientific knowledge in the design of technologies intended to promote sustainable land use systems and; c) improve linkages between ASALs livelihood systems and other relevant aspects of the national economy.
Strategies that facilitate CETRAD to address its core business in promoting sustainable land use planning are to:
1. Consolidate and add value to existing databases on ASALs resources and existing capacities to support sustainable livelihood systems;
2. Compile and analyse case studies that demonstrate causes of success and failures of land use practices, development projects and systems in ASALs;
3. Develop through research and promote integrated approaches to land use planning and development;
4. Improve capacities for initiating and sustaining integrated approach to land use planning through well targeted academic, managerial and vocational training programmes;
5. Facilitate access to integrated land use data sets, and information for land use planning agencies and various categories of land users and advisors;
6. Improve the understanding and appreciation of the guiding principles for allocation and sustainable use of land resources.
Thrust 3: Promotion of Sustainable Resource use and Management for Improved Productivity
The root causes of development crisis in ASALs are related to climatic and ecological factors, and demographic changes as well as inappropriate development policies (which are inconsistent with the social aspirations of ASALs communities). These have lead to poor integration of ASALs in national planning agenda, inappropriate natural resources utilisation strategies and technologies and recurrent resource use conflicts, poorly defined and continuously changing tenure regimes for natural resource use, especially in the arid zones, and unplanned settlements in extreme marginal conditions introducing incompatible land use systems, among others. CETRAD strategic role in promoting sustainable resource use and management for improved productivity is pursued through the following programmatic entry points:
1. Integrated natural resources management research and application, targeting especially water, soils, and forestry resources
2. Integrated river basin management
3. Soil and water conservation
4. Rangelands rehabilitation and management
5. Biodiversity conservation
6. Participatory methodologies for natural resources monitoring, mapping and assessment (PRA, L4S, SDA, GIS, RS etc)
7. Resource use conflict management
8. Policy intervention, dialogue and advocacy
9. Training and institutional capacity building in relevant fields
Thrust 4: Non-farm/Non-pastoral Economic Development, Infrastructure and Services
The programmatic thrust in the non-farm/non-pastoral economic development, infrastructure and service in ASALs is imperative in forging for their (ASALs) sustainable development. Sustainable development of ASALs is usually constrained by the quality of existing human resources and the level of investment in various productive sectors. The diversification of rural livelihoods is heavily dependent on natural resources. ASALs development strategies that will promote non-farm/non-pastoral livelihoods will require significant investment in alternative economic development opportunities which is inclusive of the physical and non-physical infrastructure and strategic support of the service sector. CETRAD contributes to the national, regional and local strategies that promote alternative livelihoods that are not directly livestock-based, agriculture-based or extractive natural resource-based. Some of the areas CETRAD explores in this thrust include apiculture, Institutional and Community capacity building for sustainable Bio-enterprise development in rumuruti: basket weaving, carpet making, rope weaving. Small Scale Processing and Micro-enterprises in the informal (jua kali) sector: carpentry, metal fabrication, tailoring and dress making, shoe repair and making etc, commercial gum harvesting and marketing etc.
In addition, CETRAD supports research on the regional towns and local trading centres as nodes of rural development. Informed investment and development of these central places will not only help to reduce pressure on natural resources but will also help the blossoming of the local and regional economy, thereby strengthening rural-urban balance and enhancing rural livelihoods. CETRAD therefore provides the required scientific backstopping in the development and implementation of appropriate strategies, through research that inform on the productive linkages and interactive relationship between the agricultural sector and other sectors in the rural areas, and between the rural areas (hinterlands) and the local service and market centres.