Comprehensive planning of natural resources: present situation and factors to consider
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Problems of the ecology, conservation, management and utilisation of a nation's renewable natural resources deserve a high priority in scientific, social and economic planning. Using examples from Kenya and other parts of Eastern Africa, the value of various renewable natural resources is described as well as the threats to which they are subject. The importance of a coordinated approach to scientific research, management of the environment and national policy making is stressed. Planning should start with comprehensive land use surveys. National parks and reserves are also important, not only because they constitute wise land use in themselves, but because they provide a basis for comparison with regions which have been modified by man. These national parks and reserves should be located according to ecological criteria in order to create a network of representative ecosystems, biomes and habitats. The most basic factor causing environmental stress is the rapid growth of the human population. In Eastern Africa, this leads to stress on marginal grasslands by overstocking and inappropriate cultivation. It is suggested that wild animals could provide more protein for human diets without causing the same stress to the environment as domestic species. The importance of assuring continued genetic diversity is also emphasised. An even more serious consequence of the accelerating population growth is the increasing destruction of the remaining forests, particularly on mountains and hilly slopes, because forests are a key element as retainers of watersheds for vast areas and of soil stability. Finally, it is suggested that developing countries should formulate scientifically-based conservation, management and utilisation plans for all renewable natural resources, taking into account the importance of the vegetation cover for the maintenance of the water regime, the productivity of soils and the habitat requirements of wild animals, with particular attention to the control of bush fires in rangelands and forests, clearing for cultivation, forest destruction and control of livestock numbers.