Defining Balancing Conservation and Development

Ensuring that the African Great Lakes and their basins continue to effectively support both humans and the environment requires balancing development and conservation. Even well-intentioned development efforts can have adverse effects on natural resources. Industrial and urban waste, agricultural run-off and energy development pose major pollution risks. Conversion of land to agriculture degrades the land and increases sediment and nutrient runoff into the lakes. Introduction of non-native fish species may increase fisheries production, but it also eliminates important native species and destabilizes ecosystems. In sum, settlement expansion, agricultural development, road construction and energy development impact ecosystems, ecosystem services and biodiversity. Maintaining the valuable African Great Lakes requires creating an appropriate balance between development and conservation. The Balancing Conservation and Development theme focuses on developing applied research and community-based practices that support conservation and development, with an emphasis on projects related to dam construction, oil and gas exploration and extraction, aquaculture siting and large-scale agricultural development.

Why It Matters

BCD Why it Matters


Conventional agriculture poses a threat to water quality as well as conservation efforts. Sustainable agriculture enables communities to produce food and maintain the health of the lakes. 

Source: Agriculture officer Clement Mabula teaches a group of farmers sustainable agriculture methods near Lake Tanganyika in the village of Mgambo. Ami Vitale


Increasing development increases pressure on the African Great Lakes. Water use strategies can facilitate conservation and improve public health. 

Source: Hand washing station in Nkongwa near Lake Tanganyika. Ami Vitale


Development can threaten the survival of wildlife, such as the endangered national bird of Uganda, the Grey Crowned-crane. Sustainable development balances biodiversity concerns with the need for human and economic growth.

Source: Crowned cranes fly over the Busanga Plains of Kafue National Park, Zambia. Kenneth Coe

Focus Areas

African Great Lakes Inform provides resources to managers, researchers and stakeholders across the AGL region who are focused on finding and implementing projects that successfully balance conservation and development. Entities working on this theme are focused on the following:

  • Exploring how major investments such as dam construction, oil and gas extraction and aquaculture are likely to affect the sustainability of resources and livelihoods
  • Studying extractive industries and the challenges of environmental vulnerability while exploring sustainable land management, sustainable water management and community-based natural resource management
  • Applying optimal mixes of natural (e.g., wetlands, floodplains, watersheds) and created infrastructure (e.g., dams, levees, irrigation channels)
  • Exploring how governance systems can accomplish both conservation and development goals
  • Promoting sustainable land use practices
  • Developing a suite of options to support avoidance, minimization, restoration and offset approaches