Strengthening the enabling environment for sustainable agriculture: Lessons from RFS country projects

A new report co-produced by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) takes a closer look at what an enabling environment for scaling sustainable land management (SLM) practices looks like on the ground in Resilient Food Systems (RFS) programme country projects.

African smallholder farmers often experience low agricultural production, further challenged by land degradation and the effects of the climate crisis. Drought, pests and disease, and low access to inputs make this an incredibly difficult cycle to break free from.

Sustainable land management (SLM) techniques are designed with rural people in mind, maximising the productive and environmental potential of the landscapes they live in.

The Resilient Food Systems (RFS) programme is working in 12 sub-Saharan African countries to achieve the co-benefits of enhancing long-term food security, while safeguarding the environment. SLM is a key tool in our toolbox, but we don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach.

SLM takes many forms, like Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA), which is at the core of RFS Eswatini, reducing post-harvest loss in RFS Nigeria, livelihood diversification in Malawi, community building in Uganda, or afforestation, reforestation and agroforestry in Tanzania. Each country project defines their contexts, consulting with rural people for the interventions that are appropriate, accessible and useful to them.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) describes SLM as:

“The use of land resources, including soils, water, animals and plants, for the production of goods to meet changing human needs, while simultaneously ensuring the long-term productive potential of these resources and the maintenance of their environmental functions”

Clearly, the environment plays a major part in food systems security, but without an enabling environment that fosters inclusive, equitable and cohesive implementation, vulnerable groups are at risk of being left behind.

Land that is truly managed sustainably takes this into account.

A new report Strengthening the enabling environment for sustainable and climate-smart land management in Africa: Country initiatives of the Resilient Food Systems programme, co-produced by FAO and World Agroforestry (ICRAF) explores best practices and lessons learned from RFS country projects in Burkina Faso, Burundi, Eswatini, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

The importance of an enabling environment can’t be stressed enough to ensure longevity of land management interventions that have sustained benefits for people and the environment.

SLM implementation occurs at the hands of diverse stakeholders such as land managers (farmers, residents, pastoralists, etc.), government administrators, the private sector and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Factors such as tenure security, capacity and relevance of the proposed interventions all influence a land manager’s interest and ability to undertake SLM on the ground.

In an example from Burkina Faso, capacity building was conducted through workshops led by the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Animal Resources and Ministry of Environment, focusing on learnings from multistakeholder dialogue and consultations, workshops, expert visits and communities of practice.

In Burundi, communities were engaged through Farmer Field Schools as the primary platform for introducing communities to new SLM practices like including contour planting with fruit trees, stabilising riverbanks with bamboo and planting homegardens.

Each of the six countries reported on their contexts, approaches and lessons learned for strengthening the enabling environment for SLM.

Here are some of the characteristics of an enabling environment for SLM underscored in the report:

  • Scaling of activities through technology and partnerships
  • Smart budgeting
  • Participatory and inclusive approach rooted in strong community organisations
  • Mainstreaming into policy that is enforced at the local level
  • Financial resources to help vulnerable communities transition to new practices
  • Commitment from administrative authorities
  • Policy-specific activity planning
  • Cross-sectoral and multiscale stakeholder engagement
  • Capacity development for all stakeholders
  • Alignment with governmental goals
  • Cross-sectoral and multi-scale integration
  • Land evaluations and suitability assessments

Read the full report:

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