Global Environment Facility’s Integrated Approach Programme on food security gains momentum

Experts meet in Nairobi to take stock on implementation

In 2017, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) launched the Integrated Approach Programme on Fostering Sustainability and Resilience for Food Security in sub-Saharan Africa, a major initiative bringing together a range of organizations and governments to improve food and nutrition security in 12 countries.

This innovative approach is facilitating the scaling-up of practices that enhance resilience for food security and generate global environmental benefits. It goes beyond traditional development ‘silos’ by promoting the integrated management of natural resources in smallholders’ agriculture, helping smallholders strengthen soil health, improve access to drought-tolerant seeds, adjust planting periods and cropping portfolios, and enhance on-farm agro-biodiversity.

Participants at the GEF Integrated Approach Programme workshop held from 8-11 May 2018 in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Susan Onyango

Almost one year into its implementation, over 100 experts, including technical partners and representatives from all 13 projects, met in Nairobi, Kenya last month to review progress and plan for Year 2 of the programme, focusing on priority areas, such as measuring impact. Also present was a group of participants from 15 African countries that are not directly involved in the programme but are interested in learning more about the integrated approach and how the targeted countries are benefitting from it. Project representatives and guest speakers highlighted how this strategy contributes to rural development aspirations in the continent.

Hon Mohammed Elmi, chief administrative secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Kenya. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Susan Onyango

Elvis Paul Tangem, coordinator of the Great Green Wall initiative at the Africa Union Commission, emphasized how the programme could be used support regional initiatives, such as Agenda 2063, the Malabo Declaration and the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, to transform the agricultural landscape and improve food security. He highlighted major challenges facing the agricultural sector, such as lack of consistent, quality data and the tendency of policy makers and development bodies to operate independently, without strong links. He then called for a stronger science-policy interface something that the programme is currently working on — as the way forward to achieving these ambitious initiatives.

Hon Mohammed Elmi, chief administrative secretary at Kenya’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry, speaking on behalf of Hon Keriako Tobiko, cabinet secretary in the same ministry, stressed the importance of sustainable management of ecosystems to enhance food security. He cited the role of the Upper Tana-Nairobi Water Fund, Kenya’s project within the Integrated Approach Programme, in the rehabilitation and protection of some of the country’s key water towers.

Implementation in action

Participants had the opportunity to visit sites of the Upper Tana-Nairobi Water Fund, where they interacted with partners and engaged farmers. Led by The Nature Conservancy, this project is improving water quality for millions of consumers both within the catchment and the country’s capital city, Nairobi. It is, for instance, reducing sediments going into the Masinga Dam, a power-generation site, while improving the well-being of farmers in the catchment area through agroforestry, water harvesting and soil erosion control.

Julius Irungu and his wife next to their farm ponds. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/ Susan Onyango

Julius Irungu, 53, has been farming in Muranga County full-time since 2004, when he left his job as a security guard. He grows bananas, arrowroot, tomatoes, mangoes and, occasionally, maize and beans on his 1.5-acre farm. He has access to two existing dams but thought he could be better off collecting more rain water. When the road passing next to his farm was being constructed, he found out that he could harvest the rainwater run-off to ensure that he would have adequate water even during the dry season. Julius is encouraging his neighbours to adopt water pans to increase their yields. He also hopes to generate more income to enable him buy more land to expand his farm.

Peer learning and the hub approach: strengthening collaboration across partner agencies and countries

Country teams had several opportunities to exchange knowledge and share experience among themselves and with technical partners in the course of the field trip, as well as during group exercises. The meeting also included dedicated training sessions on payments and other incentives for ecosystem services, and on data visualization for monitoring project impacts.

Meeting participants view a farm pond in Ndakaini, Muranga County. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Ake Mamo

“We have created an additional space where the countries together with the agencies can talk to each other. The country projects maintain the GEF principle of project by project, and the Hub Project creates that glue that allows countries to learn from each other, talk to each other, then connect as a whole, to what else is happening on the continent. That way, the transformation we are seeking from an environmental perspective is put in a broader context of Africa’s agricultural transformation,” said Mohammed Bakarr, lead environment specialist with the GEF.

Tracking impact

Meeting participants were exposed to a range of tools to be used to monitor resilience in the programme, including the Multi-dimensional Poverty Assessment Tool(MPAT), Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index(WEIA); the Resilience Atlas; Vital Signs; Resilience, Adaptation Pathways and Transformation Assessment(RAPTA); Self-evaluation and Holistic Assessment of climate Resilience of farmers and Pastoralists(SHARP); Diversity Assessment Tool for Agrobiodiversity and Resilience(DATAR); Earth Observation for Sustainable Development (EO4SD; and the Land Degradation Surveillance Framework(LDSF). They also discussed several options of indicators to improve the monitoring and assessment of resilience aspects of food security at regional level..

Tor-Gunnar Vagen of the World Agroforestry Centre explains the Land Degradation Surveillance Framework. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/ICRAF


“Monitoring and assessment tools to be used in the project were well explained,” said Bryson Msiska of the Programme for Rural Irrigation Development in Malawi. “Networking with the service providers of the tools was probably the most useful part of it.

Gender monitoring and mainstreaming

As highlighted by the GEF in its new policy on gender equality, gender inequality and social exclusion exacerbate the negative effects of environmental degradation on women and girls. Ana Maria Paez Valencia of the World Agroforestry Centre and Ilaria Firmian of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) presented guidelines to monitor gender outcomes and integration across the Integrated Approach Programme. Coming into force in July 2018, the GEF gender policy introduces a clearer focus on results, including requirements for project- and programme-level monitoring and reporting on gender.

Hajia Salamatu Garba, Women Farmers Advancement Network of Nigeria, leads a discussion on gender integration. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Susan onyango

“I have learnt about the importance of mainstreaming gender, which tallies with my idea that you cannot run on one leg and win the race,” said Hajia Salamatu Garba, founder of the Women Farmers Advancement Network of Nigeria. “As a result, we must have inclusion in the project to achieve the desired goals as they fit into the respective Sustainable Development Goals.”

Reflections on the meeting

“What stood out during the small group discussions was that several projects have a lot of shared potential as they are geared towards achieving similar results around social and economic benefits: livelihood improvement with environmental aspects”, said Lynn Kota of eSwatini (Swaziland).

“Despite the challenges, we aim to create business models that can make money, be inclusive, be environmentally sustainable and resilient,” said Tomas Sales, manager of the African Facility for Inclusive Markets with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). “This is the business of the 21st century for Africa.”

“Through this programme, we can demonstrate an integrated approach to food security while conserving the environment,” said Eric Patrick, adaptation specialist at IFAD. He commended participants for their high levels of interest and engagement, eagerness to apply and willingness to learn from each other.

Participants at the closing session of the workshop. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Susan Onyango

Also read

GEF-funded programme on resilience food security targets smallholder farmers in 12 African countries

About the Integrated Approach Programme on Fostering Sustainability and Resilience for Food Security

Financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the 5-year, USD 116 million programme is designed to promote sustainability and resilience among smallholder farmers through the sustainable management of natural resources – land, water, soils and genetic resources – that are crucial for food and nutrition security. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is the lead agency with the Programme Coordination Unit hosted by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Nairobi. FAO, UN Environment, UNDP, Conservation International, World Bank, UNIDO, AGRA and Bioversity International are all involved.


The World Agroforestry Centre is one of the 15 members of the CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future. We thank all donors who support research in development through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund

Susan Onyango

Susan Onyango is the Global Communications Coordinator at the World Agroforestry Centre and is based at the headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. With over 15 year’s experience in communication, she ensures efficient and effective coordination of communication support to units and regions at ICRAF. She joined ICRAF in 2014 as communications specialist for the Climate Change Unit. Susan holds a MA communication studies and a BA in English. Twitter: @susanonyango

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