Scaling Up Sustainable Land Management
A new handbook on scaling up sustainable land management practices is now available online. The 45-page how-to guide is aimed primarily at the densely populated East African highlands, where the best practices garnered from the African Highlands Initiative—a project implemented by World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and partners—are being spread through ‘Innovation Platforms.’
The ‘Innovation Platforms’ approach is hinged on creating forums that facilitate interaction and learning among stakeholders with a common challenge—in the current case land degradation. This interaction and joint learning helps foster buy-in as communities move towards a more sustainable model of land management.
Sustainable land management is defined by FAO as “a knowledge-based procedure promoting the adoption of land use systems that, through appropriate management practices, enable land use to maximize the economic and social benefits from the land while maintaining or enhancing the ecological support functions of land resources.”
This type of land management is particular crucial for the densely populated, erosion-prone highland areas of East Africa, where, according to ICRAF natural resource management specialist and the publication’s lead author Joy Tukahirwa, upland degradation is keenly felt downstream on both land and in watersheds.
Beautifully illustrated in colour by Grace Bithum Pacutho, the handbook seeks to “harness the joint efforts of all stakeholders to lead to participatory diagnosis of problems, joint exploration of opportunities and investigation of solutions, leading to promotion and harnessing innovation.”
The book uses analogies drawn from farming to describe the four phases of establishing functional innovation platforms:
- Preparing the ground: Composing a facilitaton team with a clear vision and the commitment of all stakeholders;
- Sowing the seed: Building innovation capacity under the shared vision, and training;
- Tending the growing plants: Nourishing ideas, actions; and
- Harvesting: Gathering outcomes, reflecting, and institutionalizing the Innovation Platform for sustainability.
“Sustainable land management is key to maintaining the productivity and ecological integrity of agricultural and other landscapes,” says Tukahirwa.
Besides the African Highlands Initiative, the handbook benefits from lessons from the project: “Going to Scale: Enhancing the Adaptive Management Capacities of Rural Communities for Sustainable Land Management in the Highlands of Eastern Africa”. Similar to the African Highlands Initiative, this four-year project is funded by the International Development Research Center (IDRC) and implemented by ICRAF, ASARECA, EIAR– Ethiopia, NARO – Uganda and the local governments of Dendi and Were Jarso districts in Ethiopia, and those of Kapchorwa, Bukwo and Kween districts in Uganda.