Cross-programmatic learning is a key component of the Resilient Food Systems (RFS) programme. With 12 country projects across the continent, exchange visits between projects provide an opportunity for teams operating in different contexts, but with similar goals, to compare innovative approaches and technologies, share lessons learnt, and showcase best practices.
The RFS Uganda and /country/kenya projects both work directly with smallholder farmers whose livelihoods are challenged by land degradation, reduced soil fertility, and climate variability. The RFS Uganda project ‘Fostering Sustainability and Resilience for Food Security in Karamoja’, implemented jointly by FAO and UNDP, aims to address environmental drivers of food insecurity. In neighbouring Kenya, the ‘Upper Tana Nairobi Water Fund’, implemented by The Nature Conservancy with support from IFAD, is working to improve water quality and quantity for upstream and downstream users of the Upper Tana River Basin.
In May 2019, the RFS Uganda team travelled to Kenya in order to see first-hand the technologies and approaches that the Upper Tana Nairobi Water Fund is implementing to help improve smallholder access to water for irrigation and restore degraded riverbanks.
The Upper Tana Nairobi Water Fund has focused on providing alternative sources of water to communities and farmers in order to relieve pressure on the riverbanks and maintain river buffer zones. After meeting with Kenyan authorities and discussing implementation progress with Regional Hub partners at the Programme Coordination Unit, the Uganda team visited several farmers who, through the support of the RFS Kenya project, have relocated their farms from the riverbanks and have adopted rainwater harvesting technologies to irrigate their crops.
In the Thika-Chania sub-watershed, the Uganda team met with farmer Peter Waweru, who demonstrated his use of water pan and road surface run-off for rainwater harvesting. Water pans have allowed Mr Waweru to maintain production of avocado, kale, pumpkin and potato through the dry season, creating greater income stability and allowing for the production of higher value crops, like Hass avocados.
The RFS Uganda team visited another farmer, Mr Kikamara, the owner of a commercial tree nursery in the Thika-Chania sub-watershed. The Upper Tana Nairobi Water Fund subsidised the construction of a water pan that harvests 60,000 L of rainwater, making it possible for Mr Kikamara to move his nursery from the riverbank closer to his home. The water pans have provided Mr Kikamara with a reliable source of water in the dry months. Since construction, he has increased his production to 30,000 seedlings and his nursery has been certified and registered as Kikamara Enterprises.
The Kenya team also guided the Uganda delegation to other farm sites, including Muchuguchu to observe the impact of farmland planning approaches on smallholder farms. Farmland planning is a tool used by agricultural extension staff to help smallholder farmers identify existing strength and weakness on his/her farm, propose interventions and set investment priorities. The Uganda team visited farmer Grace Baayo who was introduced to farmland planning through the RFS Kenya project. The tool helped Ms Baayo prioritise the installation of rainwater harvesting technology on her farm. The two new water pans, with a storage capacity of 200,000 m3, have enabled Ms Baayo to grow avocados, a high-value crop, and rear heifers and German Alpine goats for milk production.
The exchange visit was a valuable experience for both country project teams. The RFS Uganda team was able to learn from the many innovative practices taking place in the Upper Tana and discuss ways in which these sustainable practices could be applied in different ecological and socio-economic contexts. Significantly, the project teams were able to reflect on the connection between land conservation, food security and livelihoods. Each farmer that the Ugandan team visited provided rich case study experiences that demonstrated how conservation and land restoration interventions can catalyse income growth, livelihood stability, and improved nutritional outcomes.