Rio conventions pavilion event: Informing future engagement for scaling up sustainable land management in Sub-Saharan Africa – Lessons from the Strategic Investment Programme (SIP).
Launched in 2008, the Strategic Investment Program (SIP) for Sustainable Land Management (SLM) was the first high profile engagement on the global issue of land degradation in Sub-Saharan Africa. SIP was designed to address the multiple factors of land degradation and weaknesses of earlier approaches, while building on aid harmonization principles. Support has focused on on-the-ground activities for SLM scale-up, creating an enabling environment for SLM at all levels (i.e. inter-sector approach and policy), strengthening advisory services, and supporting knowledge management and M&E. It has been implemented by 26 countries through 36 projects (including regional projects), with over $1bn financing in total, of which $150M from GEF, and the support of 6 multilateral agencies in collaboration with NEPAD and Regional Economic Communities.
SIP is now ending. This experience hence provides fertile ground for drawing key lessons from actual experiences to inform future engagement by all partners. In that perspective, the preliminary lessons from a TerrAfrica stocktaking study undertaken by FAO can now be shared and discussed.
Here are selected findings.
On SLM promotion/advocacy,
The program has improved the understanding of land degradation issues and SLM in SSA and was instrumental in making the case of the importance of addressing and degradation and SLM in many SSA countries. This has enabled them to program resources from different donors including GEF for new and additional SLM related investments beyond the SIP (e.g. in Ethiopia, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Senegal).
However, the low level of involvement by regional organizations, the media, learning and teaching organizations is of concern, as is the low involvement of national policy makers and development agencies.
On scaling up SLM practices,
The SIP projects have confirmed the existence of many effective, context adaptable technologies with multiple economic and environmental benefits, and vehicles for training and sharing farmer expertise (e.g. farmers’ own experimentation process). There is often no need to reinvent the wheel. Projects have as well confirmed the importance of governance, participative processes, land tenure rights/uses, reinforcement of capacities, and local institutions (farmer organizations) in promoting change at scale.
On outcome sustainability,
While maintaining lasting outcomes beyond projects remains a challenge in most cases, the most promising lessons on transforming the landscape at scale over time emerge from sequences of projects over 10 years or more (Tigray in Ethiopia, Maradi in Niger). At local level, the role of farmer organizations and stakeholder platforms seems key. At a sub-regional level, the Terrafrica platform has been anchored into NEPAD and would need to link up better with the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP).
On knowledge management,
Linking between projects and countries, for knowledge sharing in particular, was considered an important aspect of SIP design. And indeed, despite challenges in organizing these, the few multi-country projects that have supported exchanges between projects across the program have shown how valuable these are.
Also, while a number of technical/methodological guidelines have been developed under different initiatives including Terrafrica, there is a need to improve their use by operation managers, planners, and end users.
On Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) systems,
Keep them manageable! Many projects had M&E plans that were too complicated. Instead, as shown by other SIP projects, a realistic programme M&E scheme should be built based on the TerrAfrica key indicators, i.e. Nr. of land users adopting SLM practices, Nr. of direct project beneficiaries, SLM area, NDVI, and changes in major crop yields. Projects have also shown that a large part of the scheme should be community participatory monitoring.
On strengthening monitoring systems on global environmental benefits,
Many projects claimed multiple global environment benefits, but all of them had difficulties to measure them. While strengthening capacity of project teams for scientific monitoring/assessment remains a priority, challenges need to be addressed beyond the project level, e.g.: Developing assessment tools and practice at the landscape levels to understand the cumulative effects of multiple interventions; measuring long-term ecological changes beyond project timeframe; empowering related national or regional excellence centers; defining a minimum set of comparable indicators and methods at broader level; appraising the feasibility of large scale monitoring of SLM and LD in SSA.
On policy development,
Many projects were designed to include policy development. While project teams can work with national teams to draft revisions of, or new policies and legislation, frequently these draft have not been enacted within the project period. This appears to be a noble aim, projects should not be held to such targets.
Finally, on planning, coordination, and financing,
Country Strategic Investment Frameworks (CSIFs) have shown to be useful for cross-sector planning and aid coordination, and are expected to become essential tools. However, cross-sector work and mainstreaming SLM into sector policies have proved to be challenging at the level of individual projects, in particular between Ministries. Stronger emphasis on integrated landscape management is expected to contribute to addressing this issue in the future.