environment

Discussions with decision makers on Climate Smart Agriculture in Kenya

The ASB Partnership recently held roundtable discussions with decision makers in Kenya to understand how Climate Smart Agricultural (CSA) practices are designed and implemented in the country and the role of science in informing the process. About 25 stakeholders from various agricultural sectors (government, research, development partners, private sector and farmers) participated.

At the meeting, Joanes Atela, a PhD fellow with the ASB Partnership presented preliminary findings from a study on climate smart agricultural practices in Kenya. He noted that CSA practices are implicit within the Kenya’s agricultural plans and are largely designed around general practices of sustainable agriculture. “However, new innovative scientific evidence lacks in the design of CSA practices that the country aims to convey to farmers. For instance, while the policies highlight agroforestry as a key CSA, there is little evidence differentiating the various agroforestry systems into their economic and social implications for smallholder farmers who are largely expected to implement them,” he said.

Lack of this evidence makes the CSA policies appear to be contradictory to the state’s interests in mechanized and commercial agriculture that is thought to provide quick fix for food security and economic development. “CSA practices within Kenya’s policies are therefore designed with a perception that they represent ‘conservation agriculture’ with little economic value,” said Atela, “this misconception results in poor state support of CSA with major agricultural subsidies heavily directed towards established cash crops to the exclusion of smallholder farmers who produce food crops.”

He further explained that farmers experience indicates possibilities of addressing climate change impacts on agriculture through CSA. But lack of innovative details on the value of CSA to farmers makes its realization complex and subject to socio- economic, political and cultural conditions.

Discussion on the findings centred on whether Kenya’s agricultural policies should support CSA more as a form of adaptation thanParticipants engage in group discussions on climate smart agriculture in Kenya. There is need for innovative farmer-friendly CSA designs in the Kenyamitigation given the increasing vulnerability of farmers’ agricultural systems. Arguments were made on trade-offs between conservation and development, which should be considered in designing CSA. A case study of Shinyanga landscape in Tanzania, presented by Dr Lalisa Duguma, a Postdoctoral Fellow with the ASB Partnership showed that CSA practices can achieve triple wins if their designs recognize trade-offs between adaptation, mitigation and development and at the same time, considers farmers’ aspirations.

Government officials attending the meeting found the discussions informative and requested for additional presentations and discussions to inform the work of recently established climate change units in the agriculture and other state departments. Development partners such as GIZ emphasised the role of science in informing the formulation and implementation of CSA policies. Among other things, participants recommended additional methodological steps, particularly on spatial expansion of the sampling frame to give more representative farmer experience.

This engagement process was funded by Future Agricultures Consortium (www.futureagricultures.org). Future Agricultures Consortium is a multidisciplinary and independent learning alliance of academic researchers and practitioners involved in African agriculture and aims to encourage dialogue and the sharing of good practice by policy makers and opinion formers in Africa on the role of agriculture in broad based growth

Twenty years of ASB Partnership

By Elizabeth Kahurani

At the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, two recommendations made under agenda 21 to combat deforestation are of significance to the genesis of the ASB Partnership.

Here, the global community agreed to develop policies and gather efforts that would support actions to:

  1. “Limit and aim to halt destructive shifting cultivation by addressing the underlying social and ecological causes ”.
  2. “Reduce damage to forests by promoting sustainable management of areas adjacent to the forests”.

This international policy framework gave impetus to an ongoing process within the then Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) of initiating a system-wide programme on Alternatives to Slash-and-Burn (ASB) agriculture, an idea forged at the 1990 CGIAR International Science Week.

The idea developed and process continued through 1991-1993 and involved workshop discussions on feasibility of a “global, coordinated effort on ASB agriculture in tropical rainforest areas.” This was followed by discussion papers on methodological guidelines on site characterization used to determine and identify appropriate locations for the ASB benchmark sites. Initial donor support for this groundwork was through UNDP.

ASB was formally endorsed as one of the first system-wide programmes of the CGIAR in March 1994 and Phase 1 of the alternative to slash and burn project commenced. The programme was governed by a Global Steering Group comprised of representatives from twelve (12) international research institutes mainly from the CGIAR. Beyond the governance group, ASB comprised of 40 other partners spread across the tropical humid belt. Phase I of the programme was implemented through four thematic groups with support from GEF.

The book Slash and Burn Agriculture: Search for Alternatives covers the first decade of ASB work and explains that the programmeThe ASB Global Coordination Office staff together with the Global Steering Group, the main policy and decision-making body whose primary role is to provide overall governance and guidance to the ASB Partnershipprovided “rigorous science, new conceptual and empirical tools, and thoughtful policy analysis” that contributed to “identifying more sustainable land use practices and enabling policies that help conserve environmental functions of the tropical forest margins while increasing household income and food security for millions of poor people.”

Among key successes in the early years of the program include a research framework that established the basis for integrated natural resource management research of the CGIAR centers, the ASB matrix and tradeoff analysis that was taken up in government programs as a way to tackle complex problems and reconcile the interests of different stakeholders (see ASB Policy Brief 05). In addition, the program spearheaded the Tropical Forest Margins sub-global assessment (SGA), the first crosscutting SGA in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA).

“ASB has also shown how the disciplinary strengths in climate change, biodiversity, agronomy, policy reform, and adoption can be used in a balanced and positive way, with combined, mutually accepted standard methods.”

To celebrate its achievements, ASB received the CGIAR Science Award for Outstanding Partnership for its contribution towards “developing more environment-friendly farming techniques and slowing deforestation.”

Alternatives to Slash and Burn evolves into ASB Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins

Since 2008, the program has rebranded from Alternatives to Slash-and –Burn to ASB Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins and is no longer a system wide program of the CGIAR.

It is a global partnership that includes non-CGIAR partners such as National Agricultural Research Institutes and International Research Institutes with work both in and outside the CGIAR system.  However, ASB still aligns its research to contribute to and partners strongly with CGIAR institutions.

The scope of work and research mandate has also widened from reducing the threat of slash-and-burn farming systems to the world’s humid tropical forests and exploring viable and profitable land use alternatives for smallholder farmers to reducing emissions from land use change, including forestry, agriculture, while ensuring viable livelihoods and enhancing social and environmental co-benefits.

About 1000 publications have been produced under the auspices of ASB to date. This includes 300 refereed journal articles, 25 books, 100 book chapters and more than 50 policy briefs. In 2005, the External Programme review panel for ASB found that ASB publications have been well cited by specialists and relevant policy documents globally (Clarke et al 2005). Table 1.1 highlights key ASB publications.

Tools, methodologies, guidelines and resources that have seen the most number of downloads from the website and have been used to train relevant stakeholders including national government officials to date include:

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