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Capacity development at multiple levels for the effective implementation of sustainable land management

How will the transition towards sustainable management of land and water resources materialize? Who will own and drive this transformation at the field, district and country level? What are the national and subnational capacities of individuals, organizations and institutions that need to be strengthened in order for implementation to succeed and how will countries be supported in this process? The thinking and practice around capacity development addresses these questions. Capacity development is defined as the process whereby individuals, organizations and society as a whole unleash, strengthen, create, adapt and maintain capacity to set and achieve their own development objectives over time. An effective capacity development approach is anchored in development effectiveness principles and reaches beyond isolated training events, technical assistance and policy support. It aims to facilitate an endogenous development process rooted in national empowerment, which contributes to more sustainable and impactful results.

In good capacity development practice, this change process can be facilitated by external factors. An example of this is the sustainable land management community actions and FFS supported by Kagera TAMP, and national and regional consultation processes. Country capacities should be developed across the individual, organizational and enabling environment, and include technical and functional capacities, using context-specific capacity development modalities. The facilitation role of a trusted convenor, such as FAO, is important to foster inclusive participation of all stakeholders, and overcome ministerial and stakeholder silos for the integration of sustainable land management as a cross-cutting issue across different government ministries. Capacity development is needed in the administration of natural resources in terms of human and financial resources, organizational strengthening and a more conducive institutional framework.

Capacities should be developed across all levels (national, subnational, local) among all stakeholders (Figure 1). The first step, anchored within a broader context and stakeholder analysis, is a detailed and facilitated capacity 'self-assessment' process among stakeholders to diagnose what and whose capacities need to be developed, determine a baseline to track progress and define appropriate capacity development modalities for improvement. These modalities may include awareness raising, dialogue, training, technical support, and coaching during the implementation of activities; establishing and facilitating multistakeholder consultations; and strengthening organizational performances.

Figure 1. The multiple levels of capacity development

(Adapted from FAO, 2017b)

Involving stakeholders throughout the capacity development process is key for enhancing ownership, commitment and understanding of local players on their role in sustainable land management; improving management and negotiation capacities of actors involved in national resource management; facilitating information sharing and creating transparent processes; and providing insights in dispute resolution and conflict management. Stakeholders should be made aware of existing mechanisms and their requirements. This is particularly important for people, local communities and indigenous peoples who are using and/or managing forests. They should be supported to claim their rights and obtain the benefits of sustainable land management. Clear capacity development results should be defined in order to track progress throughout the capacity development process.  

Establishing and facilitating effective, participatory multistakeholder processes is key to strengthening systemic capacities within countries when implementing integrated sustainable land management. Activities in this area strengthen existing institutions at all levels, build awareness and common understanding on the importance of addressing sustainable land management in a coordinated and holistic manner, and foster political will critical for implementation. At the national level it can create inter- and intra-ministerial synergies, and at the local level it can be a means to integrate sustainable land management into territorial and landscape governance. Implementing sustainable land management requires knowledge creation, increased collaboration and information sharing on all sides. A starting point in the sustainable land management planning process should be mapping of stakeholders and institutions involved in sustainable land management and natural resource management and assessing their capacity development needs. This will help orient the capacity development support and guide the review of business and coordination processes between players and institutions. To be able to work together, stakeholders should reach a common understanding of what is meant by sustainable land management and what are each other's roles and responsibilities.   

Some examples of capacity development activities include:

  • building the knowledge base in selected catchments and communities; 
  • developing training methods and materials for technical specialists and trainers to support integrated agricultural ecosystem and sustainable land management FFS approaches; 
  • organizing community awareness and training sessions on the effect of current farm practices and identifying opportunities for reducing or preventing negative impacts and generating benefits; 
  • identifying sites with the agreement of local communities for sustainable land management demonstrations; 
  • training service providers and community leaders on integrated agricultural ecosystem approaches and the benefits of agricultural biodiversity; 
  • engaging in exchange visits to share knowledge and experience among local innovators and staff in districts and technical sectors; 
  • increasing the collaboration between researchers, service providers and land users on the promotion of diversified, productive and sustainable farming systems; and 
  • raising awareness of the importance of sustainable land management for water quality supply and climate adaptation (resilience) and mitigation (e.g. carbon sequestration, reduced burning).