FAO and the GEF

Partnering for Sustainable Agriculture and the Environment

Transboundary agro-ecosystem management programme for the Kagera River Basin

The Kagera River Basin, shared by Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, supports the livelihoods of 16.5 million people. The conservation of the flow regime is essential for maintaining the water levels of Lake Victoria and outflow to the Nile, while the wetland areas are vital to sustain water quality. However, the basin’s land and freshwater resource base are threatened by land degradation, declining productive capacity of croplands and rangelands, deforestation, and encroachment into wetlands. These factors represent major challenges to smallholder farmers in the region and across subSaharan Africa, who rely on the basin’s ecosystem services to grow crops, tend to their livestock, and supplement their diet through fishing. These challenges are driving migration, which can fuel tensions and threaten the wider peace and stability in the region.

About the project

The Transboundary Agro-ecosystem Management Project for the Kagera River Basin (Kagera TAMP) sought to curb land degradation and its negative impacts by supporting the adoption of an integrated ecosystems approach for the management of land resources to generate local, national and global benefits.

Good practices for the project's success 

Establish farmer field schools (FFS) to enhance knowledge and build capacity

FFSs were a cornerstone of the project and a key element behind its success. Under Kagera TAMP, FFSs were adopted as the primary vehicle for Sustainable Land and Agro-ecosystem Management (SLaM) training and knowledge-sharing among the basin’s farming and herding communities. SLaM is the adoption of management practices and technologies that enable land users to maximize economic and social benefits deriving from land use, while maintaining or enhancing the natural resource base. In the United Republic of Tanzania, for example, the FFSs focused on the benefits of crop-livestock integration, which increases the overall productivity of ecosystems, while ensuring the sustainable use of resources, by capitalizing on the symbiotic relationship between animals and crops. Scalable and cost-effective, FFS are an invaluable tool for projects that seek to spread knowhow and innovation amongst farming communities. By employing a horizontal, rather than vertical, farmer-to-farmer approach to SLM, FFSs can empower stakeholders, enhance ownership and extend positive outcomes and impacts beyond a project’s end.

Implement efficient, multi-impact solutions to drive sustainable progress

The SLM practices promoted and implemented under Kagera TAMP often succeeded in delivering effective, efficient and sustainable solutions to land degradation issues. An example among many is an initiative in the Kayokwe-Waga-Ruvyironza watershed complex in Burundi. The watershed was facing a variety of challenges, including soil erosion, land conflicts caused by demographic pressure and scarcity of viable agricultural land, overgrazing, and poor agricultural practices, leading to accelerated degradation of natural resources. The action adopted by the project was to plant bamboo to stabilize the banks of the three rivers. This single action had a multi-impact effect, delivering truly sustainable progress in social, environmental and economic terms. The bamboo reduced soil erosion, while creating a buffer zone, effectively filtering and trapping sediment and dissolved pollutants transported by those sediments. The bamboo also provides habitat for riparian-specific plant and animal species and is a source of revenue for local communities, which learnt to adopt a shared management approach to the banks, thus mitigating land conflicts.

Extend positive impacts through scalability and replicability

Kagera TAMP conducted a comprehensive and detailed gender assessment on how gender roles and relations were affected by project activities. The project adopted a quota-based approach, trying to ensure at least 50 percent of participants in FFS trainings, committee meetings and other initiatives were women. The project sought to promote SLM approaches or technologies that included the added benefit of assisting women or simplifying their daily tasks. For example, across three target areas in Rwanda, women expended significant amounts of time on the strenuous activity of firewood collection. Through Kagera TAMP, improved and more efficient cooking stoves were introduced among the local communities. The stoves required smaller amounts of wood to cook food and directly contributed to a 55 percent reduction in local deforestation. This translated into less time spent by women collecting wood, allowing them to dedicate themselves to less tiring and more productive tasks.