Integrated and multi-sectoral approaches to land resources and watershed management

Validation and promotion through the Kagera Transboundary Agro-ecosystem Management Project

Since 2010, with support of the Global Environment Facility, FAO has supported the planning and implementation of Sustainable Land and Agro-ecosystem Management (SLaM) in 45 micro catchments in the four countries that share the Kagera River Basin, engaging local communities, service providers and governments in the 21 target districts in Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.  

The project, Kagera TAMP, addresses the increasing pressures and threats on the land and water resources, biodiversity and ecosystems and livelihoods and food security due to population growth (16 million people in 2010 and 3% annual growth rate) and agricultural and livestock intensification. In particular, reduced farm size and unsustainable farming systems and management practices are resulting in widespread land degradation, declining productive capacity of croplands and rangelands, deforestation and encroachment of agriculture into wetlands.

The project aims to bring about a transformation towards more productive and sustainable agricultural ecosystems (range, agro-pastoral and cropping) through four interlinked components: 1) Promoting adoption by farmers and herders of improved land management practices to generate improved livelihoods and ecosystem services; 2) Increased stakeholder capacity and knowledge for promoting integrated agro-ecosystem management at catchment and watershed levels; 3) Enabling policy, planning and legislative conditions; and 4) Enhanced regional collaboration, information sharing and monitoring. The project is aligned with FAOs Strategic Objective 2 (Increase productivity in a sustainable manner) and specifically its major area of work on Ecosystems and Biodiversity and the African Regional Initiative on Integrated Management of Agricultural Landscapes in Africa.

Main Activities

The project assessed and mapped status and trends in natural resources and livelihoods from national to local levels, identified and documented best practices in the range of crop, grazing and forest systems, demonstrated and tested SLM practices through Farmer Field Schools and local communities on-farm and at wider catchment/watershed level. It also identified and tested mechanisms for participatory land use planning, resolution of conflicts over land and water resources and incentive measures for scaling up SLM.  The studies, tools and approaches, maps and reports are widely available, including 26 documented and peer reviewed technologies and approaches in the global WOCAT database and more in development. Also lessons learned are being documented by authors across the basin in a book on SLM in practice in the Kagera river basin www.fao.org/nr/kagera

The multi-stakeholder process facilitated by FAO among small-scale farmers/herders, their communities and local leaders, district technical staff and authorities and relevant ministries and institutions over 4.5 years has generated important experiences and lessons for scaling up. The project has been closely linked with the Kagera Integrated water resources management project of the Nile basin Initiative (NBI-NELSAP) and has inspired activities and approaches under the second phase of LVEMP-2 (Lake Victoria Environmental Management Programme with Kagera countries and Kenya).  Results and experiences are being documented that provide the basis for further developing Guidelines for SLM assessment, validation and scaling up at farm and watershed/landscape level and for policy and institutional mainstreaming.


Through the 130 SLM/FFS groups, the 4000 members and many other members of 50 target communities have adopted SLM technologies on an estimated 15,465 ha of crop, pasture and forest land. Farmers report that knowledge and skills as well as soil and vegetation quality  are key attributes for increases in crop and livestock yield. There is significant evidence of reduced soil erosion in fields as a result of contouring, increased surface cover and biomass and improved pasture quality. A much larger audience, estimated at 40,000 community members, have been sensitized in SLaM techniques through field days, community meetings and farmer extension centres.

Inter-sectoral processes have supported the selection, validation and scaling up of SLM practices that are technically, ecologically, economically and socially sound and draw on traditional and innovative practices. Efforts are made to build capacity of actors for impact monitoring and raise awareness of benefits from local to global levels such as: reduced erosion and improved soil health, carbon sequestration and reduced risk of drought, sustainable use of agro-biodiversity and improved agricultural production contributing to resilient and food secure livelihoods.

There is  general acceptance by the community that the catchment approach/eco-systems approach is the most appropriate way of addressing SLM. Indeed results show that land restoration and increasing resilience of farm-livelihoods can only happen if and when land users have the knowledge and capacity to organise themselves to adopt SLM practices. This requires a combination of support measures:

  • Natural resources and livelihoods diagnostics and understanding and assessing drivers and impacts for SLM planning and monitoring;
  • Farmer field schools for learning and uptake of adapted SLM technologies for productive farms and healthy ecosystems;
  • Catchment planning and local governance for conflict resolution and integrated natural resources management that generates multiple environmental, social and economic benefits;  
  • Inter-sectoral cooperation, planning, policy and incentive measures for transboundary land resources management at various levels and scales.

The results show that SLM contributes to improved productivity and livelihoods, reversing land degradation, climate change mitigation and adaptation, including reducing risk of drought, sustainable use of agro-biodiversity and maintenance of ecosystem services such as hydrology, nutrient cycling and pest and disease control. Through practice and knowledge sharing, technical and policy recommendations have been developed to enhance livestock, biodiversity and fire management, and address conflicts over land and natural resources. The lessons learned and proven approaches are proposed to be integrated into the national agricultural development and SLM strategies as well as updating of the various environmental action plans – NAPs for the UNCCD, NAPAs and NAMAs for UNFCCC and NBSAPs for the CBD to improve the targeting of SLaM from farm to catchment, watershed and river basin scales. The on-the-ground experience is a solid contribution to the “2015 International Year of Soils” and should assist other project and programme designers to plan initiatives which better support and restore healthy soils and landscapes.