By Gabriel Sarasin (Project Manager B-ADAPT, African Model Forest Network), Marie-Eve Landry (Program Development and Innovation Agent, Cuso International), Mariam Faye (Project Management Assistant, Cuso International)
Community focused management of reforestation and restoration efforts concluded last week’s blog posts. Our guest post today once more draws attention to community and collaboration, but in the context of adapting to climate change. Falling under the umbrella of Model Forest Network, the African projects highlighted below taking a multi-stakeholder approach and operating at a landscape scale in order to combat some of the real challenges imposed by climate change.
Changes in climate and extreme weather events already disrupt agriculture and food production systems in rural areas. This causes substantial uncertainty in countries such as Cameroon, where agriculture plays an important role in the economy and employs almost 60% of the working population.
In this context, the implementation of effective climate-smart agricultural and agroforestry practices planned jointly and benefiting different stakeholders – including small-scale farmers, ethnic groups, and marginalized rural populations – can improve productivity and the well-being of local people. It can also increase the resilience of such systems to climate change, and progressively transform landscapes into climate-smart territories. ‘Climate-smart territories’ refer to geographical and social spaces where ecosystem services are maintained or restored, improving well-being of local people while continuously optimizing mitigation and adaptation to global changes.
The “Eco-Agricultural Business for Adaptation to Changes in Climate” project, also known as B-ADAPT, is attempting to ensure that these small-scale farmers, ethnic groups, and marginalized rural populations see concrete results. A collaborative effort by Cuso International, the African Model Forest Network (AMFN), and VSO Cameroon, B-ADAPT addresses local issues through market-led solutions. This often means improving agricultural productivity by using yield enhancing technologies such as bio-fertilizers, improved seeds, associations with nitrogen-fixing plants, and other innovative agricultural techniques on existing crops favored by the community, like cassava, plantain, and chili.
But the project’s scope doesn’t end at farm-level practices. In order to enhance food security and increase household revenues, and with the involvement of Cuso International volunteers, B-ADAPT brings in market development, supporting small agribusinesses, adding value to agricultural and non-timber forest products, and selling as a group. Relevant local stakeholders are involved in participatory planning and monitoring, which allows for improving the approaches during the course of the project to achieve benefits for target populations. Overall, the project is a business model promoting diversity of social businesses articulated along key value chains.
B-ADAPT is taking place in the Campo Ma’an Model Forest (CAMAMF) located in Cameroon’s southern region, and in the Dja and Mpomo Model Forest (FOMOD) located in the Eastern region. Model Forests are managed using a landscape approach that integrates a wide range of stakeholders (communities, industry, government, indigenous groups, and others) representing different interests and values at the local and national level over a large territory. Together, they work towards a shared vision of sustainable natural resources management, in a way that makes the most sense to them given their historical, economic, and cultural identities.
CAMAMF and FOMOD are members of the AMFN and the International Model Forest Network. Those governance structures played a key role in facilitating the efficient identification, consultation, and implementation of B-ADAPT with relevant local stakeholders. Also, through that collaboration, new opportunities for partnering with the private sector are arising. The project offers multiple possibilities to complement corporate social responsibility programs and to fulfill private sector needs in terms of access to local goods and services for their employees.
The project is supporting 234 farm-schools, reaching 1,948 producers, in 226 villages of Southern and Eastern Cameroon. Nearly two-thirds of those farm schools are led by women and indigenous people who serve as peer educators in their communities. The schools themselves serve as learning spaces to spread innovations to other local farmers, develop mutual agreements to access microfinance, and work with each other to strengthen value chains and gain better access to markets. Local producers trying to adapt to changes in climate and increase productivity have the opportunity and support to test agricultural innovations. Bringing in other levels of participation, like the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MINADER), has also been important to identify and access resources and services that will ultimately keep the project activities running over the long-term.
This project is the seed of a long-term strategy framed by the One Programme, the AMFN economic program that promotes innovative practices in eco-agriculture. Advanced processing and marketing of wood and non-timber products, community heritage and sustainable ecotourism, water, health, and energy programs all arise from this strategy, aiming to help build climate and social resilience through a new green social business model. After all, a Model Forest is a long-term governance and change process.
This initiative has the potential to expand its focus and scope, and to move to other landscapes and countries across the Congo Basin and other African regions. And what better means of having real, effective regional impact than working through a shared vision and framework – that of a wide network of public, private, and community stakeholders actively engaged in building Model Forest landscapes?
B-ADAPT is funded through a grant from Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.