June 8, 2015

East African landscape leaders gather to launch new learning network

Isaiah Esipisu

A recent knowledge and experience exchange workshop in Nairobi, which brought together landscape leaders from 15 different landscapes in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia, laid the foundation for a regional landscape learning network.


Leaders from 15 landscapes across four countries (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia) came together to launch the East African Learning Landscape Network.


Despite some successes in East Africa with integrated approaches to landscape management, there are still many barriers and challenges that need to be addressed. They include poor coordination among stakeholders within the landscape, inadequate training and skills, lack of awareness and information, inadequate funding and incentives, and poor infrastructure, among others. The “East African Regional Knowledge Exchange,” held June 2-3 at the African Institute for Capacity Development in Juja, Kenya, set out to improve that.

Learning network will help connect diverse experiences

The learning network, organized and facilitated as part of the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative, will therefore help the stakeholders share important information, experiences and knowledge for easy implementation of Integrated Landscape Management (ILM) through exchange visits, case studies, tool and technique exchange, and collaborative fundraising.

Landscape leaders often think they are acting in isolation… Bringing them together allows them to support one another.

ILM refers to long-term collaboration among different groups of land managers and stakeholders to achieve the multiple objectives required from the landscape. These typically include agricultural production, provision of ecosystem services (such as water flow regulation and quality, pollination, climate change mitigation and adaptation, cultural values); protection of biodiversity, landscape beauty, identity and recreation value; and local livelihoods, human health and well-being.

“Landscape leaders often think they are acting in isolation and do not realize that others are dealing with similar issues in different contexts,” said Krista Heiner, the Project manager, EcoAgriculture Partners, and one of the facilitators of the Nairobi workshop.

“So bringing them together allows them to support one another and form a community of practitioners,” added Heiner, noting that the landscape leaders are the true experts.

Collaborating for public policy influence

One of the objectives of the East African Regional Knowledge Exchange was to help participants understand the importance of public policy in developing integrated landscape management initiatives that are inclusive of public, private and civic sectors.

The landscape leaders noted that each landscape has its own context, but there is a consistent need for an integrated approach. In the Ethiopian context for example, ILM is driven by the government, since the government owns the land. “In such cases, there is need to strengthen involvement of the Civil Society Organizations,” observed the landscape leaders.

But still in countries like Kenya and Tanzania where people own land privately, the experts said that there must be some support from government in order to implement ILM. “You cannot be successful without political goodwill,” said David Kuria, leader of the community-based conservation organization KENVO, in the Lari-Kijabe landscape in Kenya.

Leaders from in Kenya present specific challenges they face to the group for feedback and advice. Photo by Isaiah Esipisu.

Dr. Gizaw Desta from the Water, Land and Resource Center in Ethiopia presents the challenges and opportunities of the Ethiopian Learning Network. Photo by Isaiah Esipisu.

However, it was noted that the most important thing was to have integrated policies that are crosscutting for easy implementation of ILM.

“ILM calls for an all inclusive approach involving multi-stakeholder/actors,” said Ally-Said Matano, who works for the East African Community at the Lake Victoria Basin Commission as a Principal Programs Officer responsible for projects and programs development.

In order to have an all-inclusive approach, said Matano, legal and institutional frameworks need to be shifted to enable its implementation. But there are challenges involved.

“At a national level, the challenge is the sectoral nature of policies where each participating or potential sector has its own set of public policy, which makes it difficult for an integrated approach such as ILM,” said Matano.

Panelists Verrah Otiende, Verrah Otiende, John Nakei, Amare Bantinder Dagnew, and Ally-Said Matano discuss public policy for ILM. Photo by Isaiah Esipisu.

Panelists Verrah Otiende, Verrah Otiende, John Nakei, Amare Bantinder Dagnew, and Ally-Said Matano discuss public policy for ILM. Photo by Isaiah Esipisu.

However, the situation becomes even more complicated at the regional/transboundary level because the challenge is not only the sectoral approach but also the variance in public policy. “This calls for identification of public policies that require approximation as well as those that may require harmonization and/or formulation of regional policies,” he said.

To succeed in implementation of the ILM, the regional landscape learning network will keep exploring such challenges and looking for opportunities to inform appropriate national and regional policies.

Correction: An earlier version of this article said the meeting took place on July 2-3. The meeting occurred on June 2-3. The article also incorrectly referred to the African Institute for Capacity Development as the African Center for Capacity Development. We apologize for the error.

More From Isaiah Esipisu
More In Events in Staying Current


  • Patrick Wakhu
    June 9, 2015 at 4:53am

    African Center for Capacity Development should actually be African Institute for Capacity Development (AICAD). AICAD is an autonomous institute. Even though it neighbors JKUAT, it is independent of JKUAT.

    • Editor-in-Chief
      June 9, 2015 at 1:34pm

      I have updated the article to correct this error. Thank you Patrick!