July 16, 2014

Policy Dialogues for Integrated Landscape Management: The Kenya Experience

Seth Shames, EcoAgriculture Partners Krista Heiner, EcoAgriculture Partners

Challenges with food security, poverty, climate change, ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss are highly interlinked. These interconnections are increasingly apparent in Kenya’s growing economy, where ecosystem degradation enhances food insecurity and poverty, and poverty and food insecurity exacerbate the pressure on scarce natural resources. Furthermore, many of these interactions occur at a scale that spans multiple jurisdictions, only adding to its complexity.

Many examples highlight this interdependency and the need to work at many levels of the landscape. Ensuring adequate quality and quantity of water in Lake Naivasha, which many smallholder farmers and large horticulture and floriculture businesses rely on, requires combating deforestation and land degradation in the upper portions of the watershed. Similarly, reducing pressure on forest land in Lari and Bungoma requires improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. And, in Embu, dealing with land degradation requires reducing the division of farmland into increasingly smaller pieces, a practice driven by poverty and the increase in population in the region. Finally, combating human-wildlife conflicts in Laikipia requires ensuring that pastoralists’ livelihoods can be enhanced by protecting wildlife  through community run ecotourism ventures.

Heiner Kenya Policy Dialogue

A representative of a landscape initiative in Kenya discusses opportunities and challenges for policy engagement during the Kenya national policy dialogue. Photo by Krista Heiner, EcoAgriculture Partners

Integrated solutions that sustain vital ecosystem services, enhance food production and improve human health and well being simultaneously, while operating at a landscape scale are required to address these complex challenges. Despite the many successes with integrated approaches to landscape management in Kenya, there remain considerable challenges, including poor coordination among stakeholders within the landscape, inadequate training and skills, lack of awareness and information, inadequate funding and incentives and poor infrastructure, to name a few. Furthermore, to be implemented effectively, integrated landscape management (ILM) requires a framework of enabling policies and institutions to support multi-sectoral coordination and planning at a landscape scale. With the birth of a new constitution in Kenya in 2010, provisions were made for the devolution of many functions of the government in multiple sectors to 47 county governments. One of the main objectives of this action was to give the powers of self-governance to the people and enhance their participation in exercising the powers of the State in making decisions that affect them. In addition to new opportunities, these recent changes also present important challenges for policy change and coordination, especially in natural resource management.

To understand these opportunities and challenges further, EcoAgriculture Partners, in partnership with the World Agroforestry Centre’s Strengthening Rural Institutions project, and under the coordination of the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative, began a process to improve the policy and institutional framework for ILM in Kenya based on policymaker and civil society engagement. While there are roles for the public sector, private sector and civil society in the promotion of ILM, this process focused primarily on the role of the public sector in creating an enabling policy framework and supportive institutional environment for ILM.

Researchers began by assessing the elements of Kenya’s current policy and institutional framework related to the implementation and scaling up of ILM from the perspectives of both civil society and policymakers. Then, key stakeholders in five sites — Embu, Bungoma, Laikipia, Lari and Naivasha — identified policy needs and recommendations that could be addressed by national or sub-national policymakers. In the final phase of this process, civil society leaders and key county and national level policymakers worked together to improve the policy environment for ILM in Kenya through a facilitated, national level policy dialogue held at the World Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi on June 25th-26th.

Several key recommendations for improvements to national and county policies and institutional frameworks were identified and discussed by participants in the national policy dialogue. These include:

  • Empower civil society participation;
  • Support multi-stakeholder collaboration/platforms;
  • Implement spatial plans/integrated land use management plans;
  • Implement and enforce policies supportive of ILM (at national and county levels);
  • Harmonize policies vertically and horizontally; and
  • Develop/enhance incentive mechanisms and market opportunities for ILM.

In addition, civil society representatives and policymakers collaboratively developed action plans for improving the policy framework for ILM in each of the five landscapes as well as at a national level. One of the most exciting outcomes of this process so far, was the interest among the representatives in developing an information sharing platform that would include civil society representatives in each of the five landscapes, as well as county and national level policymakers.

Photo by May Muthuri/World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)

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