In an effort to combat ‘silo thinking’, stakeholders in Rwanda create a multifaceted approach targeting governance, research, investment and ground-level activities.
The concept of Integrated Landscape Management (ILM) is gaining popularity across East Africa. Policy makers, development partners and field practitioners have begun to appreciate the fact that working in ‘silos’ will not do much in providing solutions to the multifaceted challenges confronting landscapes. Stakeholders have to come together, dialogue and find solutions to these challenges.
A number of innovations have started to happen and are laying foundations and roadmaps for achieving these aspirations. In Rwanda, a recent meeting organized by the ministries of Natural Resources and Agriculture in partnership with IUCN and FAO discussed the opportunities and challenges of landscape approaches to achieve multiple objectives. The meeting was attended by the Minister for Natural Resources, Mr. Vincent Biruta, and was addressed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Innocent Musabyinama. Mr. Musabyinama noted that there is need to change the mindset of agricultural development, and to embrace multi-stakeholder dialogues to address landscape objectives.
Ministry competition inhibits progress
In his remarks, Mr. Biruta observed that for ILM to be successful, policies and research informed by the experience and needs of farmers must be developed. He also reiterated the Rwandan government’s commitment to supporting the landscapes approach.
The meeting was facilitated by experts from IUCN and FAO with the guidance of international landscape management facilitator Ms. Cora van Oosten of Wageningen University. Rwandan participants in the meeting observed that old policies are some of the ‘disincentives’ that hinder ILM. Ministries plan and implement projects individually and only seek ‘expert opinions’ from other stakeholders as mere formalities or to check off a funding requirement. On other hand, training within government has often contributed to ‘silo thinking’ and defense of status quo.
Ministries plan and implement projects individually and only seek ‘expert opinions’ from other stakeholders as mere formalities or to check off a funding requirement.
This is made worse by supremacy ‘wars’ among the ministries or departments. This was displayed in the meeting when participants were asked between two ministries which should be lead agency in the spearheading Agroforestry in the country, which currently appears to be ‘homeless’. Those from agriculture were evidently inclined toward the Ministry of Agriculture, while those from Natural Resources behaved likewise. A decision was only reached through voting (where the Ministry of Agriculture prevailed).
Cooperation key to new plan
As a way forward, working groups at the meeting came up with four main action items, with sub-actions to be taken immediately.
On governance, institutions and coordination
(i) Agroforestry is to be housed in the Ministry of Agriculture and be supported by an inter-ministerial coordination mechanisms working between the ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources, (ii) Sustainable Food and Agriculture (SFA) shall be institutionalized, and (iii) there is need for greater recognition of agroforestry as a key element of SFA and forest landscape restoration (FLR).
On research and innovative technologies
There is need for (i) improved tree seed production and dissemination, especially more indigenous varieties, (ii) documentation of existing innovations and recognition of farmer and local knowledge – highlighting positive & negative experiences (iii) research to be trans-disciplinary / multidisciplinary and for programs to inform farmers on the right species for the right context accounting for farmers needs and interests, including woodlot management research on species diversification and best practices.
On public and private investment and collaboration
A (i) survey must be done on finance mechanisms supporting agroforestry, (ii) the two ministries work together to develop a joint strategy for resource mobilization and private sector business development on SFA/FLR value chains including charcoal and Agroforestry systems, especially on Strategic Plan for Agricultural Transformation (PSTA) priority crops (iii) new proposals should be realigned to tap into new or underutilized funds, (iv) Efforts should be made to accelerate Natural Capital Accounting and Payment for Ecosystem Services processes; (iv) there is need to invest in farmer field schools and (v) there is need to use the improved coordination mechanism between the Agriculture and Natural Resources ministries to ensure appropriate channelling of funds from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.
On priority activities at ground level
The ministries must (i) establish farmers’ needs, mechanisms for support, partners and message actions on the ground, (ii) pilot joint agroforestry projects in 5 regions within the next 18 months and use them to create a learning roadmap and scale up working innovations and lessons learned and (iii) provide quality and appropriate seeds to farmers. Participants in this working group observed the need for collaboration within governance and research institutions.
With these goals in mind, meeting participants were confident Rwanda could make integrated landscape management a reality in rural development throughout the country.