First Sudanese Learning Route on Natural Resource Management and Agricultural Productivity: 2000-kilometre journey of knowledge sharing

By Mia Madsen

IFAD-supported projects in Sudan organised a Learning Route on Natural Resource Management and Agricultural Productivity, from 24 October to 2 November 2016. The Learning Route was the first of its kind to be organised in Sudan, building on  the knowledge of project staff and the IFAD Sudan Country Office.

In early November the first ever Learning Route (LR) on Natural Resources Management (NRM) and Agricultural Productivity was concluded in Sudan. Participants described the knowledge-sharing event as a ground-breaking tool for knowledge sharing among peers. IFAD-funded projects in Sudan, the Central Coordination Unit for IFAD-funded projects, the Sudan Country Office and Procasur all contributed to the planning and implementation of the route.

The main objective was to share best practices from NRM and increased agricultural productivity in Sudan, while highlighting the importance of strong linkages between agriculture and sustainable NRM. IFAD project staff have shown great interest in the methodology developed by Procasur, having participated actively in LRs abroad over the last few years and made use of  the knowledge acquired in their daily work.

As part of increased knowledge management efforts within the Sudan portfolio, a Knowledge Management core group was set up in early 2016 with the task of coordinating knowledge sharing between the projects. Group discussions led to the idea of organising an internal LR in Sudan, which would at the same time develop the capacity of IFAD projects to use the LR as a knowledge sharing and policy tool. In September 2016 project staff got ready to implement their first LR in Sudan after having participated in a workshop  by Procasur. Read more about it here.

The LR methodology is a peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing tool which seeks to inform development practice and enhance project implementation. It is structured as a learning journey where participants visit communities.  They share their knowledge of what works, why, and above all, how. This is the connecting dimension of the process which includes the exchange of challenges, experiences, good practices and results. Following the field visits, participants develop Action Plans where they seek to articulate and apply some of the lessons learned to their own context and projects. The Action Plans are closely monitored and followed up by host communities and other LR participants to ensure the new knowledge is used in an effective way for enhanced project delivery and effectiveness.

The first Sudanese Learning Route
The first Sudanese Learning Route took its
participants on a 2,000-kilometre-long journey
The Sudanese Learning Route on Natural Resource Management and Agricultural Productivity can be described as a highly dynamic and immersive road trip where 35 people working with IFAD-supported projects, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Animal Resources and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning visited three IFAD supported projects, namely BIRDP[1], SUSTAIN[2] and WSRMP[3]. During the 10-day journey, a convoy of 11 vehicles drove through several states, covering about 2,000 kilometres. The participants joined actively in the field visits, sharing their perspectives on different innovations for strengthening land tenure security and NRM governance, and highlighting the concomitant link to agricultural productivity.

It started with an official opening session in Khartoum where participants and other development partners were provided with the conceptual framework and methodology. The three host projects delivered short presentations on their respective cases. This was followed by a panel discussion where Sudanese experts highlighted challenges related to sustainable NRM in Sudan and their impact on agricultural productivity. Before the participants embarked on their 10-day field journey, an experience fair was organised where each host project had the opportunity to brief others about the specifics of their case.
Part of the field visits included vivid presentations from host communities on progress made. ©Mohammad Makki Hanafi

Community networking for NRM in the Butana region
The first field visit was to the BIRDP project area in the Butana region where participants learned about community networking for NRM, and more specifically about how six communities have established the At Tasab Network as a way to join hands to protect their natural resources and livelihoods. The participants visited range pastures of the At Tasab Network and interacted with women, youth and elders . The six communities have organised themselves, protected their rangelands against foreign stakeholders through patrolling, raised a common voice about the challenges they face, and also come together to ensure certain basic services in the area, such as veterinary services and telecommunications. It highlighted the importance of networks for social mobilization and empowerment, and especially for addressing a sense of isolation which many communities experience; thereby enabling them to deal with key land and NRM governance challenges, including those linked to large-scale land acquisitions by foreign and domestic investors.

Sinnar state: Linking improved agriculture with NRM
Learning Route participants learn about
SUSTAIN’s technical package during a field visit
to Sinja, Sinnar State.
©Mia Madsen
After learning about the importance of community networking for NRM, the participants continued their journey to the SUSTAIN project area in Sinnar state to learn about its integrated package for improved crop farming and  impact on NRM and agricultural production in the area. The participants visited farmers who practice traditional farming as well as farms under improved agriculture, and learned that agricultural productivity was enhanced thanks to the use of chisel ploughing, crop rotation and drought-tolerant seeds. The case study analysis indicated the need for an integrated approach to agriculture and livestock farming so to avoid increased pressure on land and the project  is working on this by encouraging farmers to use crop residue as fodder for livestock, which eases the pressure on rangeland.

Stock routes and conflict resolution mechanism in North Kordofan
After the SUSTAIN field visits, the  participants continued with an 8-hour drive to North Kordofan and the WSRMP. The project presented their experiences in conflict resolution between crop and livestock farmers, and in the demarcation and co-management of livestock routes. The participants visited a Conflict Resolution Centre (CRC) in El Rahad, which was established to solve disputes related to NRM in the Kordofan region. Some of the disputes handled at the CRC are conflicts between settlers and nomads, and have been referred to the CRC by the formal courts. After the visit to the CRC, the routeros visited a stock route demarcated by the WSRMP, met with Mobile Extension Teams who have been established to reach out to pastoralists in the area, and learned about the co-management mechanism of stock routes, piloted by the project.
“In addition to the cases presented by the other projects, I have learned how to organize a Learning Route, especially the roles of the Methodological Coordinator and the Technical coordinator, and how to select and write a Learning Route case and present it to others”. Aida Osman, Gender and Community Development Officer, BIRDP
Peer-to-peer learning
The lessons and innovations presented during the LR were well received by the different projects. As part of the peer learning, each project identified particular challenges and received advice from others on how to address these challenges: BIRDP received guidance especially from SUSTAIN on how to strengthen adoption and uptake by other communities, and on how to strengthen inter-state coordination from WSRMP. SUSTAIN drew lessons on networking as a vehicle for adoption of their “improved farming practices” and BIRDP provided inputs on strengthening the integration of crop and livestock farming systems, and WSRMP on securing stock routes. WSRMP, which is close to completion, received advice on how to institutionalize the good practices developed during its exit strategy – including linking up with the new Livestock Resilience and Marketing Programme. The Programme learned from all other projects and aims at incorporating their good practices. Each project developed an Action Plan to integrate the lessons learned into their operations, which they presented during the wrap-up meeting in Khartoum. Participants were encouraged to continue seeking advice from each other and sharing lessons in the implementation of their Action Plans.

The participants gather for a group photo in North Kordofan ©Mohammad Makki Hanafi

Next steps
At the closing session in Khartoum each project team presented their Action Plans. BIRDP was inspired by the improved agriculture package promoted by SUSTAIN, while the SUSTAIN team planned to integrate community networking for NRM in their project activities. The LRMP team committed to building on the experiences of the co-management mechanism and the conflict resolution centres from WSRMP. The Action Plan developed by the WSRMP team includes the draft of a road map on the way forward for the co-management of stock routes, inspired by the community networking displayed during the BIRDP visits. During the closing session the Methodological Coordinator Dr Omer Egemi, and IFAD Lead Land Tenure Specialist Harold Liversage provided insights from the LR and ideas for future engagement in NRM in Sudan. The closing session in Khartoum was attended by the Minister for Agriculture of Khartoum State.

“I'm convinced that the Learning Route is a powerful learning tool which enables participants to share their experience, analyze their challenges and arrive to a reasonable solution on how to address present challenges. The challenge for us now is to see how we can continue sharing knowledge in other areas such as microfinance for example”. Isam Altahir, M&E Officer, SUSTAIN
As a way forward, it has been suggested for the Sudan Country Office and projects involved to continue using LRs as a tool for strengthening multi-stakeholder dialogue and policy engagement on land and NRM governance and other thematic areas. The IFAD-funded projects are already planning similar knowledge sharing events in the future, including a LR on NRM where Sudanese policy makers could be invited, as well as a LR on microfinance and the ABSUMI[4] model to be developed together with the Agricultural Bank of Sudan.

[1] Butana Integrated Rural Development Project
[2] Supporting Small-scale  Rainfed Producers in Sinnar State Project
[3] Western Sudan Resources Management Programme
[4] Agricultural Bank of Sudan Microfinance Initiative