Pathways to resilient food systems - approaches from sub-Saharan Africa

By Jonky Yawo Tenou and Esha Singh

On Day 2 of the UNCCD COP14, IFAD in with GEF and partners organised a side event showcasing case studies from three projects in sub-Saharan Africa that are part of the Integrated approach programme called Resilient Food Systems (RFS). Over one hundred participants attended the event that brought together government partners from three countries to present innovative approaches to strengthen smallholder farmer resilience through integrated sustainable land and water management. The event highlighted the importance of participatory governance, engaging men and women as well as adopting a landscape approach to scale-up benefits for smallholder farmers while ensuring sustainability of food systems. The event was co-facilitated by Marie-Aude Even (IFAD) and Jean-Marc Sinnassamy (GEF).

After a presentation of the overview on the programme by Jonky Tenou, the Task Manager of RFS, Soumaila Abdoullaye from ProDAF, Niger described several project outputs including improved production and market access while ensuring assisted natural regeneration, conservation of biodiversity of land, carbon storage, water management. He further highlighted five lessons from the project to improve impact including: promoting synergy of action among stakeholders of sustainable land and water management; participatory governance for collective actions, evaluation and asset development; coupling of technical activities with social support services; involvement of scientific institutions for effective monitoring of ecological impact; and higher commitment from government counterparts.

While identifying the several causes of land degradation, including livestock, burning of land, and firewood, Norman Mavuso, from Eswatini, highlighted that they are using the Land Degradation Surveillance Framework (LDSF) methodology to identify hotspots and monitor progress of targets for sustainable natural resource management. LDSF methodology is used for landscape level assessment and studies of land degradation, soil carbon dynamics, vegetation changes, soil fertility and soil hydrological properties to provide assessment of soil properties and land degradation. This data is used for decision-making and to develop programme interventions and investments. Through the project, several other activities including training, capacity building and policy engagement have also been undertaken to ensure sustainability of the surveillance framework.

Lastly, Stephen Muwaya from Uganda described an inclusive approach to address food insecurity and land degradation stating that, "we identify community groups with both men and women, include women in learning activities and promote peer-to peer learning; promote gender inclusive technologies and practices, and encourage and strengthen inclusive farmer cooperatives and women led community based organizations for improved markets and value chain development". The project aims to improve food security by addressing environmental drivers of food insecurity and their root causes.

While these are just three examples from the resilient food system programme, they highlight how an integrated and holistic approach contributes to large-scale sustainable land and natural resources management, and enhances resilience for smallholder farmers.

The Resilient Food Systems programme is one of three pilots under the Integrated Approach Programme, financed by GEF and implemented by several agencies including IFAD.

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