The book was launched on 28 September at the UN Environment headquarters in Nairobi.

Dr Maxwell Mudhara and Colleagues Publish New Book

The small community of Zorborgu, near Tamale in northern Ghana, comprises mainly farmers. They decided to stop burning crop residues and protect their community forest to reduce the risk of wildfires that cause widespread land damage

As a result, crop yields have increased and the water in a pond near a sacred grove is available throughout the year for farming, livestock watering and domestic use. The community forest also provides herbal medicines. The innovative blend of traditional and modern decision-making by committees that reflect traditional leadership makes this a successful social, economic and environmental initiative.

This is just one example of how community action and innovation are key to sustainable land management in Africa. It comes from a US$2 million Global Environment Facility (GEF)-funded project running from 2009 to 2016.

The project highlights the potential of sharing and stimulating community initiatives in Africa. It focuses on four diverse African countries – Ghana, Morocco, South Africa and Uganda – with UN Environment as the GEF implementing agency.

A new book capturing lessons learned from the project and titled Community Innovations in Sustainable Land Management: Lessons from the field in Africa was launched on 28 September at the UN Environment headquarters in Nairobi.

Speaking at the launch, Stephen Muwaya from the Ugandan Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, stressed the importance of government buy-in, youth education, inter-community visits (for idea-sharing), as well as the involvement of researchers and communities. He also noted that targeting women is scaling-up conservation efforts in project areas.

William Critchley of Sustainable Land Management Associates in the United Kingdom, has worked on the project since its inception.

“South-to-South learning works and is worthwhile. Farmers are able to pick up technical and social ideas, and it is also fun,” he said. “For example, on grazing land, it’s a great way of turning the `tragedy of the commons’ into a common campaign. The potential for long-term impact is huge.”

Wendelien Tuijp of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, which provides technical advice to the project, is inspired by the potential to spread ideas using such exchanges.

“When Muslim men from an isolated part of the Atlas mountains in Morocco visited Ghana they were surprised to see women leading an initiative and earning an income,” she said. “This inspired the men to reflect on the role of their women in community activities.”

Head of UN Environment, Erik Solheim, said the book “cuts right to the core of what development is all about: people and communities”.

“You cannot turn up and tell locals what to do,” he said. “That doesn’t achieve anything. You need to listen, learn and share that knowledge.

“African farmers already know that they have to be more productive and that they must do it in a more sustainable way than many other places. Our job is to help them achieve their goal.

“For example, we can share the lessons from the fantastic turnaround in agricultural production in Viet Nam. It was achieved largely because land titles were made available, rural roads were built, loans were made available to small farmers, and the government offered good advice. A lot of these ideas can be reused in new places.”

“A book like this can be great – but only if people use it. We have to make sure that this one is shared widely and that any experiences are also collected and shared,” said Mette Wilkie, head of UN Environment’s Ecosystems Division.


*Article published by UNEP