Climate change has had a devastating effect on Africa’s forests. Today, the continent’s forest coverage has significantly diminished and land productivity has slowed as a result. While climate change is the main culprit, people’s heavy dependence on firewood and charcoal for energy at home has also played a big role. To make matters worse, the more frequent and severe droughts of recent years have compounded the land degradation of the continent.
Towards a Solution
Since the 1980s, the Kenya Forestry Research Institute, the Kenya Forest Service and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) have worked together to promote a social forestry approach in Kenya that meets local communities’ economic and forestry conservation needs. They have developed an effective and innovative social forestry and extension model known as the Farm Forestry Field School Approach. Based on Kenya’s successful experience, since 1996, the three partners have engaged in triangular cooperation to expand this initiative to all of sub-Saharan Africa with the aim of helping other sub-Saharan African countries to establish an effective approach to forest conservation and sustainable rural development.
The Farm Forestry Field School Approach is based on: (a) a social forestry model suited to the semi-arid areas of sub-Saharan Africa; and (b) cost-effective extension methods that the Kenya Forestry Research Institute, the Kenya Forest Service and JICA jointly developed. Its effectiveness lies in its social forestry extension methodology, which is based on the farmer field school model initially developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as an agricultural extension methodology. Its purpose is to build farmers’ capacity to analyse their production systems, identify problems, test solutions and encourage participants to adopt practices suitable to their farming systems. The Farm Forestry Field School Approach also provides farmers with the opportunity to practice, test and evaluate sustainable land use technologies and introduce new ones, comparing them to their traditionally and culturally grounded technologies. Training programmes were organized in other sub-Saharan African countries that face similar problems.
A systematic, quantitative survey of the initiative’s impact has yet to take place. Interviews with Kenyan farmers, however, have revealed that training and follow-up practices have led to increased numbers of seedlings and trees planted and higher incomes. Furthermore, the interviews showed that the Farm Forestry Field School Approach has had a social impact on participant farmers, especially women, and on farmers’ groups in targeted communities. Graduates from the Farm Forestry Field School stated that farmers, including female farmers, who were previously afraid to speak in public now have the confidence to express their views and improve their livelihoods. The training also helped many farmers to better manage their activity resources.
The initiative’s innovation is twofold. Its social forestry model is made up of several innovative elements, including a cost-sharing system, a seed/seedling plan information system, a farmer-to-farmer extension method and a core farmer selecting method. These self-sustaining elements, which are built into the model, have enhanced farmers’ resilience to drought, conserved the environment and decreased poverty. Its extension method integrating the tried-and-tested farmer field school model with Kenyan social forestry, has enabled the Kenya Forestry Research Institute and the Kenya Forest Service to widely disseminate their experiences to local people and share their knowledge with other African countries as a good practice.
In the Kenyan experience, the key to sustaining the Farm Forestry Field School Approach is government political commitment. The Government of Kenya considers forest conservation a priority and the Farm Forestry Field School Approach its core extension approach. More importantly, the Farm Forestry Field School Approach is inherently sustainable: it contributes to environmental protection and to poverty reduction. Individual farmers and farmers’ groups continue to produce seedlings and to plant trees by applying the sustainable social forestry approach. Through these activities, farmers have deepened their awareness of methods to improve their livelihoods, a key factor for sustainability.
The Farm Forestry Field School Approach is highly replicable in similar development settings. Kenya has mainstreamed the initiative into its forestry extension approach, which was then adopted by FAO, UNDP and the World Bank for their own projects. The model in turn has expanded outside Kenya: to JICA’s forestry management project in Ethiopia, its rural development project in Niger, and its Green Zone Development Support Project supported by the African Development Bank in Kenya, for example. In addition, the Kenya Forest Service and JICA, with FAO support, have developed the Farm Forestry Field School Implementation Guide for governments and donors interested in the approach. The Kenya Forest Service and JICA have also developed the Facilitator Training Tool for Forestry Field School Session Quality Control, a multimedia learning guide.
The initiative’s stakeholders include: (a) the Kenya Forestry Research Institute, the Kenya Forest Service, and Kenyan national institutions under the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, which together serve as a centre of excellence committed to sharing their knowledge and experience with other African countries; (b) officials and experts of the forestry sector in 20 countries of sub-Saharan African, who are the direct beneficiaries through whom many farmers and stakeholders have gained practical knowledge and methodologies on sustainable social forestry; (c) JICA, which facilitated the Institute’s knowledge-sharing with other African countries, providing financial, technical and logistical support; and (d) FAO, which supported the Kenya Forest Service and JICA in developing an implementation guide for social forestry methods.
Sustainable Development Goal targets: 15.1, 15.2, 15.3
Countries / territories involved: Kenya and about 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa
Supported by: Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
Implementing entities: Kenya Forestry Research Institute, Kenya Forest Service
Project status: Ongoing
Project period: 1996 – present
URL of the practice: Internal Ex-Post Evaluation for Technical Cooperation Projects by JICA. Available from http://www2.jica.go.jp/en/evaluation/pdf/2011_0604735_4.pdf
Office for Global Issues and Development Partnership Operations Strategy Department, JICA firstname.lastname@example.org