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Scaling sustainable land management (SLM) innovations: insights and lessons from rural grassroots initiatives in Eastern Africa

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The limited landscape-level impact of SLM innovations is a cause of major concern among Government agencies Research and Development partners considering that significant contribution to rural livelihoods demands wide adoption of SLM innovations. Removal of critical barriers of knowledge technology and policy is imperative. However scaling SLM innovations to a large extent entails protracted self propelled community based local initiatives within contexts of multi-stakeholder platforms centered around four themes: taking advantage of poly centric local-level grassroots institutions; enhanced resilience among small scale farmers through partnerships and networks; harnessing the power of local champions in motivating rural communities; and bolstering benefits of collective action supported by an enabling local policy environment. The intricate combinations of these factors are illustrated in experiences and practices of rural smallholder farmers in Muganza community in Kisoro District Uganda. The community of 340 households innovatively manages 200 ha degradation prone landscapes with apparent successes replicated in other sites in the district. The cash income from sale of crops is US $435 above the Uganda’s GNP per capita 300 in 2009 with landscape –level impacts SLM innovations outstanding as well as an empowered community. The experiences in fostering wide adoption of SLM innovations through strengthened local –level social capital and practices combines agronomic technologies consistent capacity building monitoring and evaluation augmented communication institutional development and bye laws formulation. These provide insights on ingredients of scaling SLM innovations within the contexts of Landcare principles that centers on community groups working together to rehabilitate highly degraded landscapes using novel but practical science based techniques The paper highlights the importance of local actors’ empowerment participation partnerships local champions as catalysts shared learning in multi-stakeholder platforms strong leadership viable grassroot institutions and nurturing stewardship to generate a broad range of sustainable improved economic socio- ecological benefits to many people widely and equitably.

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