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Policy constraints facing agricultural development, environmental conservation and poverty reduction in East Africa

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Agriculture is often cited as the key cause of habitat loss. This is because East African economies are principally agriculture-based. Food demand heightened by efforts to me et food security goals are likely to influence the design and implementation of innovations like eco-agriculture that try to balance economic and ecological objectives. Obligations like meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) increases prospects of the adoption of such innovations. National economic planning blue prints (e.g. Vision Kenya’s 2030 Uganda’s Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP) 2004 and Vision 2025 of Tanzania 1999) and now the National Development Plan in the making treat agriculture as driving growth industrializat ion and poverty reduction. In light of the ‘place’ of agriculture in national growth it has also been the main agent of environmental degradation. The drive to meet national food security goals and export growth has been sectoral ignoring ecological objectives including biodiversity conservation. Conservation areas are shrinking as conflicts between smallholders some of whom have been displaced from other prime agricultural areas and conservationists are increasing. Land sizes and their produc tivity are declining as important habitats are threatened by land use conversion and growing populations. Critical ecol ogical life support functions have been disrupted and are posing real threats to livelihood security. Continued adop tions of segregated management models which do not address the interests of smallholders and weaknesses associated with law enforcement and the limited incentives have enhanced biodiversity loss both within protected and agricultural la ndscape mosaics. Integrated approaches like eco-agriculture innovations advance land use systems for enhancing agricultural productivity and pr oduction of environmental services leading to achievement of win-win solutions: restoration of degraded ecosystems and realization of social and economic goals. If innovations that balance ecological and economic objectives are to be mainstreamed in policies plans and programmes and scaled out researchers planners and practitioners need to work within an enabling policy and legislative context so as to effectively promote adoption and impa ct by bridging science-policy interface. Policy provisions are poorly enforced and do not have in-built incentive mechanisms or reward systems for ecosystem protection and as a result multiple interests take toll on ecosystems and associated ecosystem services. The interface between multiple interests within policy contexts involving disconnects between practices and the ‘spirit’ of the laws indubitably makes agricultural development environmental conservation and poverty reductio n a challenge for East African economies. In this paper we examine the existing institutional ‘architecture’-disconne cts and gaps between existing policies and legislation and their potential role in shaping ecoagriculture knowledge use access and adoption/action. We identify opportunities policy constraints and suggest approaches for mainstreaming ecoagriculture approaches. In this paper questions that we try to address include: what policy opportunities and constraints will potentially influence the adoption of innovations such as ecoagriculture? How best can na scent innovations be introduced into a complex policy context? How can we avoid raising expectations and would-be back lashes?

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