Communal grazing rules re-established on ex-government land in Banyakabungo: Uganda

The Banyakabungo cooperative society was identified as a candidate for SCI-SLM several years ago. The most important feature of the initiative is that grazing land is being managed communally, which is a recent development in the area. The scheme began in 1997, then in 2003 an association was permitted to gain title to grassland previously held by the government. 

The chair of the society came up with the idea of managing it sustainably, with about 100 members taking part, each with one “stake” – where one stake is equivalent to  one cow – as part of a jointly managed herd. The total  area is 186 hectares. Part has been planted with Pinus  patula trees and the remainder is managed as grazing  land. It is not yet clear whether other animals are grazing  alongside the herd of 100 even on this good pasture, a stocking rate of nearly one animal per hectare would be very high. The pasture is in reasonable condition – and  could improve further under judicious management. 

In Africa, ancient systems of communal land management are breaking down. This case is an exception: could it be that lessons can be learnt by other communities on managing land harmoniously through groups? It appears to qualify as a true social initiative – and possibly a technical innovation. 

MSc students' research in Uganda under SCI SLM

Olaf Piers – MSc thesis “Bwo’kumanya Kwa’bahingi”

In his MSc research project, Olaf Piers focused on farmer knowledge, farmer-to-farmer-learning (FTFL) and lines of communication between land-based rural communities. FTFL suggests that rural communities know most about the land that they have lived on for generations and thus know which practices achieve the best results. However, because the current system of agricultural extension services is incapable to meet knowledge demands for smallholder land-users, it is advised to look towards more innovative approaches that integrate modern media and ICT in the provision of extension services and knowledge diffusion.

The objective of the research was to identify the perceptions of smallholder land-users in Uganda regarding the most commonly used (in local terms) channels for knowledge diffusion. These are 1.) Farmer-to-farmer, 2.) Government extension services, 3.) Text message information services; and 4.) Agricultural radio broadcasts.

Two land-based (innovative) communities in Uganda (respectively “Banyakabungo Cooperative Society” in Ntungamo district and “Bandera 2000” in Kamuli district) were visited under the auspices of project SCI-SLM in order to find out how people received or shared information about land management.

The participatory field research was designed to answer the question of how farmer knowledge is best spread by looking into farmers’ perceptions of the quality of each medium and making recommendations on how this can be improved. Reflecting on the findings, it can be said that no ‘best practice’ exists regarding communication channels through which to diffuse agricultural knowledge. Combining the strengths of multiple information sources can increase information uptake. Where one information source lacks in perceived quality, another surpasses it. Combining different information channels can thus partially compensate for shortcomings of others.

Several recommendations have been devised based on the findings of the research and the conclusions that were drawn. They are meant to improve the dissemination of agricultural and SLM knowledge and innovation and serve as a blueprint for further research and / or generalized statements regarding the effects of media on local innovation and SLM sharing initiatives as perceived by rural smallholder land-users.

1.) It is advised to keep short-term focus on the discussed media channels (i.e. text message information services, radio, farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchange and government extension / NAADS); it is recommended to combine the best qualities of each channel by closer cooperation between them;

2.) Government should increase support of rural radio stations. Support could come in the form of e.g. salaries for specialist personnel; training; donation of equipment; or the provision of technical support;

3.) Similarly, it is suggested to promote the closer cooperation between the larger national media and rural radio stations. National media could offer training and studio facilities, while rural radio stations can in return share new agricultural knowledge;

4.) What was found to be an important aspect of knowledge uptake is the active inclusion of innovating farmers in information diffusion;

5.) Additionally, the quality of the knowledge of smallholder farmers should be stressed as it was found that the quality of other farmers as an information source is perceived as fairly low;

6.) Farmers prefer not to deviate from existing activities, as this would add to the level of risk. The simplicity of an innovation should therefore be taken into account during policy planning and when designing farmer-workshops as this is expected to increase farmer uptake the innovation;

7.) With respect to communication range, most rural land-users do not know many people outside their immediate surroundings. However, business can be encouraged through a communication platform that identifies farmers’ requirements and connects them to the most suitable match.

Link to full summary: Bwo’kumanya Kwa’bahingi - summary SCI-SLM

Eva van de Ven – MSc thesis “Communities taking the lead”

Within the SCI-SLM methodology, social en technical community innovations are distinguished. The latter has received quite some attention where social innovation has been lagging behind. This research focused on identifying and analysing processes of social innovation and its role in improving sustainable land management. In the research context, social innovation is conceptualised as “the process of creating or renewing systems of social order and cooperation which govern the behaviour of a set of individuals within a given human community with the aim to improve agriculture and the environment and strengthen livelihoods”. In addition, and according to SCI-SLM mandate, social innovations require to be:

-       new in local terms;

-       developed by the local community/group

-       with no/little help from outside

-       and preferably, having potential for spread.

By applying a participatory and qualitative research design, two communities in Uganda (Banyakabungo Cooperative Society and BANDERA 2000) under the ‘SCI-SLM radar’ were visited to find evidence of social innovation and to analyse the true potential of this farmer innovation type for improving agriculture and people’s livelihoods. Since land degradation and problems of agricultural production is not only a technical problem but is embedded in a broader social, economic and political context (the integrated sustainable land management approach), issues of inequality, lack of education, sickness, gender, lack of ownership and access to information, inappropriate policy-making, and so forth were looked at. 

The two research objectives: 

I.)              To define social innovation as a rather new concept as part of farmer innovation methodology in the field of SLM under SCI-SLM auspices; finding evidence for its development in the field and analysing its impacts in two rural land-based communities in Uganda.

II.)             The secondary aim concerns the not yet fully developed SCI-SLM methodology relating to social innovation; how to analyse social innovation in the field is reassessed and refined where necessary and possible.

The central question of the research was: ‘what forms of social innovation can be found under ‘Stimulating Community Initiatives in Sustainable Land Management Uganda, what are on-the-ground impacts, and how relevant is its recognition for improved sustainable land management?’

In both visited communities evidence of social innovation was found. In Banyakabungo, livestock is communally managed on a 186 ha. piece of land (collective ownership) and cattle is well looked after. The group secures its 107 members of land ownership and applies a democratic system of governance to make decisions about the land and the group’s assets. This initiative did not only improve land husbandry, but it also secured the Banyakabungo people of a more sustainable income.

The second visited community, BANDERA 2000, was first and foremost set up with the aim to fight poverty and improve the people’s livelihoods by helping them earning an income while working on the land together and supporting one another (sharing knowledge). At the moment of the visit, the group was thinking about new initiatives to own communal land (again) and produce fruits for the local market. Currently they have 350 members, of which the majority is female. Concentrating especially on empowerment and gender equality, the aim of this group is to spread the use of sustainable agricultural practices and to fight poverty, sickness and lack of knowledge and education by earning a more stable income from production from the land.

By working together in this collective fashion and involving multiple people to contribute and benefit, the communities in this research both addressed those social issues that hamper agricultural development as well as social and economic development in their society.

Apart from these findings, the SCI-SLM methodology and requirements for a ‘good’ social innovation were reassessed and adjusted. The criteria test wherein a social innovation is ‘approved’ in SCI-SLM terms is S R I: Sustainability, Replicability and Inclusiveness. Learning from the field, different aspects important to sustainable land management have been identified and included in the proposed requirements test for a good social innovation: S E R FIELD: Sustainability, Efficiency, Replicability, Future vision, Inclusiveness, Empowerment, Leadership and Democracy.

Link to full summary: Communities taking the lead - summary SCI SLM

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