Understanding the role of Power, Identity, Communication and Trust in preventing and countering violent extremism in Somalia

*The following article provides a summary of a chapter contributed to Extremisms in Africa Vol 3 co-authored by myself, Fatma Ahmed, and Jem Thomas entitled Using evidence-based research to directly improve P/CVE programming: A Case Study of a Social Network Analysis in Somalia.

Across the community of practitioners, policymakers, researchers and academics involved in Preventing/Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE), laments are often heard of a paucity of deep research in the discipline. There are claims that projects are too often based upon a weak solid-evidence base, that researchers are too removed from practitioners (and vice versa), and that research is often unrelated to realities on the ground. Thus we decided, within the confines of an existing project in Somalia, to examine the benefits of deep primary research, and how such might go some way to tackling these issues.

Our case study analysed the utility of Social Network Analysis (SNA), a tool which maps relationships and flows between people, groups, organisations, and other connected information. The research and project design were conducted by Albany Associates, funded by the US Department of State. Albany partnered with civil society organisations (CSOs) in four Somali districts: Garowe, Mogadishu, Baidoa and Kismayo. These CSOs identified 175 research participants (aged between 18-35, both employed and unemployed), assessed the validity of the data, and helped with project implementation.

There are claims that projects are too often based upon a weak solid-evidence base, that researchers are too removed from practitioners (and vice versa), and that research is often unrelated to realities on the ground.

Somalia is a highly complex environment, within which historical, political and social dynamics have been exploited by violent extremist groups such as al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State. The research conducted was part of a wider project to prevent violent extremism within the country through strategic communications. The analysis of the findings found three main themes: Power and Identity, Communications and Trust.

 

Power and Identity

Through our research, we identified power and identity as important factors in the radicalisation process, borne of unemployment and insecurity. These latter factors were identified as the most common frustrations and concerns perceived by the participants.

In Somalia, youth unemployment is high, reported to be as high as 75% (exact statistics are difficult to ascertain). Unemployment is often intertwined with identity and a sense of self-worth; contributing to society can assist in avoiding a sense of marginalisation by a community. Al-Shabaab has used this to recruit new members, offering both wages and material goods which can give those youth who join status, power and an identity previously missing.  Equally, insecurity leads to a sense of powerlessness. The research found a majority of the participants in rural areas did not feel represented within their political system. In a context where they cannot rely on the government, al-Shabaab offer an enticing alternative, particularly among the youth: protection to recruited individuals and their families, and a sense of empowerment.

In Somalia, youth unemployment is high, reported to be as high as 75%.

Communications

Once these frustrations and concerns were understood, it was vital to understand how and where individuals communicate, consume and share information. In the context of strategic communication and P/CVE, we often speak of counter and alternative narratives. We understood that in our programme, the role of narratives is crucial, especially when an extremist group uses them to influence popular perceptions. Our SNA findings provided an understanding of the information ecology of our participants and wider audiences.

We understood that in our programme, the role of narratives is crucial, especially when an extremist group uses them to influence popular perceptions.

The SNA found that across the four regions, a majority of respondents have access to smart phones, and radio is commonly used. Further, there is a high reliance on friends and families, not only to voice concerns and frustrations to, but also to turn to for advice and information. From our analysis, it is clear Al-Shabaab exploits networks to recruit and radicalise vulnerable communities. These insights into communication channels allowed us to target our interventions, ensuring the alternative and counter narratives reached our audience through the appropriate means and mediums.

Trust

We found that, unsurprisingly, the strongest trust relationship is between friends and family members. Trust levels ascribed to religious leaders were not uniform across the regions, as was also the case, for trust in international media.  The SNA also demonstrated which sources for trusted advice were not related; individuals were not at all likely to seek advice from associations/groups. Not one respondent cited NGOs and Human Rights CSOs as sources of advice.

Trust is fundamental in any P/CVE project, enabling predictability, community and collaboration, and a prerequisite for social order.

Trust is fundamental in any P/CVE project, enabling predictability, community and collaboration, and a prerequisite for social order. By examining patterns of which influencers are connected (or not), it is possible to infer an underlying pattern of advice-seeking relationships, and hence a degree of trust, among the respondents. Outside family and friends, our research indicated highly complex trust networks, varying across the regions, worthy of further, deeper examination.  Notably, when it comes to trust, a ‘one-size-fits all’ approach appeared insufficient, with local sociocultural factors having considerable sway.  However, where possible, our programme activities used these localised trust networks to communicate through.

Impact on programming and conclusion

The SNA gave the programme designers a deep, contextually rich sense of the target audience within which P/CVE activities operate. No campaign would succeed without knowledge on where people receive information, or who is trusted to deliver those messages. Alternative or counter narratives would be unsuccessful if there was not an understanding of what leads individuals to be radicalised.

This knowledge led to demonstrable impact. Beneficiaries previously afraid to speak out about al-Shabaab dedicated themselves to it, Imams who initially refused to speak openly on the radio about violent extremism requested to do so by the end of the project. One partner organisation trained youth to become Peace Ambassadors; they received more applications than needed and are planning to run similar programmes in the future to meet the demands.

Beneficiaries previously afraid to speak out about al-Shabaab dedicated themselves to it, Imams who initially refused to speak openly on the radio about violent extremism requested to do so by the end of the project.

Social science research methodologies, such as a SNA, can provide significant advantages and insights in addressing “push” factors and informing alternative-narrative campaigns. Local expertise and knowledge are an absolutely critical part of that research process. As Albany has long championed, “make it theirs”  – empower local people to engage with and solve their own issues in their own contexts.  This equally applies to ground research. Without serious local insight, even if it takes time and resources, no project will succeed.

 

We’d love to hear from you! Join The Wicked Conversation by leaving your comments below, or send your letter to the editor to stephen@gga.org.

 

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LAURA NETTLETON is the senior monitoring and evaluation specialist at Albany Associates. She has conducted research in Somaliland, Kenya, Uganda, Tunisia and across the western Balkans. She comes from a communications background and holds a Master’s in Conflict, Security and Development from King’s College, London, as well as a Bachelor’s in Anthropology and Conflict Studies from Exeter University.

Science isn’t enough to prevent disaster: the case of the desert locust plague in East Africa

East Africa is experiencing the worst desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) outbreak in decades. The outbreak began in early 2019 and science isn’t enough to save the livelihoods and ensure the food security of at least 39 million people who are currently at risk. Implementing existing environmental protection policies and consistent resource allocation to national and regional organisations will ultimately be the difference.

Naturally, these policies and actions should be supported by expert scientists and researchers. Desert locusts have plagued farmers in Africa and Asia since Pharaonic times and is mentioned in both the Bible and Koran. Since the United Kingdom’s establishment of the Anti-Locust Research Centre in 1945, four major international conferences have been held to formally establish a method of monitoring, controlling and preparing for future outbreaks.

Two factors have impacted the success and failure of desert locust management. First, desert locusts ignore international boundaries which means that international cooperation is crucial for successful intervention. Second, plague outbreaks are intermittent, so funding for both research and control fluctuates and needs to be more consistent. Oscillation between recession and outbreak periods can cause a lack of available funding for monitoring and control operations. Countries have become poorly equipped to cope with an upsurge because of these seasonal fluctuations.

Cooperation and coordination

The very nature of the desert locust problem calls for an approach to environmental governance that involves both state and non-state actors. Despite international organisations like the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) being a central actor in dealing with the desert locust outbreaks, states in the affected regions need to have internal policy measures implemented to ensure preparedness for predicted outbreaks. In 1962, the Convention for the Establishment of the Desert Locust Control Organization for Eastern Africa (DLCO-EA) was held to unify cooperation between the governments of Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.

The DLCO-EA hoped to ensure cooperation in the control of desert locust plauges across the region. Despite having the necessary scientific understanding of how to deal with the locusts, the organisation has been unable to deal with the magnitude of the current outbreak. Lack of membership payment by Uganda, Djibouti, Somalia and Sudan, all of which owed an estimated $8 million to the organisation, is clearly a primary problem. This is nearly half of its members failing to contribute to the capacity and maintenance of the DLCO-EA. Environmental problems are inherently challenging to solve because they are embedded in complex biological systems.

Their impacts are often time-lagged so if political leaders are short-sighted, it’s unlikely that they will cooperate effectively. Effective locust control requires a well-timed coordinated response. Consider, for instance, that warning signs of a severe outbreak surfaced after the North Indian Ocean experienced its most active cyclone season ever recorded. This created ideal breeding and survival grounds across the Arabian Peninsula. Desert locusts occur in swarms due to a particular combination of weather, soil and vegetation conditions that complements its reproduction and mutation from an otherwise solitary creature into one which matures and develops into speedy swarms (gregarisation) of up to 150 million locusts⁠.

This mutation makes the desert locust one of the most destructive insect groups when met with cropland. The Desert Locust Watch agency of the FAO released frequent warning bulletins during the cyclone season and from late 2019 it was clear that breeding had gone uncontrolled in Yemen. Despite the warnings, the DLCO-EA and member states did not have sufficient supplies of pesticides, protective gear and locust control authority to allow for effective control.

Why science isn’t enough

In a recent article published in Nature, the authors demonstrate that researchers are improving their understanding of how the locusts communicate, using predictive modelling to determine outbreak locations before they happen. They consequently call for more data-driven agricultural policies. No one should disagree, but if governments aren’t prioritising this research or actively monitoring and evaluating their current strategies then the science may come too late.

In Ethiopia, for instance, there are environmental policies in place, but they lack the necessary resources, implementation and expert involvement to make a difference or show positive outcomes. Conflict and instability in Somalia have made certain areas inaccessible to control operation groups. Kenya were initially not fully prepared for the scale of the outbreak but have managed to fight back and clear the infestations. Swarm breeding in northeast Africa and Yemen is currently threatening a second wave that could migrate south into eastern Ethiopia, central Somalia and northern Kenya. The fight is not over yet.

Transnational governance on environmental issues cannot act as a substitute for strong state-based governance. Research shows that strong national environmental policies create incentives for state and non-state actors to cooperage and engage transnationally. The DLCO-EA should be complemented by member state investment into national locust control policies so that they are better able to work in synergy. The most recent Locust Watch bulletin indicates that more swarms are forming and breeding has commenced in the Red Sea near to Somalia.

Kenya is likely to be affected from mid-November but the situation seems less severe than in 2019. The Kenyan based IGAD Climate Prediction & Applications Centre (ICPAC) is using satellite technology to help monitor breeding and movement forecasts of the desert locusts. They are cooperating with environmental ministries to help inform resource allocation and control operations across the region. This kind of cooperation and coordination between science and politicians will surely make the difference in preventing future environmental disaster.

This article was first published by Daily Maverick here

Monique Bennett is a senior researcher at Good Governance Africa. She has a keen interest in data science, data visualisation and statistics using the R programming language. Throughout her studies, research topics such as development, democracy and the environment within the context of developing countries have been her focus areas.

Between a rock and a hard place

The Sahel: Africa’s Great Green Wall

The African Union’s ambitious plans to revitalise the Sahel region face daunting challenges, including financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic

Acacia trees planted in Senegal’s Louga region, as part of the Great Green Wall Photo: Seyllou Diallo / AFP

It is a project that doesn’t lack ambition. The African Union’s Great Green Wall Initiative (GGWI) aims to create a new living world wonder, an 8,000 km tree line across the 21 countries in the Sahel region of Africa. A project this size needs the funding to match and so far, more than $8 billion has been pledged. But conflicts, capacity, direction and ensuring capital remain huge challenges standing in the way of the GGWI. This has led the initiative to refocus away from merely planting trees to developing climate-resilient communities that will be protected from droughts, famine, conflict and migration, restoring degraded land to provide food, jobs and other products that people can use to make a living.

“Planting trees just to restore the land is not the right methodology and this is why we’re looking at income generation as a key aspect,” said Camilla Nordheim-Larsen, programme coordinator at the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). “The communities need to have a reason to take care of these trees, whether it’s to use or sell products coming from  the trees or an agro-forestry project, or being able to sell carbon credits, for example,” she says, explaining the GGWI’s new direction.

The project’s aims, however, are vast in terms of land restoration, carbon offsetting, beneficiaries, and the number of trees planted by the end of this decade, with progress on many targets stalled and hovering around the 15 to 18% mark. Completion within the decade is ambitious, but Nordheim-Larsen remains confident the initiative can achieve its  goals  on time, which under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is 2030.

Nordheim-Larsen’s optimism is based on her belief that a significant increase in investment, from a variety of different sources, both public and private, could make a drastic difference to the funding gap and help to upscale projects. However, Elvis Tangem, coordinator for the GGWI at the African Union Commission, is less optimistic about that date, which he sees as a UN rather than African Union (AU) target.

“Most of the programmes of the UN are based on the SDGs [for 2030], but for the African Union we have Agenda 2063,” Tangem says. “As far as achieving it by 2030, it’s very, very unlikely. We did an extrapolation and we looked at the possibility of attaining that objective by 2030, but we had to be restoring almost 2.5 million hectares of land a year, which is not possible… with the financial and resources situation [as it is] we cannot say it can be achieved in the next 10 years. When you look at Agenda 2063 it’s more realistic, as we’re talking about restoring less than one million hectares of land a year.”

The GGWI is led by the AU, with the World Bank, UN, European Union and Global Environmental Facility (GEF) as its main funders. Another revenue stream UNCCD is trying to tap is private funders and it supports projects that make the GGWI self-funding by producing products that can be sold on international markets such as oil from the moringa tree, baobab and superfoods type of products, and shea butter. Tangem claims there are as many as 27 products and commodities that could be sold on international markets in the GGWI to benefit communities, in addition to eco-tourism.

Although exploitation of such commodities and eco-tourism, along with addressing climate change, are all issues that may seem to be more of a focus of the western or developed world rather than the countries of the Sahel, Nordheim-Larsen is keen to emphasise the initiative is not being donor-led but was started in the region; the project ultimately builds on the vision of late Burkina Faso President Tomas Sankara.

A 3D movie about the Great Green Wall at the Chad stand at the COP21 UN conference on climate change in Paris, 2015 Photo: Eric Feferberg / AFP

“It started with African leaders and was adopted by African leaders in 2007 [after the idea was conceived in 2005] with no push from donors. We’ve come much later to try and support the initiative,” she says. Now, though, the main concern facing the GGWI is funding and searching for different revenue streams, the most significant of which would be carbon offsetting. “The potential carbon sequestration that this project could generate would have global benefits,” adds Nordheim-Larsen.

“There’s been interest from many companies in terms of offsetting projects in the region. At the moment there’s not a lot, but there’s some with the potential to be upscaled, both agroforestry and in the renewable energy sector.” Those companies include carbon polluting giants such as BP and Shell, who are believed to be very interested in offsetting through the GGWI, which could offset up to 500 gigatonnes of carbon emitted into the atmosphere, says Tangem. But private financial interest is not limited to the globe’s big polluters.

“During UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ climate change summit in September [2019], we had serious engagement with companies like Timberland, who were ready to invest a good chunk of their corporate social responsibility funds in the Great Green Wall,” he adds. The recent coronavirus pandemic, though, has already begun to have an impact on this funding of the GGWI, as Tangem explains: “We successfully raised €1 million for the locust issue in the Horn of Africa, but because of Covid that money was diverted into supporting these countries to buy facemasks and sanitisers.”

This has not been a one-off issue as following last September’s UN Climate Summit in New York, the Great Green Wall has made engagements with both the public and private sector in the pursuit of additional funding that Tangem claims were successful. “We had many other pledges from private-sector partners, big and small, but many of them have withdrawn because they need to take care of their workers and help their investors during this Covid time when everything is shut down. But we are very confident that between 12 and 15 months down the line we will come back and have the support because these engagements are there,” he says.

Besides the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the GGWI has faced several other problems, as can be expected with a project of this size, the most serious of which is security. Extremists, traffickers and terrorist organisations are all operating in various countries of the Sahel where the GGWI has been working, forcing them to retreat. “Burkina Faso, for instance, was one of our best and most successful practices, but we had to abandon about 60% [of our work] because of the security issues. We abandoned most of the areas that were being intervened in Mali, such as Timbuktu.

These are key areas but we had to abandon [them] because of security issues. In Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad as well,” says Tangem. These are all issues that simply weren’t there, certainly on this scale, in 2005 when the programme started. In addition, Somalia forms a large part  of the initiative’s strategy, but the GGWI is unable to operate there because of extremist organisation Al-Shabaab. Not only are these groups having a disastrous impact on the ground on the GGWI’s ability to carry out its programmes, but they have also discouraged funders, says Tangem, although he also points out that countries that are more secure have demonstrated more long-lasting results.

Ethiopia, for instance, has managed to restore 15 million hectares of degraded land. One other challenge facing the GGWI is a need to upscale domestic investment and unlock further finances from the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDFC), as it cannot rely solely on development aid, something about which both Tangem and Nordheim-Larsen agree. But, as Tangem points out, he accepts there is a domestic shortfall in funding, while many of the fund’s beneficiary countries are dealing with more pressing short-term issues than land restoration. The security issues detailed are the most pressing of these, though as Covid-19 continues to eat into the budgets of GGWI’s biggest funders, such as the World Bank and EU, it may well, at least in the short-term, fall to second behind financing.

Workers water the Widu tree nursery in Senegal’s Louga region, 2011 Photo: Seyllou Diallo / AFP

 

Joe Walsh is a freelance journalist based in Johannesburg. He primarily writes about the environment, energy and the green economy, as well as politics and society for British publications including Environmental Finance, the New Statesman and The New European.

 

A desperate battle for water

Photo essay: Somaliland

 

Aerial view of Somaliland, 2017

 

Over the past 25 years, Somalia has experienced a cycle of protracted droughts. During the most recent drought, between 2016 and 2017, rains failed for three seasons in a row. By March 2017, when I visited Somalia and Somaliland, the self-declared independent state in north-west Somalia, to document the impact of the drought, the situation had grown desperate. Some 1.2 million children were projected to be acutely malnourished and more than six million people – half the country’s population – were facing a real threat of food shortages. Water supplies were becoming undrinkable due to the possibility of infection from cholera and other diseases.

 

The Kapasa camp at Dollow, Jubaland, Somaliland, 2017. The camp houses 41,000 displaced people due to drought.

 

With CARE International, I documented communities in central Somaliland who had lost livestock, sometimes all. Those that were left were surviving on wet paper for food. CARE was running resilience projects in the region, including helping some communities to rehabilitate shallow wells. In some cases these were the only source of water for many kilometres. Walking to collect water, sometimes for as much as five hours a day, took girls out of school, but these water sources sustained hundreds of families during this critical time.

 

Sisters Sahra Abdillahi Mohamed, 12 (left), and Ifrah Abdillahi Mohamed, 15 (centre) and second cousin Zainab Hussein Jama, 14 (centre left) walk home with their donkeys after collecting water from a shallow well outside the town of Suuqsade in Somaliland. This is their only source of water for 60 km

 

With the World Food Program and Arete Stories, I documented families at Kapasa Internally Displaced Peoples Camp in Jubaland, Somalia, where approximately 41,000 people were displaced by the drought. The situation was exacerbated by an on-going conflict in the region. At Kapasa, families received water, shelter and food aid. Tragically, drought images from the country are so familiar that they rarely make the head- lines. These images have helped raise funds to support community projects in this region, and to help raise awareness on the harsh reality of life there, especially for women and girls.

 

New arrivals at Kapasa internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Dollow, Jubaland, Somalia

 

Sacdiya Mohamed Noor outside her makeshift tent in Kapasa internally displaced persons camp with her seven children

 

Fatuma Abdullahi Omar lived in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp and recently moved to Kapasa in the
hope of finding a better life

 

Georgina Goodwin is a documentary photographer and Canon Ambassador born and based in Kenya. Her work focuses on women, refugees, social issues and environment. She is a contributor to Getty Images and EverydayClimateChange, Certified Canon Trainer, and TEDxKakumaCamp speaker. Her work has been widely published, and exhibited in major cities around the world. More on Georgina: https://linktr.ee/georginagoodwin

Working from the ground up

Case study: Talensi, Ghana

A low-cost, easily replicated land restoration technique has helped smallholders in northern Ghana resist the ravages of climate change

Farmers select pineapple plants to be cultivated on a farm in Ekumfi, Ghana, 2018 Photo: Christina Aldehuela

Although climate change has not received as much discussion as it should have in Ghana, it has taken its toll on the Talensi district in the upper east region of the country. Fortunately for the farmers in the area, a Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) project, sponsored by World Vision Ghana, has helped to alleviate its effects on the people. The project, which has been well received and is showing signs of success thus far, could be replicated across the African continent to increase food and timber production as well as resilience to climate extremes.

The Talensi district forms part of the 15  municipalities and districts in  the upper east region and is one of 260 Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs). About 90% of the population is engaged in subsistence agriculture. Production of the main staple food crops, namely cereals and legumes, is done by smallholder farmers using traditional methods, which have made little room for modern scientific advancement. The main crops produced are millet, sorghum, groundnut and beans. These are dependent on annual rain, which has become erratic over the years, leading to poor harvests.

Inusah Baba, a senior research scientist at the Savannah Agriculture Research Institute of Ghana’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), says the Ghanaian authorities have woken up to the fact that climate change is a phenomenon that is not remote to the country. Changing weather conditions have also led to flooding, which has become an annual ritual in all major farming communities on the banks of the White Volta [the headstream of the Volta River, Ghana’s main waterway], Inusah said. As a result, many people’s crops have been washed away by flood waters.

In addition, the erratic rains have reduced yields for most crops grown in northern Ghana. Moreover, in recent years intermittent droughts – which are understood to consist of three or more weeks with no significant rains – have also combined with unusually high temperatures in March through to April, affecting the period between August and September, when most crops are grown under rain- fed conditions. Farmers in the Talensi district, however, say that World Vision’s FMNR has helped to maintain their livelihoods.

Standing in his fields, wearing his fugu – a cotton outfit worn by men – John Anaba, a farmer at Namoalug in the Talensi district, said he was proud of what he had been able to achieve using only hoes and cutlasses. However, changes in the weather had given him good and bad times, he said. He did not understand what climate change was, but the weather had changed in recent years, negatively affecting his crops and those of others in the district. It was “better now”, he added.

“The Talensi FMNR, is a rapid, low-cost, easily replicated land restoration technique to combat poverty and hunger that works with communities and partners to restore degraded lands in the district so as to improve on soil health for healthy agricultural production,” World Vision Ghana’s food security and resilience technical programmes manager, Maxwell Amedi, told Africa in Fact. In practice, FMNR involves the systematic regrowth and management of trees and shrubs from felled tree stumps, which helps to sprout root systems or seeds.

The regrown trees and shrubs, which help restore soil structure and fertility, inhibit erosion and soil moisture evaporation, rehabilitate the water table and increase biodiversity. Some tree species also provide the soil with nutrients. The FMNR approach encourages the use of living tree stumps, which can resprout or produce seeds. When trees are cut down, their root systems often remain alive underground. “In many formerly forested areas this underground forest [may be] vast, with millions of trees waiting to be regenerated. FMNR systematically regenerates this underground forest,” he said.

The project is a tree management practice, involving selection, pruning, protection and maintenance, and also empowers communities, regreening both community mindsets and peoples’ relationship with nature and the landscape. Preparation for the FMNR project started in October 2006, with the support of World Vision Australia (WVA). “WVA’s aim was to improve the socio- economic living conditions of the people in the Talensi area,” Amendi says. “The WVA contributed to this goal through a programme focus approach that tackled deep-rooted issues of poverty, economic empowerment and capacity building in health and nutrition, education, water sanitation and hygiene, environmental sustainability and livelihood empowerment.”

Farmers tapping rubber trees to collect latex at Agona, Ghana, 2019 Photo: Christina Aldehuela

The FMNR did not just take off, Amendi says. “A baseline study was conducted before the implementation of each of the three phases. With each phase, we worked with the communities to reverse land degradation and hunger resulting from poor soils in the district.” In addition to the drought, floods, and erratic rainfall patterns mentioned, the Talensi district is vulnerable to infertile and degraded soils, food insecurity, land scarcity, with occasional disease outbreaks of cerebrospinal meningitis (CSM). To further test the viability of the project before it was fully implemented, a pilot was started in 2009, which aimed to incorporate sound environmental management into the farming practices in the project area.

This led to the first phase, which started in 2009 and ended in 2011, involving nine communities using the FMNR concept. So far, more than 3,000 people have benefited, and the project has helped restore over 400 hectares of degraded lands. “After successfully implementing the first phase, the second phase began in 2012 and ended in 2017,” Amendi says, adding that, “The second phase was implemented in 33 communities with funding support from Computer Share Australia through WVA. It benefited more than 8,000 people and restored over 700 hectares of degraded lands in the district.”

The third phase of the project started in July 2017 and ended  in  June this year, with funding support from the Australian government through WVA. It aimed to benefit 8,000 people and restore another 500 hectares of degraded land. WVA has similar FMNR projects in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Chad, Niger, Mali, Burundi, and Senegal, the organisation’s media manager, Mike Bruce, told Africa in Fact. The outcomes differ slightly from community to community, depending on circumstances.

“I have seen the difference that the project has brought to my people,” farmer John Anaba says. “Before, it was like the soil had quarrelled with us. Our crops refused to show any sign of life. We were just the forgotten people in the country, and food to feed our families became a problem.” So far, the project has seen an improvement in household food security and the resilience of people in the Talensi district, especially the most vulnerable and their families. This has happened through farmer-managed natural regeneration approaches and improved farming systems.

In addition, there has been better environmental management and stewardship, as well as an improvement in household income and savings among the people. Two project evaluations have taken place, both of which have shown that the approach has resulted in an increase in soil fertility and crop yield, as well as improvements in bulk compost and field mulching with crop residue, which has produced more food, Amendi says. Moreover, bush fires, once an annual occurrence, have been reduced by 80%, protecting the soil and allowing grasses and trees to recover, leading to massive reforestation of farms and communal fields.

The district now produces more fodder and nesting for livestock, which means the animals do not need to wander to feed. More fruit is available for home consumption and for sale, and more firewood is available. In total, the project has restored over 2,000 hectares of degraded land, with more than 10,000 farmers using conservation practices such as zero/minimum tillage, the use of stone bund walls, protecting the soil with layers of the residue from harvest crops, and making and using compost to improve soil fertility.

Other people in the district, among them several women, commented that FMNR has had a huge impact on the Talensi district by improving smallholder farmers’ levels of the production and reducing environmental degradation. Overall, the approach has seen an increase in opportunities for livelihoods and incomes for the people in the area.

 

Francis Kokutse is a journalist based in Accra, Ghana. A former member of the governing board of the state-owned Ghana News Agency (GNA), he is currently a writer for the Associated Press (AP) and a contributor to Science and Development.Net (SciDev.Net) as well as the University World News.