Good practices in community-based approaches to integrated land and water management in Africa 

by David Read Barker 

There is an ongoing paradigm shift among resource managers and development practitioners from a sectoral to a more cross-sectoral approach to address land and water issues.  The Operational Program on Integrated Ecosystem Management (OP #12) of the Global Environment Program (GEF) is a good example of this paradigm shift.  Its objective is to catalyze widespread adoption of comprehensive ecosystem interventions that integrate ecological, economic and social goals to achieve multiple and cross-cutting benefits at the local, national and global levels.

The integrated land and water management approach provides the framework for the implementation of the Africa Land and Water Initiative, which was launched in March 1999 by the heads of the GEF and its implementing agencies—the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).  

In its May 2000 meeting, the GEF Governing Council approved a statement of OP#12 that is posted at on the GEF’s website. 

In recent years, the GEF Secretariat has commissioned studies from the network of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are accredited for consultation with the GEF.  In 1999,  the Monitoring & Evaluation Unit of the GEF Secretariat contracted with the IUCN, which was at the time the Central Focal Point of the GEF-NGO Network, to conduct a review of NGO perspectives on achieving sustainability in biodiversity conservation.  In December 1999, Monitor International, a U.S.-based NGO, became the Central Focal Point of the Network and began discussions with the GEF Secretariat about the Africa Land and Water Initiative in March 2000.  This study is one outcome of the discussions. 

The formal objective of the study is to compile, synthesize and disseminate case studies of good practices on community-based approaches to integrated land and water management, including traditional systems.  The underlying need for the study is two-fold.  First, the concept of integrated land and water management is sufficiently new that it is useful to have a few good examples of what such an undertaking looks like.  And second, one of the greatest challenges of the Africa Land and Water Initiative will be to use the available funds to finance successful projects that produce real positive benefits. 

Monitor International commissioned the case studies the Environmental Liaison Centre International (ELCI), an NGO based in Nairobi that has been active in the GEF-NGO Network.  In light of ELCI’s extensive contacts with community-based organizations and NGOs dealing with desertification and integrated water resources management in Africa,  ELCI took the lead to identify exemplary cases and  appropriate authors and to oversee the preparation of the case studies. ELCI used its contacts with the GEF-NGO Network, with RIOD, and with its own membership to identify potential cases and authors.   The initial goal was to prepare twelve case studies of successful community-based approaches to integrated land and water management, representing different agro-ecological zones in Africa.  In the end, the case studies do not represent a systematic sample from the agro-ecological zones of Sub-Saharan Africa, but they do describe an extraordinary diversity of settings and activities.  One of the twelve studies was prepared as a video and is not included in this summary.   

The final drafts of the case studies were prepared by 12 different authors, one each for ten of the studies and two authors for one. The authors of the eleven individual case studies have quite varied relationships with the cases they describe.  Several of the authors work for organizations that have been actively involved in the cases, and several are independent journalists or consultants who have had more limited and task-focused contact with the case.  None of the case studies constitutes an independent “evaluation” of projects or activities, and all of them reflect quite distinctive points of view. 

The outline for all of the case studies was set during the initial discussions between Monitor International and the GEF Secretariat.  Each case study is 2,500 to 3,000 words in length and conforms to the following outline:

  • Description of the community-based land-water management system:  location, ecosystem, physical characteristics, age;
  • Origin and rationale for the adoption of the management system;
  • Description of land and water resource use patterns;
  • Description of the community’s land and water tenure systems;
  • Description of the components of the management system;
  • Description of the institutional context, such as decision-making processes; and
  • Description of the enabling environment needed to sustain the management system.

 The titles of the case studies, which have been assigned to convey both the substantive gist of the study and its location, and they have been assigned a serial number, for ease of reference, as follows: 

1.   Managing Lake Naivasha

2.   Funding Serengeti Wildlife Conservation

3.   The Lesotho Highlands Water Project

4.   Community Forests in Tanzania

5.   Constructed Wetlands in Kenya

6.   Managing the Loita Naimina Enkiyio Forest

7.   Restoring the Magute Spring, Zimbabwe

8.   Managing Desertification in Namibia

9.   Self-Help in Kola, Kenya

          10.  Changing Customary Land Use in Turkana

          11.  River Water Users Associations in Kenya

The case studies are drawn from six countries in Eastern and Southern Africa.  Six cases--Lake Naivasha (1), Constructed wetlands (5), Loita Naimina Enkiyio Forest (6), Self-Help in Kola (9), Changing customary land use in Turkana (10) and River water users associations (11)—are in Kenya.  Two cases—Community forests (4) and Serengeti wildlife conservation (2)—are in Tanzania.  Once case each is in Zimbabwe (Magute Spring, 7) and Namibia  (Managing desertification, 8).  And one case, the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (3), straddles Lesotho and South Africa. 

All but one of the case studies describes local community conservation efforts.  The exception is the  Lesotho Highlands Water Project (3), which differs from the others in both its international scope and massive engineering scale. 

The GEF Operational Program on Integrated Ecosystem Management

OP #12 states that experience gained from natural resource management programs throughout the world offers three useful insights into the application of integrated ecosystem management to optimize positive ecological, economic, and social benefits of activities aimed at maintaining or restoring ecosystem structure and function.  These insights, or lessons, indicate: (1) it may be necessary to define the management scale to encompass an entire ecosystem; (2) natural resource management programs should integrate economic and social factors into ecosystem management goals; and (3) management planning should be flexible and adaptive. 

OP # 12 aims at catalyzing widespread adoption of comprehensive ecosystem management interventions that integrate ecological, economic, and social goals to achieve multiple and cross-cutting local, national, and global benefits.  Consistent with the incremental cost principle and the broad programmatic approach of this Operational Program, GEF funding, which will specifically support interventions to capture the global benefits of a program, will emphasize co-financing and cost-sharing.

 The expected outcomes of a GEF-supported intervention would include: (1) creation of an enabling environment, (2) institutional strengthening, and (3) Investments.  GEF would facilitate sustainable transitions from conventional to integrated ecosystem management approaches by providing agreed incremental cost finance for technical assistance, investments, financial services, and targeted research to address constraints limiting the adoption of integrated approaches. 

Ecosystem Scale 

The first insight, or lesson, of the Operational Program for Integrated Ecosystem Management is:  

It may be necessary to define the management scale beyond the boundaries of a single habitat type, conservation area, political or administrative unit to encompass an entire ecosystem. 

Although this lesson may be valid and important, the case studies suggest that the day-to-day existence of most people—and their projects—occurs in much smaller biophysical units.  Watersheds are clearly the most important of these units, followed by forest boundaries.   

Three of the case studies deal directly with watersheds.  Only one study, the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (3) , explicitly noted the issue of ecosystem boundaries, perhaps because this is the only international project among the case studies and because it involves inter-basin water transfers, through huge tunnels.  The Managing Lake Naivasha (1) study identifies the biggest threats as the burgeoning human population, extractions from the lake’s main feeder river, the Malewa, and continuing destruction of the forests that provide vital catchment. The River Water Users Associations study (11) notes that land use within river catchments impacts river hydrology, and deforesting a catchment has the potential to increase flood flows, decrease dry season baseflows, and increase sediment load in the river. 

The one case study that focuses on wildlife conservation in the north-west Serengeti (2) and two of the studies that focus on forest management (in Tanzania, 4, and in the Loita Naimina Enkiyio Forest, 6) suggest that very useful conservation activities can be carried out on a scale that is much smaller than an area described by its vegetation.  The study on managing desertification in Namibia (8) showed that a broad set of indicators, such as the Index of Biological Integrity, is superior to vegetation-based assessments in determining range condition. The study on customary land use in Turkana (10) illuminated the complex mental maps of the south Turkana people, who live in a highly dynamic landscape of diverse habitats, where outsiders see only a “great expanse of dusty red broken sporadically by dots of green.” 

All but two of the case studies describe very “intimate” settings that seem to span no more territory than can be reached in a couple of hours walking, or less.  The villagers in the north-west Serengeti who watch for poachers; the villagers who look after the Loita Maimina Enkiyio Forest; the residents of Dambakupetwa kraal who look after the Magute spring; villagers near the Duru-Haitemba Forest; the members of the Utooni Self-help Group in Kola; the south Turkana pastoralists; and the businessmen who have constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment—all of these subjects of the case studies live in microcosms of ecosystems. 

Human factors in ecosystem management 

The second lesson of the Operational Program for Integrated Ecosystem Management is:  

Because the needs of human beings play a major role in the disturbance of ecosystems, natural resource management programs should integrate economic and social factors into ecosystem management goals.  


National and District governments.  Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa have important new forest laws in draft or already enacted.  Many of these laws show a willingness to involve ordinary citizens in the process of securing and managing forest and catchment areas.  A recent and radical approach looks to forest-local citizens not as co-operands of government management regimes, but as potential forest owners and managers themselves, through the framework of community forests, an entirely new class of protected forest.  With incentive to control local forests, communities will be less willing to see them disappear into private farmland or be used unsustainably and will determine to retain the forest intact, to the benefit of the community as a whole.   

In 1989, the central government of Tanzania decided to convert the Duru-Haitemba forest into a National Forest Reserve, which meant extinguishing local tenure over the forest.  Both local communities and outsiders took this as a signal to extract as much as they could from the forest before it was lost to them, and within five years it was almost entirely degraded.  Villagers argued that they could protect what remained more effectively than government and, with government approval, implemented a management plan that within a few months put the forest on the road to recovery.  Since then, the eight villages have approved Village By-laws that must be upheld by local magistrates. With new land laws enacted in 1999, Tanzania has created an entirely new form of land ownership, commonhold, which gives legal weight and form to the customary capacity to hold certain properties such as forests as group-owned private property. 

In Zimbabwe, the Dambakupetwa community, on the Magute Stream, decided that they needed outside assistance to help them revive the spring.  They invited extension officers from the Zimbabwe government’s Agricultural Extension Services (Agritex) department and from the Nyanga Rural District Council to help them replace lost trees, wild fruits and other useful fauna and flora. 

Traditional governments.  Traditional bodies of elders receive generally very favorable treatment in the case studies.  Perhaps the most dramatic example is in restoring the Magute Spring:  when the community realized that their shifting vegetable gardens and orchards had gone as far as possible up the Magute stream, they held a meeting with their traditional elders and decided it was time to stop the practices that had almost led to their own extinction.  The community established several new institutions—a Village Natural Resources Council, a Village Works Committee, and a local court headed by a village headman.  To link the community with the environment, they “put together a set of rules” that that bridged everyday and mystical behavior.  People were stopped from cutting trees, cultivating, digging for worms and grazing cattle along the stream, and they were forbidden to show disrespect to the spirits and mermaids of the spring, by using pots with soot, doing laundry, or killing wild animals that used the spring. 

In 1993 the Loita Maasai formed the Loita Naimina Enkiyio Conservation Trust (LNECT) to act as the community’s manager and custodian of the Loita Naimina Enkiyio Forest.  The Trust incorporated formal political structures into a basically traditional one whose officials were a mix of traditional leaders, NGO workers, government representatives and politicians.  Shortly thereafter, the Narok County Council announced its intention to turn the Loita Naimina Enkiyio Forest into a nature reserve and open it for large-scale commercial tourism.  The following year, the LNCET won a court ruling barring the Council from turning the forest into a nature reserve.  But the community will have to accept a new property regime in order to secure their land and forest; they must go completely against their spirit of communality by privatizing the land and creating both individual and group holdings.  As one elder put it, “Now there is need not just to go with the traditional way of doing things but to create a new forest management policy and a new way of policing the forest.” 

The Turkana people of north-eastern Kenya have shown their resilience, determination and capacity to innovate new responses to the droughts of the 1990s.  In the past, south Turkana pastoralists lived and moved in units of one or two families in search of water and pasture for grazing livestock, but beginning in the 1980s, the constant threat of violent robbery and death by marauding armed bandits forced the pastoralists to form extensive areas of the range with mutually observed boundaries, in which they congregate and graze their livestock under the control of perimeter guards.  Many conservationists view these larger concentrations of livestock as environmentally destructive, but the new arrangements provide pastoralists with additional means of dealing with risk and prevent them from falling out of reciprocal networks that are needed to rebuild herds following drought. 

Community-based organizations and affinity groups.  Several case studies note that community-based organizations play a critical role. 

The Utooni Self-Help Group was started in 1978 in the town of Kola, Machakos District, Kenya, by six families from Utooni.  The instigator was a young employee of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, Joshua Mukusya, who revived the colonial-era art of building sand dams.  He carefully enlisted the support of the village elders, and in the ensuing years, the group has built 105 dams and more than 8,500 gutter and water tank systems. 

Lake Naivasha Riparian Association 

Businesses.  Three of the case studies give some insight into the roles and behavior of established businesses, and one case features an SME scheme.  

In Kenya, the Lake Naivasha Growers Group, consisting of 20 commercial flower growers, has initiated a comprehensive code of conduct covering all aspects of its operations, from water usage and the application of pesticides to the reduction of fertilizers and human waste, workers’ welfare, the containment of run off, and a ban on lakeside farming. The Group’s executive officer undertakes regular audits of its members’ farms  

In Tanzania, a large number of private sector wildlife enterprises operate in the north-west Serengeti.  These commercial tour operators generate substantial profits and depend on local  communities’ support to conserve wildlife.  Recently tourist concerns and communities in the north-west buffer zones have negotiated a number of innovative partnerships and agreements.  The Wildlife Department has introduced a voluntary levy on tourist hunting equivalent to 10% above normal trophy fees, which could generate revenues of up to $20,000 a year for the region.  Two private companies have taken the voluntary levy to 20% above the fees the government charges.  The fees fund local anti-poaching teams and provide cash rewards for activities and information on poachers.  Participating villages receive game culling licenses and a share of the meat hunted by tourists, and the scheme generated a third of a million dollars between 1990 and 1993.  But alongside such success stories there are an equal number of disasters caused by companies that do not act in the best interest of either local communities or wildlife conservation. 

There are now six fully operational constructed wetlands (CW) in Kenya, one treating sewage from a restaurant and resort and one at a country club, both in the greater Nairobi area.  Another treats sewage from a new tourist camp in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve.  A Lake Naivasha, there is one agro-chemical buffer for the lake and a CW that handles commercial laundry effluent.  At the Nandi Hills, a CW at a tea factory recycles agricultural waste and toilet effluent.  In total, these constructed wetlands return just over 500,000 liters of cleaned water daily to various surface water systems for safe use by others. 

In Zimbabwe, the people of Dambakupetwa kraal began making soap and jam from plantings at the restored Magute Spring, income generation from sustainable harvest of natural resources.  Community members make soap by adding soda to oil extracted from jatropha seeds, and they make marmalade jam from lemons on the abandoned trees near the spring.  Money from the jam, soap making and garden projects is deposited in separate bank accounts, and the community has agreed not to use the money until they have a substantial amount to share equally among them all. 

NGOs.  NGOs receive mixed reviews in the case studies.  One dynamic that emerges clearly is the different agendas of the big NGOs operating from Europe and North America and the usually much small local and national NGOs operating in Africa.  In at least two cases, the international NGOs dominated the locals.  In the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (3), the International Rivers Network and the Environmental Defense Fund initially took a position quite different from that of local NGOs.  And over the years, several international NGOs have helped the Utooni Self-Help Group in Kola, Kenya (9): World Neighbours has conducted trainings and paid allowances to committee members, and scouts from the UK provide money for building materials and help in building water tanks and gutters.  But an arm’s length relationship is important.  The Group’s founder said, “When planning our work we have tried to avoid being dominated by NGOs.  We have made sure that NGOs don’t dictate what we do with the money they give us.” 

International organizations.  Globalization and the interplay among local, national, and global forces is a theme that appears in several of the case studies.  The study on the Lesotho Highlands Water Project recounts how the World Bank was pressured by local and international NGOs to stop its objectionable practices and to conduct an environmental impact assessment before it lent funds for Phase IB of the project.  In contrast, a positive turning point in the fortunes of the Lake Naivasha Riparian Association was receiving the Ramsar Wetland Conservation Award, in 1999. 

In the commercial realm, wholesalers and supermarket chains in Europe who are increasingly concerned about their suppliers operations make regular, unannounced audits of the flower growers around Lake Naivasha.  And the safari tour operators in the north-west Serengeti draw customers from all over the world. 

Among the individuals who are introduced in the case studies, only a few have the global sophistication of Andrew Lord Enniskillen, who is quoted as saying, “I want to get the message across to the World Bank and to international governments that they should be putting pressure on Kenya to conserve its natural resources.”   

The first result of the intimate scale of the lives of most of the subjects of the case studies is variously termed “local knowledge” or “traditional wisdom.”  Again and again the case studies show local people to have the understanding to be able to protect, preserve, and restore their immediate surroundings.  In some cases, such as restoring the Magute Spring, this is accomplished with the support of nature spirits, and in other cases, such as managing the Loita Naimina Enkiyio forest, it requires the threat of curses. 

Patterns of land and water resource use 

All but one of the case studies paints a stark picture resource scarcity; the only case of abundant resources is Lesotho, which has much more water than it requires for its own needs.  Among the ten other cases, it is difficult to correlate resource use patterns with successful new forms of ecosystem management.  Throughout the huge six-country area ecompassed by the case studies, nomadic, semi-nomadic and sedentary pastoralists are found co-mingled among shifting and sedentary cultivators.  Aside from the modern flower and vegetable farms near Lake Naivasha, irrigation is not present or is only a marginal factor, even among the sand-dam builders of Kota, who use impounded water primarily for domestic consumption rather than agriculture. 

Rainfall fluctuates widely and irregularly throughout the region touched on by the case studies, and traditional resource use systems set aside special areas as reserves in time of drought. Population growth and the spread of farming has put tremendous pressure on these reserves, to the point that Loita Naimina Enkiyio is the only untouched forest among the case studies. 

Resource scarcity promotes a “get it while you can” outlook that is vividly described in several studies, especially community forestry in Tanzania, in which the villagers of Duru-Haitemba began to pillage their own traditional lands in anticipation of their conversion into a national nature reserve.  

Community land and water tenure systems

 Taken as a whole, the case studies paint a vivid picture of the impact of colonial rule and “modernity” in the expropriation of land and water by central governments from the people who formerly held them through a wide variety of traditional forms of ownership. Who controls the land and the water is clearly a master key to conservation in sub-Saharan Africa, and competition and conflict among village, district and national stakeholders is the overarching theme of the case studies. 

One point that emerges clearly from these studies (and others from elsewhere around the world) is that the process of removing forests from local control and bringing them into national systems is almost certain to leave the forests vulnerable to uncontrolled exploitation that ends only when they are essentially ruined.  The studies of community forestry in Tanzania and the Loita Naimina Enkiyio Forest in Kenya illustrate the process convincingly. 

The solution is apparently very complex, and perhaps it has not been found anywhere yet, but the new forest and land laws in Tanzania seem to be on the right track, and the legal predicament of the Loita Maasai in being unable to manage their forest suggests that more legal work is needed in Kenya.  Traditional communal tenure systems apply, but as pressure from population growth and frequent droughts persist, Loitans recognise that in order to secure their land and forest, they have to accept a new property regime: privatisation with a mix of individual and group holdings. 

The duality of upstream versus downstream is developed in three of the five cases that touch on watershed management.  For the Lesotho Highland Water Project, a recent Instream Flow Requirements study suggests that if development continues as planned, Lesotho’s rivers could deteriorate to “something akin to waste-water drains” and that upstream riparian communities will experience critically severe increases of diseases.  Lake Naivasha is declining in part because of extraction of water from its tributary.  And the River Water Users Association study recounts the formation of an association on the Ngara Nything/Sirgon to prevent water abstractors from taking as much as possible. 

But two of the studies suggest a complex picture of watershed management.  In the case of the Magute Spring, it was the people of Dambakupetwa themselves who initially degraded the rivulet, which they restored just before it was destroyed.  In the area around Kola Town, Kenya,  the Utooni Self-help Group has built 105 sand dams that have impounded sufficient water to reduce disease, but not hunger.  The Group now needs to focus on how to use the reservoirs more effectively. 

Only the case of funding Serengeti wildlife conservation raises the issue of concessions to private enterprises to control land use for private benefit, but it suggests that such concessions are likely to fill central government and private coffers at the expense of local people. 

All six of the constructed wetlands presently in operation in Kenya are situated on privately owned land, which is probably because municipalities have been so reluctant to experiment with them. 

Origin and rationale for adopting the management systems 

To a greater or lesser degree, nearly all of the management systems described in the case studies can be categorized as being reactive, rather than proactive.  In at least eight of the cases, the situation described in the study was prompted either by environmental degradation or by the imposition of restrictions on traditional resource use and management practices.  Environmental degradation stimulated the Lake Naivasha Riparian Association to develop its management plan; prompted the people of Dambakupetwa to restore the Magute spring; pushed the people of Kola to organize the Utooni Self-Help Group and build sand dams; and motivated the people of the Ngare Nythin/Sirgon watershed to organize a river water users association.  In contrast to these four cases, which began from either “natural” causes or from unregulated but “normal” behavior,  it was the constant threat of robbery and death from armed bandits that drove the south Turkana people to concentrate their herds—and themselves—into larger self-defense groups.  In two cases, villagers were threatened with expropriation of their land by distant government entities:  the Narok District Council in the case of the Loita Maasai, the central government of Tanzania in the case of the Duru-Haitemba forest dwellers.  In the north-west Serengeti wildlife conservation case, the external threat to villagers’ livelihoods came from safari tour operators and their customers, backed by government. 

It might be argued whether the three “proactive” management systems are really that at all, since they all represent responses to perceived problems.  They are: Namibia’s desertification management program, the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, and the six commercial constructed wetlands in Kenya. 

Both groups of case studies head toward the same conclusion, which is that national governments and modern commercial enterprises are endowed levels of with autonomy and power that is not granted to villagers.  Throughout the case studies, villagers are either trying to correct the environmental damage their or their upstream neighbors have caused, or they are defending themselves from laws that will even further erode the powers they still have. 

Decision-making processes 

In the one case that is private sector-driven—constructed wetlands in Kenya— decisions are apparently made at the level of the firm, for the benefit of the firm’s owners.  All of the ten other case studies sketch a collective decision-making process. 

Adaptive Management Strategies 

The third lesson of the Operational Program for Integrated Ecosystem Management is: 

Because ecosystems are dynamic, management planning should be flexible and adaptive so that management strategies can be adjusted in response to new information and experience. 

One of the most striking themes that pervades all of the case studies is the accelerating rate of change.  The situation is not simply that everything is changing quicker than can be managed, but the future will be even more different than the past.  The environmental impact of human population growth is noted in nearly all of the cases, but this is only the beginning of this story, because the greatest challenge for all of the actors in these cases is to create new forms of social organization quickly enough to “get caught up.”   

The importance of adaptive management is most clearly drawn in the case of the Lesotho Highland Water Project (LHWP).  The project is caught between the binding legal agreements reached between Lesotho and South Africa, on the one hand, and the myriad negative environmental consequences of proceeding, on the other hand.  It is difficult to overstate the importance of the lessons to be drawn from the LHWP, but these are on a different scale of magnitude from the rest of the cases. 

Overall, the case studies give a picture of “trial and error” and “making it up as we go along” as the operating principles.  The time frame is set more by climatic cycles and court cases than by planned management efforts, and the best of the new community land & water management entities appear to have all the flexibility and adaptive capacity that they need.  Examples of these successful organizations are: the Loita Naimina Enkiyio Conservation Trust; the Dambakupetwa Magute Spring Protection and Management Project; the Lake Naivasha Riparian Association;  the Utooni Self-Help Group; and the Dream Camp facility at Ilhara village, in the north-west Serengeti. 

Science & technology 

Does modern science and technology point a way toward sustainable land and water management in Africa?  The case studies highlight the extent to which science & technology are still very limited to the formal economy and national policy.  Science and technology play a relatively marginal role in the study villages. 

The most interesting scientific work described in the case studies is the Index of Biological Integrity that was used to measure habitat and range condition in Namibia’s programme to combat desertification, NAPCOD. 

By far the most interesting innovative technology described in the case studies is constructed wetlands (5), which obviously have tremendous potential. 

Suggestions for the GEF 

The case studies prepared in this project are too few and too small to generate clear recommendations regarding an undertaking as large as the Africa Land and Water Initiative.  But they may offer some tentative guidance when placed against the stated aims and expected outcomes of OP # 12.   

The GEF’s operational program for integrated ecosystem management aims to catalyze widespread adoption of comprehensive ecosystem management interventions that integrate ecological, economic, and social goals to achieve multiple and cross-cutting local, national, and global benefits.  The expected outcomes of GEF-supported interventions will include: (1) creation of an enabling environment, (2) institutional strengthening, and (3) investments.  GEF would facilitate sustainable transitions from conventional to integrated ecosystem management approaches by providing agreed incremental cost finance for technical assistance, investments, financial services, and targeted research to address constraints limiting the adoption of integrated approaches. 

A catalytic role 

The most obvious conclusion to be drawn from these case studies is that there is no reliable formula for success in managing land and water in Africa.  The different pieces of the puzzle that make success fit together in numerous ways.  The Law of Unintended Consequences is always active, and productive initiatives in one setting may not work in different times or places. 

The role of catalyst is among the most desired by the actors on the stage of international development, but the GEF has emerged as the pre-eminent source of funding for environmental protection on a global scale.  To play this role effectively will require further maturation of the active learning process that the GEF initiated in the biological diversity and international waters portfolios, with the objective of identifying what works in one setting and how to replicate the success in other settings.  


The case studies suggest strongly that a lack of capital is not a key problem, which is to be found in the impact of a growing population on a degrading resource base, compounded by the imposition of laws that may constrain a community’s capacity to manage its traditional natural resource base.  Overall, the case studies point much more toward GEF interventions for technical assistance and targeted research than for investments, especially large-scale investments. 

If  Large-Scale Terrestrial Ecosystems are taken to be the basic frames of action in African land and water projects (as Large-Scale Marine Ecosystems have become in GEF international waters projects), then many of the new projects should  define the intervention territory on the basis of watersheds. 

If it is truly to perform a catalytic role, the GEF will need to apply its incremental cost financing to quite small-scale projects.  In particular, these projects should focus on the enabling environment and on increasing institutional capacity.  Regarding the enabling environment, they should focus on land, forest and water laws, regulations and ordinances. 

GEF-supported projects should demonstrate participation by multiple stakeholders, including NGOs and CBOs as well as private enterprises. 

GEF-supported projects for community-based integrated land and water management should be small and medium-size.  This will put a premium on the UNDP among the Implementing Agencies, since UNEP does not have a national-level mandate or strong presence on the ground in most of Africa, and the World Bank is focused on bigger investments than OP#12 seems to need now.


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