Mainstreaming climate resilience through agro-pastoral field schools
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Mali is a landlocked country and highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Over 70% of the labor force is employed in the agricultural sector, which is heavily dependent on climatic conditions, and the livestock sector accounts for more than 40% of the GDP in agriculture. Through Agro-Pastoral Field Schools (APFS), the FAO project, funded through the Least Developed Countries Fund, took a participatory approach to equip agro-pastoral communities with tools and approaches to adapt to climate change for food security and resilient livelihoods. Women were 47% of the participants who bolstered their income-generating abilities that will better withstand greater climate variability.
With a grant of USD 2,172,727 from the GEF’s Least Developed Countries Fund and over USD 3 million in in-kind co-financing from the Government of Mali and FAO, the project mainstreamed climate change adaptation approaches, tools, and strategies among communities and within institutions. Over the course of nearly two years, 121 APFS strengthened the capacities of over 3,800 agro-pastoralists to improve their production and diversify their sources of income. Practices, such as fattening livestock, improving henhouses, gardening marketable produce, advancing the use of organic manure and cultivation practices and managing against fall armyworm invasions, improved productivity and food security while sustainably using natural resources. Lessons learned were disseminated through community radio, open days, exchange trips, and interpersonal communications. To support the sustainability and scale-up of the results, 260 APFS facilitators and 17 APFS master trainers were trained to teach climate resilient methods; a WhatsApp group was established to facilitate knowledge sharing among agro-pastoralists; and 42 village savings and loan associations were established, collecting over 8.3 million CFA in contributions among 1,187 members. The project built institutional capacity building to integrate climate change adaptation through workshops and trainings on data collection, meteorological forecasts, climate proofing tools, and sustainable land management and ecosystem resilience. Finally, the project supported the institutionalization of climate change adaptation approaches by promoting the inclusion of the climate change dimension in investment policies and integrated rural development (e.g. economic, social and cultural development plans, the Five-Year Pastoral Development Plan) as well as a reflection on the APFS approach in the National Agricultural Advisory Strategy. The project shared and transferred lessons learned to other vulnerable areas of Mali to climate change and included them in the development of an integrated policy.
The APFS approach created a strong dynamic the adoption of good agro-pastoral practices by stakeholders in the area intervention and reduced conflicts between farmers and breeders linked to resource management. As a result, productivity and the yields of animal and plant speculations have significantly improved, with positive impacts on livelihoods and the resilience of agro-pastoralists in the intervention areas. Producers that adopted climate change adaptation practices increased their production by 35% for dry cereals and 45% for market gardening on average, which helped improve their incomes by up to 30%. Over 14 hectares were used for agroforestry, and 1,510 plants that promote ecosystem health were planted. Pastoral communities signed resource management agreements to better manage natural resources collectively and create of 66 km of cattle passageways to settle transhumance disputes between farmers and breeders.
Alignment with national priorities and leveraging existing programs helped to institutionalize APFS and climate change adaptation into policies and development strategies. Stakeholders identified during the preparation of the project continued to be involved as activities were implemented, and the involvement of a wide range of stakeholders to facilitated trust and information sharing and to enable high levels of understanding and consensus for the project areas.
APFS are designed to use technologies that do not require large investments, and the training of facilitators and master trainers throughout the project encourages the further adoption of climate adaptive practices. The development of Village Saving Loans cooperatives and interactive exchanges on WhatsApp created enabling conditions to maintain the community cohesion and uptake of practices. The project has also actively participated in the regional network of sister projects in Burkina Faso, Niger and Senegal, and the project's good practices continue to serve as a source of inspiration for other projects in Mali.
Final Evaluation: http://www.fao.org/3/cb0852en/CB0852EN.pdf
The project implementation was completed before Covid-19 had serious disruptive impacts in Mali. However, the project formed foundations that could minimize the impacts of Covid-19, such as improved yields for better food security and greater diversity in income sources for vulnerable communities.
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