Food security has long been a challenge for the dynamic East Africa region. The challenge is expected to increase in the coming decades because food demand will increase considerably due to rapid growth in population, income, urbanization and related dietary changes. Thus, agricultural production in the region is thus required to intensify, in a sustainable way, to keep up with food demand and support the resilience of livelihoods.
Agroecology, as promoted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization offers orientation to scale sustainable water and land management. Agroecology is a science, practice and a social movement all aimed at promoting sustainable farm and food systems and contribute to transforming food systems by ensuring a regenerative use of natural resources while also addressing the need for socially equitable food systems.
Several pilot initiatives that involve a bundle of proven agricultural, water and environment management practices tackle resource challenges by drawing on agroecology principles as either a practice or a science. Scaling them to more people around Lake Victoria supports transitions to sustainable food systems in East Africa.
To anchor sustainable water and land management in specific sectors, regional stakeholders decided to focus on rice and livestock forage systems. Over the years, the demand for rice and livestock feeds, and coinciding pressure on land and water sources, have increased rapidly in these sectors.
Stakeholders agreed that rice and fodder production systems should be contextualized in their respective agricultural production systems where this production takes place (understanding the system boundaries). In the case of fodder production, the agreed focus is agro-pastoral systems where ruminant livestock is grazing from natural pastures or relies on fodder crops or improved pastures. For rice, farming systems are usually conventional but sustainable intensification systems have been tested in the region, which makes it a perfect example for upscaling.
The decision to focus specifically on rice and fodder/livestock production was an outcome of the scaleWAYS start-up workshop in Entebbe, Uganda, in May 2019, where various stakeholders representing policy, research and academia from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda convened for three days to engage in an interactive and consultative decision-making process.