OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Scaling up sustainable land management and agro-biodiversity conservation to reduce environmental degradation in small scale agriculture

Contribute to more regenerative and productive food systems in Western Kenya

Photo of Marta Panco
1 2

Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Large NGO (over 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.


Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?


Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

The proposed vision will be implemented in Kakamega county a total area of 3032 km^2.

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Kenya is a mega bio-diverse country with over 35,000 species of flora and fauna. This diversity is served by the variable ecosystems ranging from marine, mountains, tropical, drylands, forests and arid lands. Kenyan forests are endowed with a rich array of plant and animal life. Some of the species endemic to the forest habitats are found nowhere else in the world. Since species richness tends to correlate with the annual amount of rainfall, wetter forests are richer in species. Consequently, Kakamega Forest has the richest plant diversity in Kenya. In the same time, rapid human population growth and the subsequent forest degradation threaten biodiversity and may cause habitat fragmentation or in extreme cases, species extinction. The forest ecosystems in Kenya have been subjected to fragmentation where large continuous forest areas have been reduced into small patches. More people are searching for new agricultural land encroaching into steep slopes, wetlands and adjacent forests. This has led to degradation of agricultural land through water erosion, landslides, soil nutrient depletion, soil acidification and physical degradation resulting to low crop production and loss of plant cover on pasture land and encroachment on adjacent forest reserves especially Kakamega.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Kenya is a tropical country, crossing the equator and endowed with a magnificent landscape. With a surface of 580, 367 km2, geographical diversity makes it one of the most attractive countries for tourism and agricultural production. Kenya has a white sandy coastline on the Indian ocean and also is the home to the 2nd highest mountain in Africa – Mount Kenya. From the plains full with wildlife to the hilly tea plantation in the central part, Kenya also has the last remaining rainforest from the Congo-Guinean forest, rich biodiversity spot – Kakamega. With the population growth, people are looking for the newer horizon to expand their land and most of the time the forest land is the most fertile for agricultural production. Forest encroachment is a major challenge at the moment. Finding a balance on how to cohabitate in the area, between wildlife and people and to identify how to sustain and preserve the ecosystem and the biodiversity, while also allowing smallholder farmers to achieve food security and build resilience remains one of the key priorities in Kakamega. The Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) of Kenya make up to 89% of the country, covering 29 counties and a population of about 16 million people (UNDP, 2018). These are typically areas with high poverty, dispersed but rapidly growing populations and poor infrastructure. Food systems in Kenya are as diverse as it’s landscapes and people - Kenya is inhabited by over 47 tribes, enriching, even more, the country’s cultural diversity. The main dish in Kenya is Ugali –a maize polenta/ porridge type. As so, maize the main staple crop in Kenya and Eastern Africa in general. The ugali is usually accompanied by a variety of indigenous legumes (managu (African Nightshade), sukuma wiki (Spinach), terere (Amaranthus), sagaa (Spider plant), etc) very rich in nutrients and other starch or meat. Agriculture is also one of the main economic activities, employing over 70% of the population and constitutes approximately 30% of GDP. More than 50% of the smallholder farmers are women and they are the most vulnerable to climatic changes impacts due to lack of resources.

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

From tea and coffee, as the main cash crop commodities in the central region to maize and other food crops spread throughout the country, local food systems are mainly managed by the smallholder farmers. With a growing population and a change in dietary habits due to easier access to processed imported food and increased social status in the urban areas, the food systems have negatively shaped the landscapes. Increased impacts of climate change also put pressure to enhance the current challenges are: land degradation, desertification and soil erosion issues, biodiversity and ecosystem services loss, deforestation. Major challenges are mainly performed to clear land for agricultural use and expansion, charcoal making etc. Agriculture is also the main driver for biodiversity loss and ecosystem services degradation. In food systems, biodiversity performs ecosystem services beyond the production of food, fibre, fuel and income. Degraded land is increasing in Kenya at a high speed and leaves less fertile land for cultivation, pushing farmers to search for new lands or use unsustainable practices and inputs for food production into the forest. People in Kakamega have been traditionally using the forest for collecting medicinal herbs, bee-keeping, wood fuel, grass harvesting and grazing. At the same time, the forest offers them many other services: pollination, ecological functions such as carbon storage, nutrient cycling, water and air purification, and maintenance of wildlife habitat; social and cultural benefits such as recreation, traditional resource uses and spirituality. Future challenges: Globally, it is projected that food production will need to increase by a minimum of 50-70% by 2050 as the population is expected to increase from 7.4 billion in 2016 to 9.6 billion by 2050. At the same time, it is forecasted that there will be a 5% decrease in global food production by 2050 and that without adaptation, crop yields will decline by around 1.5% per decade. Outdated technology and practices, accompanied by the lack of institutional support, render smallholder farmers even more vulnerable and insecure. The farmers lack resources and knowledge to be able to timely respond to shocks and produce foods in a sustainable manner. Having access to new technologies, the latest research and development outcomes and suitable policies can help overcome current and future challenges.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

In Kakamega, there is a high potential to increase productivity and preserve the ecosystems. AGRA plans to apply Sustainable land management approach to increase smallholder productivity through adoption and upscaling sustainable land and forest management practices across the productive landscape. Bringing new technology and enhancing local policies, AGRA supports the farmers and the governments to achieve sustainable food systems by providing capacity building and training to farmers. Other services and inputs to be provided to the farmers are how to increase the agro-biodiversity on the farms to enhance land productivity and to adapt to climate and economic disruptions. Planting more indigenous crops can also support farmers to diversify their nutritional needs and rely less on the outside markets and price fluctuations.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Kakamega forest is a rich source of non-wood forest products and services (NWFPS) that support community livelihoods. However, there exists an information gap about the types and total economic value of the NWFPS stock. The proposed vision will undertake a baseline survey to identify, characterise and value the NWFPS stock. This will enable sustainable utilisation and commercialisation of NWFP. Apart from having access to non-forest products and better availability of food products, the vision will address the issues related to land degradation, deforestation and biodiversity loss. Preserving the forest, local people will also reverse the impacts of climate change and reduce Greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) contributing to a better and cleaner planet for future generations. Enabling local communities to take action and empower their responsibilities, they will also be able to promote a healthy diet and communities wellbeing. Also, by overcoming the challenges, future food systems will be more structured and diverse. By linking farmers to markets, smallholders farmers will increase not only their resilience but also economic status. Getting better access to technologies and information that will be easily distributed and accessible. The future generation is more educated will have better choices of products and the environment.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?


How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Conference/event

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Itika Gupta

Hi Marta Panco  Great to see you joining the Prize!
We noticed your submission is currently unpublished.
The Early Submission Deadline is almost there. Publish your Vision by 5:00pm EST on December 5, 2019 and have the opportunity to attend an invitation-only webinar with members of The Rockefeller Foundation’s Food team, the Sponsors of this Prize.
You can publish it by hitting the "Publish" button at the top of your facepost. You can also update your Vision at any time before 31 January 2020 by clicking on the "Edit Contribution" on top.
We're looking forward to seeing your submission in this Prize.