Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, dryland regions are experiencing widespread environmental degradation and increased frequency of famine and armed conflict due to diminishing resources, especially of pasture and water. Such areas are also a major source of refugees. Though problems of this magnitude may seem vast and insurmountable, the overall goals and approaches of the Drylands FRN project are extremely aligned with CCRP’s principles and program goals, particularly those related to collaboration, research for AEI impact, values coherence, and farmer-researcher co-creation via the development of a farmer research network. The project team members come from areas like Pokot, where they see both the social and physical environment unraveling, and they have strong motivation and education to address the issue. The project proposes to do this through work at two different spatial and temporal scales.
At the farm level, the project aims to facilitate a farmers’ crop research network to test and adapt options for meeting area households’ food and nutritional security and income needs. Area farmers will assess the adaptability and acceptability of new, more resilient crops (sorghum, finger millet, and drought-tolerant multipurpose legumes), comparing these crop varieties and cropping patterns with their current maize-based system. The new crops are being sourced from their sister Kenya-based CCRP projects, with whom the team has close linkages. Over the longer term, at the landscape level, and in collaboration with other actors—including local schools—the project aims to support the community with technical training and collaborative links with other actors to begin to restore ecosystem services to the severely degraded landscape. During the inception phase, the team convinced the community that it is possible to reverse the degradation process if they work together. Initially, they shared videos about other dryland communities that had organized successful rehabilitation efforts. Then, they accompanied five community-chosen representatives to visit successful community efforts in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Here, with the help of another CCRP project, they learned how different communities had achieved restoration of ecosystem services over a 20-year period, even in more severely degraded landscapes than those of Pokot. A combination of physical soil and water conservation structures and the use of strategically deployed grasses, N-fixing indigenous trees, and fruit trees had helped enable this achievement. Since the trip, the West Pokot community has already formed and reached consensus on their own specific rehabilitation action plans.