Multi-stakeholder participation for successful implementation of applied research projects in Africa.
Rainwater harvesting from Roads For Indigenous Pasture production and improved rural livelihoods in Kitui, Kenya (ROFIP) is an applied research project. It assessed the potential of combining multiple sustainable land management practices, for example native grass reseeding, rainwater harvesting from roads and in situ microcatchments to enhance vegetation cover in a semi-arid dryland in Kenya. Rural earth roads were used as a catchment. Runoff generated from rainfall events was diverted into reseeded pastures with trenches established at intervals, across a slope. The ROFIP project also integrated microcatchments created using ox-driven ploughs, a traditional practice for seedbed preparation and harnessing in situ rainwater harvesting in African drylands. Combining the diversion of runoff from roads and harvesting rainwater in situ improves and prolongs soil moisture availability in reseeded pastures. Consequently, this translated to higher biomass yields (i.e. forage for livestock) and vegetation cover (land degradation mitigation and enhanced soil health). This project clearly showed that combining rainwater harvesting and native pasture reseeding improves water retention and soil health, thus improving sustainable pasture production. However, for this to be achieved, it is prudent to involve practitioners to co-design practical solutions that are socially, economically and environmentally sustainable. Multi-stakeholder engagement, effective knowledge sharing, and community involvement can be major enablers in the pursuit of environmental and socioeconomic relevant benefits in applied research projects in Africa. This approach enhances a sense of shared purpose among practitioners and empowers them to become points of reference to their peers.