Vital Signs held its third Community of Practice meeting in Nairobi from September 12th to 14th. The meeting brought together Vital signs partners from Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania to learn and share best practices and lessons from the Vital Signs Monitoring work at the national level.
The big highlight of this meeting were the Preliminary results from the data analysis that Vital Signs has been working on all summer with the Data Science for Social Good Program at the University of Washington – summarized in the blogs here .
The meeting especially focused on identifying together with the partners opportunities and entry points for using the results to inform policy and decision making at the local, national and regional level.
The partners shared some thoughts on potential policy implications of the results:
- Forests acting as Buffers against Malnutrition: Most policies related to access to forests tend to focus on controlling access in order to reduce deforestation. There are very few, if any, that focus on the contribution of forests to addressing malnutrition. These results suggest the need for policies that promote more sustainable access to forests in order to address malnutrition. Integrated policy and planning between the Forestry and Health Departments will be essential.
- Female headed household’s access to productive resources and ecosystem services: Women have less access to agricultural capital, and yet female headed households earn significantly more income from selling agricultural by-products, such as maize flour, cassava dough, coconut oil, palm oil, and banana beer. This shows they are more enterprising and contribute more to household livelihoods. Because women reinvest 90% of their food and income for the household’s welfare, interventions that target women in the households would have a far-reaching impact. The results suggest a need for specific polices directed towards this.
- How Natural Resources Supplement Household Expenditure on Food: Natural resources including food and nonfood products such as medicinal products, building materials among others play a role towards meeting household needs. Specifically, households that collected natural resources to supplement their food requirements spent a lesser proportion of their budget on food. This potentially leaves them with more disposable income to spend on other household needs and increases their food security. This underpins the value that nature plays in improving various aspects of human wellbeing. If these benefits are to be maintained, the results suggest a need for policies that promote more investments in community led conservation efforts and landscape restoration.
- How benefits from agricultural intensification relate to household income, level of education, and gender: Proxy indicators of Ag-intensification such as fertilizer and pesticide use show variations by landscape. Differences between household use of agricultural inputs are attributed to differences in gender and household wealth such as land. The results suggest a need for policies that address the gender gap in particular as it relates to access to land and fertilizer use.
- Access and Use of Extension services: Access to extension services is generally reported to be low, but the results pick up a marked increase in access to extension services in those landscapes engaged in large scale commercial agriculture, with the private sector and non-state actors providing dedicated support. For example, in Otuke in Northern Uganda where the dominant crops are sunflower and simsim for commercial use, access to extension services is reported to be much higher than in other landscapes. A similar pattern is evident in Ihemi landscape in the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania where commercial agriculture is dominant. These results underscore the role that private and non-governmental actors play in improving access to extension services and suggest a need for policies to promote these to complement Government efforts which appear to be overwhelmed by the need.
Furthermore, the Partners were trained on GIS and Carto a cloud computing platform that provides GIS and web mapping tools Building on the recent high-resolution soil nutrient maps published by the Soil Reference and Information Centre which used Vital Signs laboratory soil samples among other institutions, the partners were also trained on interpretation of the results after which they identified ways to engage around the results going forward. The team also toured the ICRAF Nairobi laboratories where they experienced firsthand how the soils are analyzed and got expertise insights on interpretation of the Vital Signs laboratory results.
Vital Signs will continue to work with the country partners to share and discuss these results with key stakeholders, and to identify entry points where the results could inform planning and policy decisions at national, regional or local level. Furthermore, Vital signs will work with the partners to disaggregate the results by country and make them more context specific.