Evolution of RELMA's approaches to land management: lessons from two decades of research and development in eastern and southern Africa uri icon


  • The Regional Land Management Unit (RELMA) is well known in East Africa for its wide range of easy-to-read publications. Th ese include guidebooks on useful trees as well as extension manuals and technical reports on land management. The popularity of these publications stems from their rele vance and practical de sign. Often they are the only known documentation of local knowledge on trees and innovative land management practices (Box 1). Much less is known about how RELMA works. Indeed many people assume that it is an extension of the Swedish Development Agency (Sida). RELMAâ??s role stated role is â??to promote initiatives to strengthen the role of small-scale land users in order to enhance food security and reduce povertyâ?�. Its goal is to improve the livelihoods of small-scale land users and enhance food secu rity for all households by working with extension partners. RELMA, the successor to the Regional So il Conservation Unit (R SCU), is based in Nairobi. It operates in six ea stern and southern African countries: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. In 2004, RELMA became a project within the eastern and southern Africa region of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), also based in Nairobi. The merger is meant to ensure RELMAâ??s experience in developm ent contributes to ICRAFâ??s ambition of reaching out to small-scale land users in Africa. What can ICRAF learn from RELMA in terms of research on development and scaling-up of interventions? In this paper, we document RELMAâ??s a pproaches over the past two decades. We distil the lessons learned so that research and development organizations can benefit from RELMAâ??s unique and considerable e xperience in development. Many of these lessons are particularly relevant to the region, where most countries are affected by increasing land degradation and threats to food security despite many decades of development efforts (Djurfeldt et al, 2005). Unlike many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international organizations, RELMA has the advantage of long-term funding from Sida. Therefore, it has been able to evolve unique appro aches and a distinct mode of operation. But how is RELMA unique in terms of appro aches and mode of operation? To try and answer this question, we begin by tracing th e origin of RELMAâ??s involvement in land management and the evolution of approaches and links with extension providers. We then capture key lessons learned and RELMAâ?? s relevance to current challenges facing Sub-Saharan Africa

publication date

  • 2006