Ann Wavinya/ ICRAF

Land, soil, and crop information services: an innovative tool to support climate-smart agriculture in East Africa

On 19-20 September 2022, the Land, Soil, and Crop Information Services (LSC-IS) to support Climate-Smart Agriculture project was launched during a national stakeholders' workshop in Nairobi, Kenya.

Over 40 participants from farmers' associations, public, private, and development organizations attended the two-day event. Relevant county government officials from Busia and Taita Taveta counties and officials from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) led the interaction, discussion, and debates on agricultural data and information at the grassroots level.

The three-year project is funded by the European Union's Development of Smart Innovation through Research in Agriculture (DeSIRA) program. It aims to develop sustainable land, soil, and crop information hubs in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Rwanda through their national agricultural research institutes. The project aims to strengthen the effectiveness of national Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems (AKIS) and contribute to rural transformation through a climate-smart agricultural approach. The kick-off workshop was the first in a series to be held across the three countries.

In an opening speech, Stephen Wathome – representative from the European Union mission to Kenya – emphasized the need for simple, credible information that can be assimilated by a range of users, ranging from scientists and policymakers to farmers.


Mr. Stephen Wathome, the European Union representative to Kenya, giving the opening speech

“Information dissemination in any sector remains a vital attribute in ensuring that meaningful results are achieved. For example, generation and appropriate dissemination of land, soil, and crop information is crucial for effective decision-making and innovation.”

Stephen Wathome

The project has five work packages, which are co-led by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO),  the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), and Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the International Soil Reference and Information Centre (ISRIC), the Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WUR),  World Agroforestry (ICRAF), and The Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA).

The Kenya national workshop sought to identify stakeholders' roles, challenges, and opportunities for LSC-IS; specify LSC-information needs and LSC-information users; identify capacity requirements for LSC-information use and users to inform hub development; and engage stakeholders to map out the current LSC-information status and future opportunities.

Dr. Michael Okoti, Assistant Director for KALRO’s natural resource management division, and project convener for Kenya

"The [Kenyan] hub will be domiciled in KALRO and will focus on two issues around climate-smart agriculture [CSA], including soil health and soil and water management. From the hub, farmers and other stakeholders can get information on these two use cases that inform CSA practices. These two interventions would help farmers in productivity amid the changing climatic condition in Kenya."

- Dr. Michael Okoti

Workshop participants were grouped into knowledge institutes, farmer representatives, development partners, and public and private sectors. During the two-day event, they discussed and identified various challenges, the most prominent of which was the lack of technical capacity at institutional and community levels regarding agricultural data accretion, access, dissemination, and usage. Other challenges included a lack of enabling infrastructures such as modern soil and crop labs and limited financial resources to support, maintain and run big data platforms.

Participants from the private, public, and development partnership spheres also identified vital opportunities to catalyze the rural transformation of Busia and Taita Taveta. The symbiotic relationship between private companies and public institutions is a first step in obtaining a thorough overview of existing tools and models that, in the longer run, can identify critical gaps.

In the three target countries, climate change has led to drastic land degradation, increased greenhouse gas emissions, and food and nutrition insecurity for the growing urban and rural populations. In response, the respective national governments have included climate-smart agriculture (CSA) in their national policies.

CSA can mitigate climate change's impacts by focusing on three aspects of agricultural production: sustainable intensification, increasing resilience against climate change, and contributing to climate change mitigation through reduced carbon emissions from land use through carbon sequestration in soils.

As such, this project proposes an organized and accessible LSC information system for effective and well-informed decision-making by all users. 

Ms. Florence Kigunzu, Deputy County Director for Agriculture at Busia County Government

"This workshop is about creating a hub – a one-shop system. All the information that we need – soil nutrients, PH, weather forecast – will be found in the hub, thereby supporting our extension services … [and] farmers will have area-specific information all in one place."

- Ms. Florence Kigunzu

The stakeholders’ workshop gave useful information that will help developers to design a robust and sustainable LSC-IS in Kenya through:

  • Better understanding of the needs of stakeholders for LSC-IS;
  • Situation analysis in terms of the current LSC-IS landscape, and
  • Improved understanding of challenges and opportunities and prioritization of interventions.

The DeSIRA LSC-IS project is expected to demonstrate the impact of improved data and information availability in informing decision-making processes of specific user groups such as national and local decision-makers and farmers – and in doing so, to contribute to climate-smart agricultural transformation in rural East Africa.