Launch of the UNDP project on Integrated Landscape Management for Improved Livelihoods and Ecosystem Resilience in Mount Elgon, with the demonstration and handing over of tools at community level.

Digital innovation helps sustain community livelihoods during COVID-19

Sheku Tamba Davowa (Sierra Leone) serves as a UN Volunteer with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Mbale, Eastern Uganda. Sheku, an environment and development practitioner with a background in agriculture, shares his experience as a Programme Management Specialist enabling communities and farmers to enhance their livelihoods in an environmentally-friendly manner.

I support a UNDP project on Integrated Landscape Management for Improved Livelihoods and Ecosystem Resilience in Mount Elgon. This aims to empower communities to manage their production landscapes in an integrated manner for improved livelihoods and ecosystem resilience.

The project has been successful in supporting 33 community-based organizations in three districts (Mbale, Manafwa and Bulambuli), comprising over 1,300 famers and more than 17,300 households led by women.

It has helped these communities by supporting technologies and practices that enhance ecosystem resilience. These include agroforestry, establishment of woodlots, energy-saving stoves, construction of contours, stone, grass bounds and hedge rows to reduce soil erosion and promoting organic fertilizers, among other things.

As project manager, my role is to ensure we maintain the right strategic direction during implementation, through a focus on quality results and impact. I also work closely with my colleagues and team leaders at UNDP, government counterparts and communities to achieve effective implementation of social and environmental safeguards and capacity development for all stakeholders.

With the outbreak of COVID-19, government instituted lockdown measures and restrictions as part of the measures to suppress further transmission of the disease. As a result, faming activities among the project beneficiaries slowed down, coupled with lack of fund disbursement to farmers, due to movement restrictions of project implementation and UNDP teams.

Considering that the crisis happened at the peak of the planting season, UNDP provided a zoom license to support the continuity of key government activities and to plan, communicate and finance its response to COVID-19 in a robust manner. Additionally, digital innovation through DocuSign further strengthened UNDP staff support to government function continuity.

This offer enabled my project team to facilitate zoom meetings and prepare documents that were electronically signed by relevant government officials and UNDP staff. In this way, we ensured the disbursement of grants to the community-based organizations, which in turn enabled famers to catch the peak planting season.

The project thus saved the livelihoods of these famers, who would have otherwise had their livelihoods endangered during and after COVID-19 lockdown, in addition to protecting the environment.