Michael Nkonu manages SUSTAIN’s work in the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor (SAGCOT) in Tanzania. He leads project planning in the field, and by developing local networks and partnerships ensures the successful implementation of the programme. 

IUCN: In your 18 months working with SUSTAIN, what has stood out for you?

Michael Nkonu (MN): The Southern Highlands of Tanzania are the country’s breadbasket, but it is also the most biodiverse region of the country. Moreover, twenty percent of Tanzania’s water resources are supplied from the Rufiji Basin, located in the same corridor. The corridor is about the size of Italy, and the country’s national strategy through SAGCOT is to accelerate economic development through agriculture, especially in this corridor. SUSTAIN therefore plays a crucial role in SAGCOT by providing advice and solutions for an integrated green growth agenda to take place with minimal negative impact, if any,  to the ecosystems.

IUCN: Do you have any specific examples where SUSTAIN is already making significant  difference,or  progress?

MN: Through SUSTAIN, we have been working on Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) in the Mngeta Catchment in the Kilombero cluster. SUSTAIN is working to ensure that communities living upstream are supported to conserve the water catchment in order to ensure enough flows downstream for smallholder farmers whose livelihoods are dependent on rice farming. These smallholders are linked to the Kilombero Plantation Company (KPL) for access to technology and markets. 

SUSTAIN is working closely with its partner The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), to support the implementation of the PES scheme. AWF is also bringing together key stakeholders such as village land use committees, smallholder associations, the Rufiji Basin Water Office, large scale producers KPL, and mobilising local NGOs such as the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG) to collaborate and work together in conserving the Mngeta catchment through the PES scheme. Bringing together different stakeholders in the catchment is crucial in securing sustainable solutions for the conservation of the catchment. Local government authorities are also involved, and supporting the process.

IUCN: With this specific work, what are the highlights, and what is going to enable, or hinder, the success of this process?

MN: This is a pilot programme, and I believe the first PES scheme in Tanzania. The aim is to test this scheme and if successful upscale this across key water basins in SAGCOT. A potential risk remains if the upstream communities do not receive enough benefits to motivate them to reduce deforestation and activities that negatively impact on the catchment and subsequently water flows and quality. Maintaining water flows and water quality for downstream farmers is critical for improved productivity and livelihoods.

IUCN: What are your ambitions or hopes for this initiative?

MN: SUSTAIN’s work in SAGCOT focuses on three clusters namely Ihemi and Kilombero Clusters managed by AWF, and the Sumbawanga Cluster led by Netherlands Development Organisation SNV. The hope is that the initiative will improve water flows in the catchment through sustained and collaborative efforts by key stakeholders. The scheme hopes to encourage benefit sharing in ways that promotes sustainable management of water resources for mutual benefits. More importantly, we hope that the results will support replication of success stories across other water catchment in Tanzania, and beyond.


More information and background documentation on SUSTAIN can be found here

Photo credit: ©Michael Nkonu