Community-based organisations are increasingly considered a sustainable way to scale up the benefits of agricultural research and development from a few farmers in isolated pilot project areas to spread more widely across geographical and socio-economic gradients, and to do so quickly. This paper describes and highlights lessons learned from several research and development organisations in western Kenya using different community-based approaches to scale up agroforestry and other biological options to improve soil fertility among resource poor smallholders. The main benefits of such approaches are that the link between farmers, government extension, and other service providers is strengthened; information flow and awareness of the options available is rapid among farmers; and farmers’ participation and innovation is enhanced. For effective service delivery, however, some higher level of association is necessary that goes beyond individual farmers or groups such as youth-, women-, or church-based organisations. Nevertheless, experience from a pilot project involving the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry and some key national research and development institutions shows that village, sub location or location committees are often inactive without strong follow-up, which is best provided by such local institutions as government extension staff close to farmers or NGOs. Most of these institutions, however, have limited resources and information. To mitigate these problems and to better share experiences among individual organisations and projects in the region, a strategic consortium of the key institutions was formed. There are high hopes concerning the consortium, although it is too early to determine its effectiveness.
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