Abstract Application of sustainable land management (SLM) practices is essential to lessen the negative impacts of land degradation on rural welfare in sub-Saharan Africa. Scaling-up of SLM technologies requires collaboration of diverse stakeholders across multiple scales. We follow inter-disciplinary approaches to evaluate prospects for wider promotion of SLM practices in the western highlands of Kenya. Findings from this study reveal that only 10 per cent of farmers are properly implementing the available SLM practices. Agricultural productivity is low and there is high dependence on benefits extracted from the forest resource. A positive correlation (rho = 0.8) was found between stakeholder co-operation and success level of SLM projects. Results clearly show reasonable prospects such as some technology adoption activities and organisation of local actors that are necessary for triggering the transformation process to sustainable state of productivity. Nevertheless, technological transition could likely succeed if facilitated by enhanced stakeholder collaboration, a supportive policy environment and substantial resource mobilisation. We suggest the application of a context-specific transition management approach in this area in order to learn lessons on governance of transformative environmental programmes for similar socio-ecological systems in SSA.

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