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Interwoven landscapes pose complex challenge

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Over the past six years, conversations on sustainable forest management activities focused on transforming the way the international community addresses poverty, food insecurity, climate change and biodiversity loss have coalesced into the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) movement.

Based on the landscape approach, the GLF aims to synthesize seemingly competing land-use goals to ensure social, environmental and economic equilibrium.  In a nutshell, both the GLF and the approach address the pressures of population growth and human demand, which exacerbate agricultural expansion and intensification, and the extraction of commodities, including wood, vegetable oils and biofuels.

At a recent GLF conference in Bonn, Germany, scientists discussed implementation of the landscape approach during a panel discussion titled Looking at the Past to Shape the Landscape Approach of the Future, moderated by Terry Sunderland, senior associate with CIFOR and a professor at Canada’s University of British Columbia.

The session was inspired in part by the findings of a research paper led by CIFOR scientist James Reed, titled “Integrated landscape approaches to managing social and environmental issues in the tropics: Learning from the past to guide the future.”

Watch: Looking at the past to shape the Landscape Approach of the future

New funding from Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) for CIFOR and partners to move beyond theoretical discussions to implement and study landscape initiatives in Burkina Faso, Indonesia and Zambia also formed the basis for discussions.

“Moving from commitment to action is critical,” said Sunderland, who was instrumental in forming the GLF, which is now jointly coordinated by CIFOR – the lead center of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) – UN Environment and the World Bank, and funded by BMU and Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Sunderland was also a lead author on the seminal research paper “Ten principles for a landscape approach to reconciling agriculture, conservation and other competing land uses,” which established the basis for ongoing conversations.

“We need to start moving beyond the talking, beyond the rhetoric and actually moving towards implementation,” Sunderland said. “We need to shift away from the theoretical, away from the political, away from the development speak and into much more pragmatic understandings of how landscape approaches play out on the ground.”

Panelists shared lessons learned from various initiatives that have embraced the landscape approach.

RESOURCE FLOWS

The town of Isangi in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Axel Fassio/CIFOR

Musonda Mumba, chief of the Terrestrial Ecosystems Unit at UN Environment, demonstrated the interconnectedness of landscapes. Through observations of glacier activity in the Rwenzori Mountains on the border between Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, she came to understand the scale of the impact activities could have downstream and beyond country borders.

“Look at the Rwenzori system – if you go on the world map and the Africa map in particular, you’re going to see that most of the rivers that emanate from this region flow down into Lake Victoria, and eventually into the Nile River system,” she said. “And how many people live in the Nile basin? It’s millions, right? It’s a lot of people.”

She made similar findings from research in Peru. Because the capital Lima is a desert city, it depends on the maintenance of upstream sources to provide hydroelectricity and fresh water supply for more than 10 million people, Mumba said.

In 2015, significant international pacts were sealed, including the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Sendai Agreement on Disaster Risk Reduction and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These formal agreements provide vital frameworks formalizing the interconnectivity of landscapes, Mumba said.

SDG 15, Life on Land, is the mother of all SDGs, she said. “We cannot exist without the land and our food systems are based on the land — You cannot slice up the landscape. A landscape is so intricately and complexly interwoven together.”

Read more: Putting the concept of the ‘landscape approach’ into action

SCALING UP

Terry Sunderland speakers during “Looking at the past to shape the Landscape Approach of the future” at GLF Bonn. Photo by Pilar Valbuena/GLF

Mirjam Ros-Tonen, associate professor at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, explored local-level, small-scale initiatives to test their potential to become broader scale landscape projects.

She evaluated agroforestry cocoa projects in Ghana involving reforestation and landscape restoration, which provided income for smallholder farmers. She learned that the projects were contained on the farm.

“Partnerships are needed to extend the activities to landscape level and partnerships are needed to give farmers a voice and offer them opportunities for self organization and autonomous change,” Ros-Tonen said. “See if you can build on local initiatives, and from there build partnerships with other actors in the landscape.”

After working on at least 50 large-scale integrated landscape initiatives, similar patterns showed the need for multi-stakeholder platforms that can plan and conceptualize a long term joint vision over a number of decades, said Sara Scherr, president and chief executive of EcoAgriculture Partners, adding that the process can take from six months to three years.

Implementation involves adhering to five key steps, including expansion of the stakeholder network, securing financial backing and an assessment process. Collaborative planning projects need a long-term vision.

“You need a cadre of people champions in the landscape from pharma organizations, agribusiness, local governments, national governments, cultural leaders, the people who were committed to the vision of the transformed landscape who will work together,” Scherr said.

It is important to look beyond labels in use and focus on assessing progress over the longer term, noting that such approaches ought to be thinking far beyond the typical project cycle, she added.

External input is a vital part of achieving success in integrated landscape initiatives, said Roderick Zagt, program coordinator at Tropenbos International. While people he worked with understood the problems they faced and the consequences of various activities, they can benefit from external perspectives.

“We aren’t in the driving seat,” Zagt said.  “We can’t impose that vision, but I think as an outsider you should try to set the conditions by which this vision will be reached through a structured dialogue process.”

Read more: The concept and development of the ‘landscape approach’

Overall, panelists agreed that landscape approaches must be long term, locally owned endeavors, although their effectiveness is often dependent on external sources of support, Reed said.

“The general consensus was that the GLF should provide a clearing house mechanism to consolidate experiences and knowledge,” he added.  “Its future mission could serve to enhance and clarify the evidence base, providing guidance on implementation strategies and lessons learned in the quest for truly sustainable landscapes.”

By Julie Mollins, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

This research was supported by German Environment Ministry and German Development Ministry.

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  • Looking at the past to shape the Landscape Approach of the future

Looking at the past to shape the Landscape Approach of the future

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  • The concept and development of the 'landscape approach'

The concept and development of the ‘landscape approach’

An agroforestry parcel in a restored area, part of the Cultivando Água Boa restoration program in Brazil. Photo by Y. Guterrez/CIFOR
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Pressure to manage the world’s resources responsibly for people, biodiversity and the climate has perhaps never been so intense. In this context, the landscape approach, which has grown in popularity in land management circles in recent years, may hold critical importance.

So what is it all about? According to a definitive research paper, the approach seeks to provide “tools and concepts for allocating and managing land to achieve social, economic, and environmental objectives in areas where agriculture, mining, and other productive land uses compete with environmental and biodiversity goals.”

Watch: Developing and applying an approach for the sustainable management of landscapes 

It asks us to take a step back and look at land management holistically, through the lenses of a range of disciplines, and with an eye to the bigger picture and the longer term. “Landscapes can’t be managed as a project,” explains Terry Sunderland, Senior Associate at the Center for International Forest Research (CIFOR) and professor at the University of British Columbia. “They can only be really managed as a process.”

CIFOR scientist James Reed emphasizes the importance of multiple scales when analyzing landscapes from this perspective: “Whatever the unit of analysis is, we’re trying to consider what’s happening at the scale below and the scale above as well. So that includes global commitments, and how they filter down to national and landscape-level implementation.”

SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW

Is this approach new? Yes and no, says Sunderland. Certainly, it represents a marked shift from project-based approaches and rigid disciplinary boundaries that have pervaded the sector in the past. But in other corners of the world, the guiding principles may well be anything but novel.

“Currently there are two billion people living and working in very complex landscape mosaics,” says Sunderland. “Most of these people are farmers. Seventy percent of the world’s food is generated from such landscapes.”

So while some might see the landscape approach as just another Western paradigm being imposed on the world’s farmers, the reality might be the reverse.

“People who live and work in these complex landscapes already live and work in a holistic manner,” says Sunderland. “They understand the complexities of the different land uses within their landscapes. And I think that’s what needs to be harnessed, the bottom-up approach.”

Policy frameworks are important, he acknowledges, so that ground-level holistic management can be integrated with activities at higher scales. “But I think the real impetus is going to be coming from those two billion people living and working in these complex landscapes,” he says. “So we have to focus on how we can harness that energy and that perspective.”

Reed highlights the importance of participatory, collaborative processes to bring about these ends: bringing stakeholders together to discuss their needs and aspirations for particular landscapes, and trying to build consensus about their management.

“The idea is that through regular dialogue processes we can develop more solutions that enable people who are losing to benefit more,” he says, “and create more winners within each landscape.”

An agroforestry parcel in a restored area, part of the Cultivando Água Boa restoration program in Brazil. Photo by Y. Guterrez/CIFOR

FUNDING FOR THE FUTURE

The approach aligns well with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which favor broad, integrated processes. But recent studies have shown that there’s a significant gap between the funding that’s available and that which is required to actually make these global commitments a reality – to the tune of up to seven trillion dollars.

“It’s going to require transformational changes in policy and in finance investment strategies,” says Reed. “Currently we’re way below this level of investment for producing sustainable landscapes.”

As Sunderland adds, most funding is on short-term cycles, which don’t fit well with the longer-term commitments required from a landscape approach. “So if we want to move from project to process, we have to find mechanisms in order to fund that.”

Watch: Generating science and solutions

MOVING RIGHT ALONG

Still, Sunderland is pleased about the progress of the landscape approach agenda thus far, and optimistic about its potential for the future. “It’s already starting to happen,” he says. Silos are breaking down, and overarching commitments like the SDGs take holistic approaches, acknowledging interconnection.

He cites the example of the EAT Foundation conference in Indonesia last year, which focussed on the pressing issue of feeding the world’s people a healthy and nutritious diet, while staying within safe ecological limits. “And five ministries from Indonesia were represented!” he exclaims. “All talking to each other about how to transform the food system in the Asia-Pacific region. Now that’s progress! That wouldn’t have happened two or three years ago.”

“We often hear talks about a paradigm shift, and the need for transformational change,” says Reed. “But we can’t expect it to happen overnight. Progress is happening, and it’s going to take time, but we’re moving in the right direction.

By Monica Evans, originally published by CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Terry Sunderland at [email protected] or James Reed at [email protected].


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department for International Development (DFID).

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Developing and applying an approach for the sustainable management of landscapes

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Departing CIFOR scientists Terry Sunderland and James Reed from the Center for International Forestry Research’s (CIFOR) Sustainable Landscapes and Food Systems team spoke on the sidelines of the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF), held from Dec. 19-20 in Bonn, Germany. The pair shared their findings so far on developing and applying a ‘landscapes approach’ for sustainable management of landscapes to benefit the people who depend on them.

Originally published by CIFOR.

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  • FTA event coverage: Gaining traction on climate goals

FTA event coverage: Gaining traction on climate goals

Deforestation in Jambi, Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo: Asep Ayat for 2014 Global Landscapes Forum Photo Competition
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Deforestation in Jambi, Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo: Asep Ayat for 2014 Global Landscapes Forum Photo Competition
Deforestation in Jambi, Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo: Asep Ayat for 2014 Global Landscapes Forum Photo Competition

By Catriona Croft-Cusworth, originally posted at CIFOR’s Forests News

An increasing number of states are embracing commitments made under the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global temperature rise. But how do these grand ambitions play out in reality?

In practice, climate action gains traction at the ground level — ‘where the rubber hits the road’, so to speak — and that requires collaboration among a whole range of different stakeholders.

Besides national governments, subnational governments are increasingly involved in action on climate change in the land use and forestry sectors. Non-state actors, including indigenous groups (which sometimes own and manage important territories), non-governmental organizations and the private sector, are also playing a growing role.

So how can the efforts of these various groups be best coordinated to meet national and international pledges, bringing real action on climate change?

A political world

Anne Larson, a Principal Scientist with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), has led research on this issue in five countries as part of the Global Comparative Study on REDD+ under the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, including two national studies on systems of monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV).

Planting Mangroves. Photo: Putu Budhiadnya for 2016 Global Landscapes Forum Photo Competition
Planting Mangroves. Photo: Putu Budhiadnya for 2016 Global Landscapes Forum Photo Competition

She says that even with apparently technical issues like MRV, political tensions tend to emerge both horizontally and vertically among stakeholder groups when trying to turn ideas into reality. This shouldn’t discourage efforts to take action but suggests that we need to take a different approach.

“We can’t ignore political realities,” she says. “We have many great ideas, but no matter how great they might sound technically, we always bump into reality when we hit the ground and try to start implementing.”


Also read: FTA project update: Understanding REDD+ across the globe


“Politics is not necessarily good or bad, it just is. We need to embrace this and learn to work in this reality.”

Pham Thu Thuy, another CIFOR scientist involved in the study, says her research in Vietnam found that politics not only influenced coordination, but also shaped perceptions of goals and challenges among different levels of governance.

“Different levels perceive different problems. But also how they actually define the problem is based on their own perception and their political interest,” Thuy says.

The answer to coordinating those differences, she says, is to take a landscape approach.

Click to read: Exploring the agency of Africa in climate change negotiations: the case of REDD+
Click to read: Exploring the agency of Africa in climate change negotiations: the case of REDD+

You have to be aware of these politics and think about how you can bring together every piece of information and every active group to make a policy work,” she says.

“And I think that for the land-use system, if you want something to work, basically it has to be at the landscape level.”

A landscape view

At the Global Landscapes Forum in Marrakesh, subnational and non-state actors were invited to share their perspectives on the matter of catalyzing action on the ground.

The term ‘non-state actors’ includes researchers, civil society and other community-level groups, but via global climate negotiations in recent years has become shorthand for the private sector.


Also read: COP22 Special: REDD+ monitoring is a technical and political balancing act


Bruce Cabarle, Team Leader of Partnerships for Forests, an initiative for investment in sustainable use of land and forests, said in discussion at GLF that public-private-people partnerships were key to applying lessons learned into the future.

“The more interesting question is: How do we get synergies and complementarity between voluntary certification schemes and government regulations so that they are mutually reinforcing?” he asked.

Christoph Thies, a forest campaigner for Greenpeace, welcomed cooperative efforts among sectors, but maintained that states should take the lead.

“The private sector should never replace the roles and responsibilities of governments,” he said.

For Thies, the answer lies in understanding political factors as both challenges and opportunities for change.

“Technical barriers can be overcome,” he said. “To really address the landscape requires political will.”

On the ground

Fernando Sampaio, Executive Director of the PCI (Produce, Conserve and Include) Strategy State Committee in Mato Grosso, Brazil, acknowledged the importance of both private-sector and civil society involvement in ground-level efforts, from a subnational government perspective.

“The private sector is an important part of the process, but we also need to include other stakeholders who are excluded from the process,” he said.

Excluded groups often include indigenous peoples, whose land rights are not always recognized. Norvin Goff, President of MASTA, an indigenous federation that represents the Miskitus of the Honduran Mosquitia, said that blueprint approaches to land and forest use rarely work at the ground level for indigenous communities.

“We don’t need a set formula that has been used in the past, we need to create an approach together,” Goff said.

He urged closer partnerships between government and indigenous groups.

“Instead of an enemy, they should consider us as part of the solution,” he said.

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  • Sustainable landscape management needs a practical push

Sustainable landscape management needs a practical push

A landscape approach needs negotiation. Photo: Mokhammad Edliadi/CIFOR
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Forthcoming event will foster talks between land use competitors

By Kerstin Reisdorf

To reconcile competing land uses, all sectors have to come together. Photo: Moses Ceaser/CIFOR
Coal-mining in the forest: To reconcile competing land uses, all sectors have to come together. Photo: Moses Ceaser/CIFOR

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone who lives off the land just got along?

If farmers could grow crops without irreversibly damaging the soil or cutting down forests to grow monocultures?

If conservationists could ensure the biological diversity in the same area?

If the chocolate factory could purchase enough cocoa for the foreseeable future without depleting the natural resources?

And if the government could reach its goals of moving poor people out of poverty?

Well, that wouldn’t be just nice, that would be perfect. So it has to be unrealistic. Maybe for now, but it doesn’t hurt to be aspirational, says Terry Sunderland, Team Leader Sustainable Landscapes and Food Systems at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

The picture of the perfect scenario has a lot to do with the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry and its ongoing research on landscape approaches. He and many other scientists and development experts keep pushing for an integrated landscape approach to land use planning.

A landscape approach needs negotiation. Photo: Mokhammad Edliadi/CIFOR
A landscape approach needs negotiation. Photo: Mokhammad Edliadi/CIFOR

A landscape approach aims to reconcile competing interests and negotiate trade-offs instead of dealing with each sector separately. It requires everyone who is involved in land use planning or who uses natural resources or who wants to protect wildlife or who lives off the forest or a farm to negotiate their competing interests and share a collective vision. In theory, this should also lead to more sustainable land use and resource management.

In the light of the complexities of today’s world, sectoral thinking should a thing of the past. According to Sunderland, the practical side of multi-functional landscape models has been lagging behind, so he and his colleagues are increasingly impatient to show how integrated approaches are in fact working on the ground.

Therefore, he is determined to test the move from theory to practice. On 16 November, CIFOR will host a side event at the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) stakeholder dialogue in Bali, Indonesia. The aim is to bring together people from as many land-use sectors as possible, ranging from government to the private sector, conservation and development agencies to local non-governmental organizations to share their experiences, both positive and negative.

In reality, there are no clear lines between land uses. Photo: Kate Evans/CIFOR
In reality, there are no clear lines between land uses. Photo: Kate Evans/CIFOR

“We have to show finally that landscape approaches actually work. And I am optimistic because I see progress,” he says.

He takes his confidence for example from recent experiences at the World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, in Hawaii.

“I listened to Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and APRIL that’s the private sector; to USAID, representing the development sector; to the Indonesian government and the WCS, and Burung Indonesia; that means conservationists.

And they were all talking about the same thing but from their varied perspectives: sustainable landscapes. It’s a huge achievement that there is this dialogue. This would not have been thought possible even five years ago. And, as it turns out: they are very close to coming to a consensus. And that’s the only way it’s going to work,” he explains.

Nevertheless, the move from theory to practice will be a key challenge for CIFOR’s work under the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry. He thinks this could be feasible because the ten principles of the landscape approach, research that CIFOR led, have been widely accepted as a useful framework to reconcile competing land uses.

For example the USAID-funded “Lestari” project in Indonesia designed to prevent fire and haze through better land-use management did was built on the ten principles as a convening framework.

“In taking the landscape approach into the real world, it will be crucial to integrate the feedback from all land use sectors. The event in Bali will be a step forward in advancing the practical aspects of acting on the landscape principles,” Sunderland says. “This experience sharing and feedback will help ensure that future landscape approaches can draw more and more on experience from the ground.”

Now that would be a great leap forward in moving from theory to practice in operationalizing the landscape approach.


Also read

Integrated landscape approaches to managing social and environmental issues in the tropics: learning from the past to guide the future.

Integrated Landscape Approaches: A systematic map of the evidence.

Landscape approaches: what are the pre-conditions for success?

Managing Landscapes for Food Security and Enhanced Livelihoods: Building upon a Wealth of Local Experience.

The landscape approach: ten principles to apply at the nexus of agriculture, conservation and other competing land-uses.

Blogs:

The landscape approach, 17,000 papers later – talking ‘bout a revolution

The landscape approach: How did we get here and where do we want to go? Just ask Darwin!

How landscape approaches can achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in three (challenging) steps

Cameroon’s ‘Technical Operation Units’ may provide a foundation for adopting a landscape approach to development

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  • Integrated landscape approaches to managing social and environmental issues in the tropics: learning from the past to guide the future

Integrated landscape approaches to managing social and environmental issues in the tropics: learning from the past to guide the future

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FTA

Authors: James Reed, Josh Van Vianen, Elizabeth L. Deakin, Jos Barlow, Terry Sunderland

Poverty, food insecurity, climate change and biodiversity loss continue to persist as the primary environmental and social challenges faced by the global community. As such, there is a growing acknowledgement that conventional sectorial approaches to addressing often inter-connected social, environmental, economic and political challenges are proving insufficient.

An alternative is to focus on integrated solutions at landscape scales or ‘landscape approaches’. The appeal of landscape approaches has resulted in the production of a significant body of literature in recent decades, yet confusion over terminology, application and utility persists. Focusing on the tropics, we systematically reviewed the literature to:

(i) disentangle the historical development and theory behind the framework of the landscape approach and how it has progressed into its current iteration,

(ii) establish lessons learned from previous land management strategies,

(iii) determine the barriers that currently restrict implementation of the landscape approach and

(iv) provide recommendations for how the landscape approach can contribute towards the fulfilment of the goals of international policy processes.

This review suggests that, despite some barriers to implementation, a landscape approach has considerable potential to meet social and environmental objectives at local scales while aiding national commitments to addressing ongoing global challenges.

This overview of the landscape approach is based upon a robust and thorough review of both the peer-reviewed and grey literature. This involved analysing more than 13 000 peer-reviewed articles, over 500 grey literature documents and screening the websites of over 30 key research organizations.

The research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry. Also published at Center for International Forestry Research.

Read full research review at Global Change Biology (April 2016, open access)

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  • From global complexity to local reality: Aligning implementation frameworks with Sustainable Development Goals and landscape approaches

From global complexity to local reality: Aligning implementation frameworks with Sustainable Development Goals and landscape approaches

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cifor

Key messages

  • Many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) retain a sectorial focus; however, emphasis is placed on the need for integration across goals and targets.
  • Given that there are inherent synergies and trade-offs embedded throughout, applying sectorial approaches to achieving the SDGs will likely be ineffective.
  • Integrated landscape approaches offer significant potential as an implementing framework for addressing interlinked and conflicting challenges.
  • This brief identifies where the current set of goals would benefit from a landscape approach and to what degree, and presents key recommendations.

Source: CIFOR publications


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