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Putting the concept of the ‘landscape approach’ into action

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Foraged forest food on display at a local food fair in Luwingu, Zambia. Photo by Joe Nkadaani/CIFOR

“Landscape approaches” seek to provide tools and concepts for allocating and managing land to achieve social, economic, and environmental objectives in areas where agriculture, livestock, mining and other productive land uses compete with environmental and biodiversity goals. 

In this article, the Center for International Forestry Research‘s (CIFOR) James Reed and Terry Sunderland discuss getting these approaches off the ground with a new, five-year project.

Given the vast range of landscapes on this earth, we have yet to devise a singular definition of the landscape approach, but this is how we described the aim and purpose in a research paper back in 2013: The term can be as elastic as the changing and developing environments in which it’s meant to be implemented – a landscape approach is, inherently, a context-based process. As such, we assert there is not a single landscape approach, as is often presumed, but a wide range of landscape approaches that can be applied in differing geographical social and institutional contexts.

In an attempt to reconcile competing land use objectives, landscape approaches have increasingly become a dominant discourse within the conservation and development lexicon. It is now recognized that sectorial silos must be overcome to start down sustainable development pathways acknowledging interdependencies between sectors operating within multifunctional landscapes — and tropical landscapes in particular, which perpetually see gaps between knowledge and implementation and between policy and practice. Consequently, while the landscape approach discourse has continued to evolve, attempts at implementation — and particularly evaluation — in the tropics remain nascent.

Watch: FTA scientists feature in innovative series of talks on landscapes

Significant advances have been made in how we think about landscape approaches, be that in conceptual frameworks, methodological tools and resources, reviews of theoretical development and implementation, or operational guidelines. But putting them into action and monitoring progress has been a different story.

Now is the time to take this next step – to build on this momentum and see how landscape approaches can work on the ground. With all the talk about their potential, how are they put into action, and to what extent are they effective in achieving multiple objectives?

The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) has recently funded CIFOR and partners to operationalize landscape approaches in three tropical countries – Indonesia, Burkina Faso and Zambia – over the course of five years. In this work, we seek not only to use landscape approaches to address challenges in communities in these countries, but also to observe the implementation process and local uptake of such approaches. We plan to convey our findings as we go along so that others can learn simultaneously from our work.

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

Resin trees are seen in West Java, Indonesia, which is a common habitat for the Javanese monkey. Photo by Ricky Martin/CIFOR

OPERATION OPERATIONALIZE

Recent UN conventions for biodiversity, climate change and sustainable development have all called for more integrated and sustainable approaches to landscape governance. International policy dialogues are increasingly doing away with perceived antagonisms between sectors and facilitating greater engagement between forestry, food, water and energy, with an enhanced acknowledgement of the role of the private sector as well.

Yet, uptake of landscape approaches within the tropics has thus far been limited, which is likely in part due to a weak evidence base demonstrating effectiveness. A recent review failed to find a single definitive example of a landscape approach in the tropics, or at least reported in scientific literature. This is not to say that they do not exist, but perhaps that grass-roots efforts lack capacity or motivation to monitor progress and formally report findings.

This project will seek to address this gap as CIFOR and partners will assume a mediating role within landscapes in Burkina Faso, Indonesia and Zambia. With a particular focus on the contribution of biodiversity and a remit to engage policy, practice and people, we will facilitate multi-stakeholder platforms and identify linkages with existing institutional structures within each of the landscapes. Through working with existing frameworks and publicly available information (such as census, health and income data, and remote sensing imagery) we hope to further develop a model for scaling up our efforts easily adopted by governments, NGOs and other institutions.

Read also: Agroforestry offers pathways to sustainable landscape restoration

A MATTER OF TIME

The long-term nature of the funding is a crucial foundation for this effort, as it presents a rare opportunity to adopt the mindset of moving from “project to process” by examining and explaining how dynamic processes of social, political, economic and environmental interactions work over time within these landscapes. It allows us to learn deeply through diagnosis, rather than focus on generating immediate results within the rigid confines of a project framework.

As such, over the course of the next five years, our research team intends to embrace two key components of the landscape approach philosophy. Firstly, we will think beyond typical project-cycle timelines and structures and become more fully established and integrated within the target landscapes.

Secondly, in contrast to many prior approaches, we will attempt to facilitate a truly trans-disciplinary approach to all activities, from design and implementation to governance and evaluation. Rather than having a preconceived agenda of what the landscape and its stakeholders should fulfill, we will engage with open minds and a suite of tools designed to enhance stakeholder engagement and action, assess divergence in stakeholder perception and objectives, and in turn generate an increased understanding of the landscape dynamics. Only then, can we build stakeholder capacity to make more informed choices, evaluate progress, and empower previously marginalized groups to more effectively engage in decision-making processes.

Ultimately, we hope that this process will not only contribute to a more robust evidence base for landscape approaches but also enhance stakeholder capacity and landscape sustainability within the target landscapes. A key objective is to work in tandem with landscape stakeholders to co-construct a shared learning platform that can improve our understanding of landscape dynamics in these countries. While we are not blind to the complex challenges of integrating conservation and development, we are committed to implementing and reporting on these landscape approaches and developing an inclusive dissemination strategy with our colleagues at the Global Landscapes Forum. We hope that both the positive and negative outcomes that emerge will contribute to our understanding of the conditions under which landscape approaches can develop and therefore inform future evidence-based research, policy and practice agendas.

By James Reed and Terry Sunderland, originally published at 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 German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMUB)

 

  • Home
  • Putting the concept of the ‘landscape approach’ into action

Putting the concept of the ‘landscape approach’ into action

Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Foraged forest food on display at a local food fair in Luwingu, Zambia. Photo by Joe Nkadaani/CIFOR

“Landscape approaches” seek to provide tools and concepts for allocating and managing land to achieve social, economic, and environmental objectives in areas where agriculture, livestock, mining and other productive land uses compete with environmental and biodiversity goals. 

In this article, the Center for International Forestry Research‘s (CIFOR) James Reed and Terry Sunderland discuss getting these approaches off the ground with a new, five-year project.

Given the vast range of landscapes on this earth, we have yet to devise a singular definition of the landscape approach, but this is how we described the aim and purpose in a research paper back in 2013: The term can be as elastic as the changing and developing environments in which it’s meant to be implemented – a landscape approach is, inherently, a context-based process. As such, we assert there is not a single landscape approach, as is often presumed, but a wide range of landscape approaches that can be applied in differing geographical social and institutional contexts.

In an attempt to reconcile competing land use objectives, landscape approaches have increasingly become a dominant discourse within the conservation and development lexicon. It is now recognized that sectorial silos must be overcome to start down sustainable development pathways acknowledging interdependencies between sectors operating within multifunctional landscapes — and tropical landscapes in particular, which perpetually see gaps between knowledge and implementation and between policy and practice. Consequently, while the landscape approach discourse has continued to evolve, attempts at implementation — and particularly evaluation — in the tropics remain nascent.

Watch: FTA scientists feature in innovative series of talks on landscapes

Significant advances have been made in how we think about landscape approaches, be that in conceptual frameworks, methodological tools and resources, reviews of theoretical development and implementation, or operational guidelines. But putting them into action and monitoring progress has been a different story.

Now is the time to take this next step – to build on this momentum and see how landscape approaches can work on the ground. With all the talk about their potential, how are they put into action, and to what extent are they effective in achieving multiple objectives?

The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) has recently funded CIFOR and partners to operationalize landscape approaches in three tropical countries – Indonesia, Burkina Faso and Zambia – over the course of five years. In this work, we seek not only to use landscape approaches to address challenges in communities in these countries, but also to observe the implementation process and local uptake of such approaches. We plan to convey our findings as we go along so that others can learn simultaneously from our work.

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

Resin trees are seen in West Java, Indonesia, which is a common habitat for the Javanese monkey. Photo by Ricky Martin/CIFOR

OPERATION OPERATIONALIZE

Recent UN conventions for biodiversity, climate change and sustainable development have all called for more integrated and sustainable approaches to landscape governance. International policy dialogues are increasingly doing away with perceived antagonisms between sectors and facilitating greater engagement between forestry, food, water and energy, with an enhanced acknowledgement of the role of the private sector as well.

Yet, uptake of landscape approaches within the tropics has thus far been limited, which is likely in part due to a weak evidence base demonstrating effectiveness. A recent review failed to find a single definitive example of a landscape approach in the tropics, or at least reported in scientific literature. This is not to say that they do not exist, but perhaps that grass-roots efforts lack capacity or motivation to monitor progress and formally report findings.

This project will seek to address this gap as CIFOR and partners will assume a mediating role within landscapes in Burkina Faso, Indonesia and Zambia. With a particular focus on the contribution of biodiversity and a remit to engage policy, practice and people, we will facilitate multi-stakeholder platforms and identify linkages with existing institutional structures within each of the landscapes. Through working with existing frameworks and publicly available information (such as census, health and income data, and remote sensing imagery) we hope to further develop a model for scaling up our efforts easily adopted by governments, NGOs and other institutions.

Read also: Agroforestry offers pathways to sustainable landscape restoration

A MATTER OF TIME

The long-term nature of the funding is a crucial foundation for this effort, as it presents a rare opportunity to adopt the mindset of moving from “project to process” by examining and explaining how dynamic processes of social, political, economic and environmental interactions work over time within these landscapes. It allows us to learn deeply through diagnosis, rather than focus on generating immediate results within the rigid confines of a project framework.

As such, over the course of the next five years, our research team intends to embrace two key components of the landscape approach philosophy. Firstly, we will think beyond typical project-cycle timelines and structures and become more fully established and integrated within the target landscapes.

Secondly, in contrast to many prior approaches, we will attempt to facilitate a truly trans-disciplinary approach to all activities, from design and implementation to governance and evaluation. Rather than having a preconceived agenda of what the landscape and its stakeholders should fulfill, we will engage with open minds and a suite of tools designed to enhance stakeholder engagement and action, assess divergence in stakeholder perception and objectives, and in turn generate an increased understanding of the landscape dynamics. Only then, can we build stakeholder capacity to make more informed choices, evaluate progress, and empower previously marginalized groups to more effectively engage in decision-making processes.

Ultimately, we hope that this process will not only contribute to a more robust evidence base for landscape approaches but also enhance stakeholder capacity and landscape sustainability within the target landscapes. A key objective is to work in tandem with landscape stakeholders to co-construct a shared learning platform that can improve our understanding of landscape dynamics in these countries. While we are not blind to the complex challenges of integrating conservation and development, we are committed to implementing and reporting on these landscape approaches and developing an inclusive dissemination strategy with our colleagues at the Global Landscapes Forum. We hope that both the positive and negative outcomes that emerge will contribute to our understanding of the conditions under which landscape approaches can develop and therefore inform future evidence-based research, policy and practice agendas.

By James Reed and Terry Sunderland, originally published at 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 German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMUB)

 

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  • Women improve food security through land-restoration technology in Kenya

Women improve food security through land-restoration technology in Kenya

Three women from the Mattu community of practice harvest cow pea leaves. Photo by Ake Mamo/ICRAF
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Three women from the Mattu community of practice harvest cow pea leaves. Photo by Ake Mamo/ICRAF

Despite challenges from both the land and society, women in Kenya are taking control of their farms, with impressive results. Following a previous article on the topic, we delve deeper into a farming technique that is alleviating food shortages in the country.

Agricultural innovations in Africa aimed at improving the productivity of smallholders, especially women, are necessarily subject to accommodating multiple needs, which in turn depend on differing priorities, preferences and access to resources.

Renting an ox-drawn plough, for example, operated by able-bodied men, is a financial challenge for many farmers, particularly the women who make up the majority of farmers in the drylands of what is known as Kambaland in southeastern Kenya.

“It is too expensive to rent the bulls and pay for the young men,” said Veronicah Ngau of Mutembuku village, Makueni County. “Even if I beg someone for free help I have to wait until they are finished with their own work.”

She gave up on ox-drawn tilling after experiencing three rounds of stunted crops. She explained that technologies like terracing and sunken-bed kitchen gardens, however, had improved the situation.

The farmers achieved stark differences in yields with simple planting basins, a water-conservation technology. The basins, which are being modified and tested in several countries, are part of a partnership between farmers, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), World Vision, Adventist Development and Relief Agency, Caritas Internationalis and governments. ICRAF, a CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) partner organization, is leading the research component.

Preliminary results show that the size of the basins and their combination with other practices, such as applying manure and mulching, determine their impact on maize production under different conditions.

Read more: Picks and spades can triple farmers’ yields in Kenyan drylands

Mary shows basin-measuring sticks that she cut herself. Photo by Ake Mamo/ICRAF

But what are perhaps more difficult to accurately assess are the implications for labour and time. A 60 x 60 cm pit, for example, takes about an hour for a woman in her fifties, like Ngau, to prepare. Like many of her neighbors, she does not have children at home to help.

That led them to convene a group of 10 women from the project’s community of practice to collectively dig three pits a week at each other’s homes.

Ngau’s success was enabled by the existence of the community of practice and her ability to mobilize her peers to work together. These factors are likely to vary between farmers and communities and will determine the success or failure of the technology.

An additional issue is women’s right to make decisions about their farms. Evidence shows that traditional gender norms and roles, as well as tenure rights, can limit women’s participation in decision-making about the use of land. But it seems that the migration of men, combined with the success witnessed by some of the participating farmers, has influenced decision-making dynamics at the project sites.

“We didn’t even have to ask our husbands for permission,” said Mary, another farmer in Machakos County. “Our husbands are not concerned with food production. They are mostly away and when they do have an opinion on where tree seedlings should be planted, for example, we allow them to choose their space first then we plant in our own choice of space.”

Most of the men are typically engaged with livestock and poultry trading or have migrated to earn a better living. Producing food therefore rests on women’s shoulders. Amid the land degradation and changes in climate that have lead to food shortages, the planting basins have helped to improve the women’s farming outcomes.

Community facilitators engaged with the projects have observed, however, that even from afar the male heads of households still have the final say on what is done with the land, including the digging of basins. But once they give consent for a plot to be used for planting basins, the women take over all other management decisions.

An in-depth study is currently underway to assess how this and other land restoration technologies can change gender dynamics, considering the social context and the specific challenges that female and male farmers face in using them.

Read more: Enhancing how trees and forests contribute to smallholder livelihoods

By Ana Maria Paez-Valencia, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World.  


The planting basins are part of a project funded by the European Union and the International Fund for Agricultural Development on restoring land for food security, which complements the Netherlands-funded Drylands Development Programme

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

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  • Picks and spades can triple farmers’ yields in Kenyan drylands

Picks and spades can triple farmers’ yields in Kenyan drylands

A woman shows the state of six-week old maize crops within (left of picture) and outside (right of picture) of planting basins. Photo by Ake Mamo/ICRAF
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A woman shows six-week-old maize crops within (left) and outside (right) of planting basins. Photo by Ake Mamo/ICRAF

A simple farming technique is proving effective in staving off food shortages in Kenya.

The female farmers of Makueni County in southeastern Kenya rarely expect to triumph over their parched, unpropitious soils. A pick, a spade and a jovial, no-nonsense will-to-survive scarcely seem sufficient for a transition to greener prospects. In addition, the need for cash frequently robs these hardy women of men’s presence; casual labor in economic hotspots, or other work in livestock and poultry trading, is the norm.

Producing food thus rests on the shoulders of the women, many of whom are subsistence farmers or smallholders burdened with increasingly unproductive land. Severe land degradation coupled with drastic changes in climate has meant that many frequently face food shortages.

A flash appeal made by the government of Kenya and humanitarian organizations in July 2017 estimated that in the Kenyan drylands the number of people experiencing crisis levels of food insecurity owing to drought would increase from 2.6 million to 3.5 million by August of that year. Interventions are in abundance but few create an impetus to survive past a project cycle.

In her village of Mutembuku, farmer Veronicah Ngau has been working with government, development and research partners since 2005.

“Technologies like terracing and sunken-bed kitchen gardens have helped us cope but it was only in 2016 that I started to see a big change in what the land can produce,” she said. “In two planting seasons, I went from a usual 50 to 90 kilogram maize harvest from two acres of land to 270 kilograms from only one acre.”

This dramatic difference was achieved by nothing other than simple planting basins, which are a water-conservation technology that is improving food supply in the area.

However, social, environmental, technical and many other contexts differ from farmer to farmer and village to village, making it difficult to promote blanket adoption of the basins.

The most popular basin size in Makueni is 2 feet x 2 feet. Photo by Ake Mamo/ICRAF

As part of a project funded by the European Union and the International Fund for Agricultural Development on restoring land for food security, which complements the Netherlands-funded Drylands Development Programme, the planting basins, which are also known as zai pits by the Western African farmers who innovated them, are being modified and tested, not just across villages, but also in several countries across the continent.

The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), together with development and government partners, is leading the research component, or ‘testing for fit’, as an element of a larger drive to restore land.

“Thousands of farmers in Kenya, Ethiopia, Mali and Niger are now in the process of comparing options for soil and water conservation, tree establishment, post-harvest pest and disease control, livestock governance and farmer-managed natural regeneration,” said the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry’s (FTA) Fergus Sinclair, who leads ICRAF’s research theme on resilient livelihood systems and is the project’s principal investigator.

“We base this on a combination of systematic analysis of past successes and failures, local knowledge and participatory planning with farmers, extension workers and private-sector actors. It is not the basins in and of themselves we are interested in; what we are doing is looking for, and testing, options that are fit for their contexts while being relatively easy and low cost for farmers.”

Digging a pit is difficult work, perhaps more so than ploughing, but it has the advantage of being accessible to all and requires little more than a pick and a spade. Renting plough bulls operated by young, able men is not an easy option for many cash-strapped farmers in the area.

Ngau gave up on traditional tilling after three consecutive failed rains yielded stunted crops that were barely 30 centimeters high.

“Farming is a little bit like gambling here,” explained Joseph Ochola, a monitoring and data-collecting member of the project, who is local to the area.

“During droughts, the government will help us with 45 kilograms of maize per household per month; otherwise we have to buy what we need,” confirmed Ngau.

The Land Restoration Community of Practice is pictured in Mutembuku, Makueni County, Kenya. Photo by Ake Mamo/ICRAF

However, a 90 kg bag, cautiously consumed, costs KHS 2500 ($US25), which she says is a big chunk out of the KHS 6000 monthly earnings her husband makes as a casual laborer in town.

“When I started with 200 basins in a corner of my farm,” she said, “the idea was to compare the maize yields with our normal practice of farming. But in 2016, when we all lost our entire crops except those in the basins, I decided to switch and make more for myself; more than the project needed.”

A group of 10 women from her community of practice took up collectively digging three pits a week at each other’s homes. This gave them 30 basins a week but Ngau would also come home and dig three of her own each week.

“I have now covered half of my 2 acres with basins. Last season in 2017, during yet another drought, many of us with the basins were able to feed our neighbors who were not part of the project. They came to get some ears of maize every day. We were all able to eat. And even at harvesting period, I still got 270 kilograms, which also kept us going until the following planting season. I didn’t need the government handout anymore. Now others come to us to teach them how to do their basins.”

Scientists are now looking at the large data set involving thousands of farmers to explain when the basins are practical options and when they are not.

“This is only our third planting season and we are still in the process of collecting the data for all the different options related to the basins,” said Leigh Winowiecki, a soil scientist at ICRAF who manages the project. “But even in the comparisons, some areas have already been more than tripling the maize yields. Of course, it will not work the same for everybody.”

“Without this information, we cannot simply go and advise development partners to promote them,” explained Sinclair. “It will be a waste of their time and the farmer’s time to scale something that has not been tested and proven to work in the areas under question.”

By Akefety Mamo, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World.


The project ‘ Restoration of degraded land for food security and poverty reduction in East Africa and the Sahel: taking successes in land restoration to scale’ is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the European Union (EU)

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

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  • Farm-scale greenhouse gas balances, hotspots and uncertainties in smallholder crop-livestock systems in Central Kenya

Farm-scale greenhouse gas balances, hotspots and uncertainties in smallholder crop-livestock systems in Central Kenya

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

  • Whole-farm GHG balances are needed to identify climate-smart options.
  • Coffee-dairy farms are mostly net sources of GHG at farm-scale.
  • Poor manure management can be a determining factor in the farm GHG balance.
  • Emissions are smoothed by zero grazing and larger soil and biomass C sequestration.
  • Improving GHG estimations requires developing EFs and site calibrations.

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