Landscapes – result of intimate interaction between people and nature
For generations, people have managed natural resources in such a way that their multiple needs for food, fiber, fodder, fuel, building materials, medicinal products and drinking water were fulfilled. Farming, livestock, forestry and fisheries systems have evolved, and been adapted to variable and changing environmental and socio-economic conditions. Not only natural factors, but also population growth or loss, tenure arrangements, labor availability, access to markets and economic growth, as well as cultural traditions and political strategies have shaped landscapes over time. These complex interactions have generated today’s rich diversity of semi-natural and cultural landscapes1.
Unsustainable development and management of landscapes
Human population growth resulting in increased demand for goods and services has often been made responsible for unsustainable development of landscapes leading to the degradation of land and water resources and biodiversity loss.
However, the problem of unsustainable management has been further intensified by certain market-driven approaches that aim at ‘optimizing’ the production derived from forestry, animal husbandry or farming enterprises by focusing on relatively few marketable products. As a result, less specialized farming systems, such as mixed crop-livestock systems, are on the decline in many parts of the world - one of the main reasons for agrobiodiversity loss. Non-marketable benefits of diversified farming systems, including for example ecosystem services, tend to be neglected1, and similarly the deterioration of natural resources, such as water and soil , or increased climate variability, are treated as ‘external cost’. Thus, strategies that focus on immediately realizable economic benefits tend to neglect other benefits and costs that may affect society as a whole, or become relevant for future generations’ livelihoods.
Furthermore, some landscapes are managed unsustainably because traditional knowledge or social structures have eroded, e.g. as a result of population displacement, or because capacities, resources, technologies and investments are lacking1.
Box 1: Landscape and landscape boundaries
There are many ways of defining landscapes. Common to most definitions is that they imply the interaction between human societies and the natural environment, resulting in a unique set of characteristics that distinguish a landscape from other surrounding areas. Landscapes tend to cross administrative units or national borders, thus posing challenges to governance. A clear delineation of landscape boundaries often depends on the stakeholders involved, and the activities envisioned. As a general rule for implementing Landscape Approaches, the area should be large enough to allow for management of complementary and interdependent elements and resources, and small enough to enable all relevant stakeholders to cooperate and participate in planning and decision-making1.
Box 2: What are ecosystem services?
Ecosystem services are resources and processes that are supplied by ecosystems to the benefit of humans and all forms of life. They include, for example, effective nutrient, water and carbon cycling, resulting in fertile soils, clean air and drinking water. Furthermore, ecosystem services include microbial decomposition of wastes or pollutants, pollination of crops, as well as natural pest and disease control and resilience to shocks and climate variability. In a broader sense, cultural, recreational and spiritual aspects are also included, e.g. places for recreation and a sense of place, or the ‘beauty’ of landscapes4.
The Landscape Approach – integrating and balancing multiple goals
Landscape Approaches combine natural resources management with environmental and livelihood considerations. Optimization of production and resource use is treated at a larger scale – the landscape. People’s activities and needs are treated as integral part of the system rather than as external factors1.
By moving the scale, it becomes clearer that management decisions made at farm level, concerning such issues as water use, soil management and the maintenance of diversity-rich landscape features such as hedgerows, have an impact on the surrounding landscape and the ecosystem services they provide. Importantly for the land user, they also profoundly influence the productive capacity of the land. The Landscape Approach thus helps to identify and develop positive externalities and reduce negative impacts resulting from individual management decisions1.
Placing human well-being and needs at the centre of the decision-making process, the rights and cultural values of involved communities are respected alongside their land use objectives. This involvement helps ensure local commitment to solutions and the long-term success of sustainable development initiatives. The various aspects of sustainability are given more weight compared to an optimization strategy based on economic considerations only.
The Landscape Approach requires a multidisciplinary perspective and multi-stakeholder activities to negotiate goals and priorities and implement actions. Stakeholders must clearly define and agree on the goals and desired objectives and outcomes and then assess the current and future factors that will influence the process. Trade-offs and synergies need to be carefully assessed and appropriate landscape-scale management interventions identified. Planning approaches, such as participatory Integrated Land Use Planning (ILUP), can support these multi-dimensional processes1.
Agricultural biodiversity - a key element of sustainable landscapes
Agricultural biodiversity entails crops and their varieties, the wide range of used wild and semi-wild and animals, as well as associated organisms, such as for example pollinating insects and soil microorganisms. It is a result of interaction between people and their natural environment, and depends on human management-just as the landscape it is associated with.
Agricultural biodiversity could thus play a key role in Landscape Approaches, as it links human nutrition and resource needs with the requirements to maintain and increase productivity and ecosystem services in the wider landscape. Dietary diversity, founded on diverse farming systems, can improve nutrition and health, resulting in benefits for human productivity and livelihoods. Moreover, diversity of species and varieties in farming systems can increase resilience of farming systems2. Active management and use of agricultural biodiversity could thus become an important building block in Landscape Approaches.
Many of the benefits of agricultural biodiversity are manifested at different spatial and temporal scales, and cut across political divisions and administrative entities. Though obviously highly related to agriculture, nutrition and environmental sustainability, the topic is not among the top priorities for policies relating to any of these fields. Landscape Approaches offer the opportunity to make the multiple relations between agrobiodiversity and the development goals treated in such projects more tangible and visible to all stakeholders.
Landscape Approach and climate change
Climate change is expected to have increasing impacts on local people’s livelihoods, but requires cooperation of stakeholders across various scales for addressing these. Landscape Approaches can help reduce negative impacts for individuals and distribute risks, costs, benefits and opportunities more equally, while increasing resilience and adaptive capacities of humans and ecosystems.
By taking a Landscape Approach and applying climate-smart agriculture, there are many options for mitigating negative effects and increasing productivity of farming systems. For example, by conserving valuable wetlands, managing flooding areas and increasing water infiltration and retention in soils, impacts from excessive rainfall events can be reduced, while also increasing agricultural productivity and the level of agrobiodiversity in the entire landscape. Moreover, cooperation of stakeholders can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from farming, for example by improving the management of organic manures and energy use.
Uniting benefits from forestry and agriculture
Forests and trees on farm and rangeland contribute to food and nutrition security in multiple ways. Besides providing direct benefits to farmers, forest dwellers and herders, they are of particular importance for clean water supply and watershed protection.
However, agriculture is the main driver for deforestation globally, and conversion of forest to farmland or plantations is considered one of the major causes for climate change. On the other hand, reducing and preventing deforestation is the mitigation option with the largest and most immediate impact in the short term. In recent years, awareness has been growing that without external incentives for conserving forests and delinking the growth of the agricultural sector from expanding the area under cultivation, economic pressures to clear forest land will most likely continue1,3.
Funding instruments with relevance to Landscape Approaches
Direct payments for ecosystem services could play an important role in designing and implementing Landscape Approaches in the near future. They help harmonize the local people’s need to achieve income in the short term, and the long-term goal to maintain ecosystem services, both locally and globally.
Innovative instruments are currently being developed, that allow for direct payments to developing countries for reducing forest degradation and deforestation. One such instrument is REDD+, agreed upon by the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December 2010 in Cancún, Mexico. Under REDD+, countries can receive direct payments for proven reduction of carbon emissions via forest protection. The success of REDD+ could depend on how well the interface between agriculture and forest is managed, and how well stakeholder interests are being taken into account1,3.
Furthermore, the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund could also become an instrument for providing direct income to communities owning the land where carbon sequestration measures are being taken6. However, these instruments will have to be embedded in coherent national policy strategies and evaluated continuously for their effectiveness to support the development goals of countries and communities1,3,6.
What makes Landscape Approaches successful?
The main problem to be solved in Landscape Approaches is that trade-offs exist between long-term and short term benefits and costs, and economic and other (social, ecological, cultural) benefits and costs. Furthermore, even if a change in management measures can increase benefits on the landscape level, individuals can have fewer benefits and others more. Finding solutions for such problems seems to be a main challenge of Landscape Approaches.
Local benefit-sharing mechanisms can be one part of the solution. For example, ecotourism enterprises that rely on the landscape ‘beauty’ can support farmers maintaining it by offering local food products to visitors, or by making (paid) visits to farms a part of their marketing strategy. However, targeted policies and direct payments may also be needed to actively support long-term benefits for society as a whole, and to achieve positive effects on a larger scale.
Landscape Approaches pose challenges to governance, particularly if implemented on larger scale. Even though it is urgently necessary that government institutions from all relevant levels are involved, implementing and governing a Landscape Approach may exceed the existing capacities and require more specialization and adaptive management1. In such cases, creating specialized institutions that are given a clearly defined mandate and focus only on managing one specific project could be an option to consider. Capacity building at all levels is required to develop a shared vision and appropriate governance procedures for implementation and management.
Furthermore, suitable tools and indicators to measure ecological, social and economic processes in landscapes are required to allow for more accurate management decisions and policy interventions, and to evaluate and manage trade-offs between benefits and costs occurring at different temporal and spatial scales.
UNESCO biosphere reserves – learning sites for sustainable development
Biosphere reserves are places that seek to reconcile conservation of biological and cultural diversity and economic and social development through partnerships between people and nature. They are established by countries and recognized under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Program.
There are currently 621 biosphere reserves in 117 countries, including 12 transboundary sites. They are typically designed around well-known or extraordinary landscape elements that depend on human management, such as mountains, lakes, islands or forest areas. Examples are the biosphere reserves of Mount Kenia or the delta of River Senegal.
Biosphere reserves aim to achieve integrated management of land, water and living resources by putting in place bioregional planning schemes based on integrating conservation into development through appropriate zoning.
The zonation of each biosphere reserve should include:
- Core areas: Protected sites for conserving biological diversity, monitoring minimally disturbed ecosystems, and undertaking non-destructive research and other low-impact uses such as education. In addition to their conservation function, the core areas contribute to a range of ecosystem services.
- Buffer zones: Typically surround or adjoin the core areas, and are used for cooperative activities compatible with sound ecological practices, including environmental education, recreation, ecotourism, and applied and basic research. Buffer zones can have an important function as they connect biodiversity components within core areas with those in transition areas.
- Transition areas: These may contain a variety of agricultural activities, settlements and other uses and in which local communities, management agencies, scientists, non-governmental organizations, cultural groups, private enterprises and other stakeholders work together to manage and sustainably develop the area's resources to support or improve people’s livelihoods.
Experiences of GIZ
- EverGreen Project in African Countries
The project “Science and development cooperation for Scaling-up to an EverGreen Agriculture in African Countries” aims at incorporating trees into crop and grazing landscapes in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi. It is jointly implemented by GIZ, ICRAF and World Vision. Besides a positive effect on agro-biodiversity, the approach provides multiple benefits for families in rural areas, including increased crop yields, improved soil health, a source of wood fuel, fodder and tree products as well as alternative income sources by deploying the biological resources of the farm with a very modest cash investment. This contributes to create a more productive agricultural system and to provide greater resilience to pressures produced by climate change and the ongoing degradation of agricultural land.
- Conventions locales Mauretania
Since 1994, GIZ supports the development of formally established arrangements between populations, which mainly live in customary land tenure systems, and local government representatives in eight West African countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Chad). Those so-called conventions define the rules, rights and duties of each party using and managing local landscapes and natural resources. In total, more than 150 local conventions were established. Local conventions can have various goals, ranging from the mere management of a specific resource (e.g. a shellfish species), through the management of a specific place (e.g. a pond), to an ecosystem (such as an inter-village forest). Local convention development processes comprise various phases including consultations, the identification of needs and the negotiations themselves.
The conventions in the regions Guidimaka and Hodh El Garbi in Mauritania are for example made for areas outside the individually used crop fields. They regulate the use of the pastures, the harvesting of grass, the gathering of dead wood, the cutting of tree branches for the construction of fences and the cutting of trees with the help of fees that are at the communities’ disposal. In addition to those regulations, the user groups can, for example, take areas completely out of productive use or develop and apply special regulations for specific forms of use, for example regarding the harvest of Arabic gum. In order to make sure that the agreements are followed, the communities have employed supervisors, who are responsible to collect fees or penalties. Since local conventions are in place, the degradation of the vegetation has been verifiably reduced, with a positive effect on (agro)biodiversity.
- Landscape Approaches are medium to long-term projects that require a strong political vision and will.
- They are multi-level approaches seeking to tie the development of favorable policy and legal frameworks at macro-level to implementation and action at meso- and micro-levels.
- They have large scale impact potential as they seek to promote collective action and can thus address obstacles in a targeted way.
- Landscape Approaches can help improve governance in rural areas by integrating know-how across sectors; if implemented properly, they mobilize and strengthen the local population and can create a shared vision for development.
- National and international funding mechanisms, including payments for environmental services, should be designed to facilitate and encourage Landscape Approaches.
1FAO (2012): Mainstreaming climate-smart agriculture into a broader landscape approach. Background Paper for the Second Global Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change, Hanoi, Vietnam, 3-7 September 2012. FAO, Rome. http://www.fao.org/docrep/016/ap402e/ap402e.pdf, accessed January 14, 2014.
2Frison, E.A., Cherfas, J., Hodgkin, T. (2011): Agricultural biodiversity is essential for a sustainable improvement in food and nutrition security. Sustainability 2011 (3): 238–253.
3GTZ (2009): Making REDD work. A practitioners‘ guide for successful implementation of REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). GTZ, Eschborn. http://www2.gtz.de/dokumente/bib-2009/gtz2009-0534en-redd.pdf, acces
4Millenium Ecosystem Assessment (2005): Ecosystems and Human Well-Being. A Framework for Assessment. Island Press, Washington D.C. http://www.maweb.org/en/Framework.aspx, accessed January 14, 2014.
5UNESCO (no year): Biosphere reserves – learning sites for sustainable development. http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/environment/ecological-sciences/biosphere-reserves/, accessed January 15, 2014.
6World Bank (2010): Turning it around: Greening Ethiopias Great Rift Valley. http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2010/03/12/greening-ethiopia-rift-valley, accessed January 15, 2014.
The Global Landscapes Forum
The World Bank
Landscape Approaches in Sustainable Development