March 21, 2017

African Landscapes Dialogue sparks advances in continental action plan

Melissa Thaxton, EcoAgriculture Partners

The African Landscapes Action Plan provided the starting point for a highly enriching dialogue.

July 2017 will mark the third anniversary of the adoption of the African Landscapes Action Plan (ALAP), a strategic roadmap for achieving sustainable landscape management in Africa. Developed in July 2014 at the “Landscapes for People, Food and Nature in Africa” conference in Nairobi, and endorsed by the African Union, the ALAP lays out 19 specific priority actions in six themes – Policy, Governance, Business, Finance, Research and Capacity Development – to advance integrated landscape approaches that work deliberately to support food production, ecosystem conservation, and rural livelihoods across entire landscapes.

Partner organizations of the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative and other key stakeholders in Africa have already put into action some of the specific recommendations laid out in the ALAP. But LPFN partners agreed in 2016 that since it had been two years since its initial launch, it was time to encourage and promote new ideas, expand networks, and incorporate lessons and experiences from those who implement landscape initiatives into an “ALAP refresh.” In short, the time was right to convene a major knowledge-sharing event for landscape leaders and practitioners in Africa to further advance implementation of the African Landscapes Action Plan.

A program tailored to participants’ needs

This knowledge-sharing event came to fruition in the form of the African Landscapes Dialogue, a dynamic and engaging forum held on March 6-9, 2017 on the campus of the Horn of Africa Regional Environment Centre and Network (HoA-REC&N) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Enjoying fine weather and a perfect location in the midst of the Gullele Botanic Garden, the 140 Dialogue participants spent four productive days sharing and learning, challenging and supporting one another, and planning for the ALAP’s next phase.

Bringing the Dialogue to fruition was a highly collaborative effort of the LPFN partners. Over the course of six months, I had the privilege of working with my colleagues at EcoAgriculture Partners, HoA-REC&N, Water and Land Resources Centre (WLRC), African Model Forests Network (AMFN), Solidaridad Network, and NEPAD-TerrAfrica to design a program that would allow for maximum opportunities for participants to share experiences with one another, expand their knowledge and skills, and develop networks that would support and inspire landscape leaders across Africa. The final program delivered on this ambition, and included more than fifteen different discussion groups, two high-level policy panels, two poster sharing sessions, a training/skills-building session, interactive plenaries, a tools bazaar, and a field visit to the Central Rift Valley.

Diverse experiences and inspirational stories

Of course, a well-designed program is nothing without enthusiastic participation from a diverse and deeply experienced group of landscape leaders. Inspirational leaders like Ms. Asmau Abdullahi Ahmed, Executive Director of the Women Advancement Initiative in Nigeria, a tireless community leader working to empower local women and improve livelihoods; Dr. Tilahun Amede of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), a highly esteemed researcher working to make innovative agricultural practices a reality in Ethiopia’s semi-arid lands; and Dr. Stephen Nindi, Director of the National Land Use Planning Commission in Tanzania, a perceptive policy maker facilitating cross-sector collaboration and coordination at a time when national planning is still largely siloed.

These are just three of the inspiring landscape leaders that gathered in Addis Ababa for the African Landscapes Dialogue, and they represent the many landscape leaders that will help implement the African Landscapes Action Plan in its second and more mature phase. I am very much looking forward to the next African Landscapes Dialogue in 2018, where we will continue to build on recent progress and momentum in realizing sustainable management of Africa’s productive landscapes.

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