The recent birth of the world’s seven billionth person in October 2011 was just the latest in a series of wake-up calls to the global community. The strain being placed on landscapes around the world as demand for natural resources grows threatens to severely degrade ecosystems and further exacerbate already critical situations. A global challenge of such magnitude requires commitment and cooperation on a correspondingly global scale; since 2010, the International Partnership for the Satoyama Initiative (IPSI) has been playing an important role in facilitating such efforts.
The first known usage of the Japanese word satoyama dates back to 1759; it refers to the mountains, woodlands and grasslands (yama) surrounding villages (sato). Close interactions between people and their surrounding ecosystems have formed these landscapes over generations of mutually beneficial interactions. Communities with such long-standing interactions with their natural surroundings exist in many places around the world and contain a wealth of traditional knowledge that constitutes a critical resource for achieving sustainable management of natural resources and for stemming unsustainable practices. The term “socio-ecological production landscapes” (SEPLs) has been coined to describe these areas.
One of the keys to solving such a global challenge is to promote global collaboration. Lessons learned in effectively managing agricultural landscapes in one region are potentially transferable to other landscapes or useful to different communities. The Landscapes for People, Food and Nature (LPFN) Initiative seeks to increase synergies and integrated approaches to agriculture landscape management by bringing together a wide range of stakeholders and practitioners working with landscapes around the world. The sharing and dissemination of information and lessons learned facilitated by this international initiative has the potential to substantially support the Satoyama Initiative in achieving its vision of realizing societies in harmony with nature.
The Satoyama Initiative, started through joint collaboration between the Ministry of the Environment of Japan (MOEJ) and the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS), has already made many strides forward in achieving this goal. At the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD-COP10) held in Nagoya, Japan in October 2010, Decision X/32 was adopted recognizing the Satoyama Initiative as a “potentially useful tool to better understand and support human-influenced natural environments for the benefit of biodiversity and human well-being.”
During COP10, IPSI was formed to carry out the activities identified by the Satoyama. A number of significant successes have already been generated by IPSI and its members. Among other things, case studies on SEPLs from around the world have been made available on the IPSI website, and a range of collaborative activities have been formed among the Partnership’s individual members. Recently, for example, a set of indicators of resilience in SEPLs was developed by UNU-IAS in collaboration with another IPSI member and Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative Co-Organizer, Bioversity International. These indicators are meant to serve as a guide to understanding and strengthening resilience in socio-ecological production landscapes through measuring interrelated practices and institutions in four different areas: 1) ecosystems protection and the maintenance of biodiversity 2) agricultural biodiversity 3) knowledge, learning and innovation 4) social equity and infrastructure. Recognizing that cooperation is absolutely critical and good solutions may be found in many different places, IPSI’s membership is open to all organizations “committed to promote and support socio-ecological production landscapes for the benefit of biodiversity and human well-being”. Since its foundation in 2010, the IPSI membership has grown to include more than 100 different organizations – governmental and non-governmental organizations, indigenous and local community organizations, academic/educational/research institutes, private sector organizations and other intergovernmental/UN agencies.
Looking forward, IPSI is in the process of planning its second Global Conference to be held in Nairobi from 13-14 March 2012. With the running title “Strategy for Realizing Societies in Harmony with Nature”, the conference aims to build on the successes of the first IPSI global conference held in Nagoya, Japan in March 2011. In the spirit of collaboration, and to facilitate international dialogue among leading experts and practitioners, IPSI and the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative have worked closely to arrange for the IPSI Global Conference to be held back-to-back with an international forum held by the Initiative.
The challenges currently facing the world’s socio-ecological productive landscapes are considerable, and it is unlikely that a single one-size-fits-all solution can be found that applies to every situation. It is for precisely this reason that the global collaboration and sharing of lessons learned facilitated by IPSI has the potential to make a substantial contribution to maintaining and revitalizing satoyama around the world and ensuring that the same ecosystem services enjoyed by people today will be available to future generations.
I would like to personally take this opportunity to invite you to read more about the International Partnership for the Satoyama Initiative on our website.
Photo credits: INBAR (top); IPSI (bottom)