July 25, 2014

Eco-labels by Locale: Testing ‘Landscape Labels’ to Support Integrated Approaches to Development

Abigail Hart, EcoAgriculture Partners

 

Can markets help to support integrated landscape management? How can producers and entrepreneurs benefit from stewarding their landscape and its natural resources? These questions motivated EcoAgriculture Partners and local partner organizations to test a new approach to marketing called “landscape labeling” in two landscapes: Lari, Kenya and Mbeya, Tanzania. Their stories are unique, but both provide insight into the challenges and opportunities of developing a new marketing strategy to support landscape management.

In both landscapes, diverse leaders were searching for a marketing approach that highlighted their common vision for the landscape and their dedication to sustainable management. In Lari, smallholder farmers have mainly used the landscape labeling approach as a social tool to unite producers of diverse products under a common set of principles for managing their landscape. In Mbeya, a region known and highly prized for its rice, small and large scale producers are looking for ways to access new niche markets for sustainably produced goods and services.

Hart--Landscape Labeling

Community members discuss landscape labeling in Mbeya, Tanzania. Photo by Abigail Hart, EcoAgriculture Partners.

While marketing strategies for supporting sustainable agricultural practices and conservation are growing more prevalent each year, the most common forms, like payments for ecosystem services (PES) and eco-certification, require high consumer demand or large monitoring costs. Our goal was to find an approach that could combine the best of these existing marketing strategies with geographic indication. The result was landscape labeling. We wanted to develop a producer driven and managed standard that would reflect their values and highlight the unique characteristics of the landscape.

Through workshops, group activities, and field trips, a core group of producers and entrepreneurs in each landscape were introduced to the concept of landscape labeling. Together they identified the strengths of their landscape to include in the label and, in the case of Lari, they even drafted a logo. Analyzing market opportunities and the potential demand for products with this tool was also an important step.

Today, both landscapes are continuing the process of developing a landscape label, but have not yet progressed to selling products. You can read about that process in EcoAgriculture Partner’s new framework paper on landscape labeling. A companion case study spotlights the Mbeya experience, where producers have pointed out serious challenges (such as insecure land tenure) that serve as disincentives for investment in new practices.

The challenges faced by producers in Lari and Mbeya have brought to light three questions that will be important to answer in order for landscape labeling to move forward:

  1. What enabling conditions are necessary for landscape labeling to succeed?
  2. What is an appropriate timeframe for producers to expect to see financial benefits from a landscape label?
  3. What is the best role for donors and capacity building organizations in supporting landscape leaders interested in implementing landscape labeling approaches?

This project was an early effort to identify the potential costs and benefits of landscape labeling approaches, and begin testing a process. While a landscape label is proving difficult to establish and sustain in Lari and Mbeya, the approach served as a venue for collective producer action in the marketing arena. Do you have interest in testing a landscape labeling approach in a landscape where you work, or could you help us answer the questions above? Please tell us your ideas.

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