By Ann Tutwiler, Deputy Director General of Knowledge
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy
Integrated agricultural landscape approaches have shown considerable promise in simultaneously meeting goals for food production, ecosystem health, and human wellbeing. However, the evidence base related to such approaches remains fragmentary. The Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative aims to improve understanding of and support for such landscape approaches: expanding the exchange of knowledge and innovation; leveraging public and private investments; and facilitating the formation of coalitions and partnerships that might advance the most effective policy and management solutions.
Part of engaging in a landscape approach is to recognize and clearly value the different objectives of various stakeholders. There are often multiple diverging interests at local, national, and global levels which might be related to agricultural production for livelihoods, commercial interests, conservation needs, watershed management, biodiversity, or cultural values. As such, it is essential to find ways of involving the stakeholders, reaching informed and transparent decisions for land and natural resource use, and recognizing the synergies and tradeoffs. An ecosystems approach which the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), has adopted for its work in agriculture, fisheries, and forestry, has tools and concepts for managing natural resources in a holistic and transparent manner.
Informed decisions must be based on solid facts about the state of natural resources, particularly land and water. The State of Land and Water Resources (SOLAW) is FAO’s first flagship publication on the global status of land and water resources, and marks the first time that a global baseline status report on land and water resources has been made. Several global spatial databases (e.g. land suitability for agriculture, land use and management, land and water degradation and depletion) form the basis of the report, and emerging issues on land and water are dealt with in an integrated rather than sectoral manner. Findings on status and trends are the basis for advocating interventions tailored to major farming systems within different geographic regions.
Another issue key is land administration, land tenure, and natural resource use rights and how those relate to the multiple goals. Where the poor and vulnerable have limited and insecure rights to land and other natural resources, it is difficult for them to overcome hunger and poverty. Conversely equitable and secure rights can support social and economic development and the sustainability of the environment. Governance issues are often at the root of many tenure-related problems. The poor are vulnerable to the effects of less supportive governance, as they lack the ability to protect their rights to land and other natural resources.
FAO and its partners are preparing Voluntary Guidelines to improve the governance of tenure of land and other natural resources. These Voluntary Guidelines are intended to assist States, civil society, and the private sector in improving the governance of tenure, and thus contribute to alleviating hunger and poverty, empowering the poor and vulnerable, enhancing the environment, supporting national and local economic development, and reforming public administration.
As a Co-Organizer of the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative, FAO continues to help countries move towards a landscape approach and carry out effective inter-sectoral and multi-stakeholder processes. This Initiative and its knowledge exchange component will further support the efforts of FAO and others to advance sustainable and integrated management of land, water and genetic resources at a landscape level, and improve responses to global environmental challenges affecting food and agriculture.
FAO is engaging in work relevant to these goals on multiple fronts, for example through work programs and initiatives on:
- The Initiative for Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)
- Transboundary Agro-ecosystems Management (as in the Kagera river basin project in eastAfrica)
- Climate-Smart Agriculture
- The Food for Cities Programme
- Commission on Genetic Resources
- Sustainable Agricultural Intensification
- Technical support for the Model Forest Network and Forest Landscape Restoration initiatives
- Analyses of economics of sustainable agriculture, agricultural biodiversity and climate, and long-term projections on agriculture in relation to land, water, technology, climate, and energy.
In addition to giving FAO an opportunity to share its own work on agricultural landscapes, the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative will help increase awareness and impact of diverse integrated landscape efforts around the world. Advancing and mainstreaming the use of integrated landscape management can help the world to meet current challenges related to food security, land degradation, climate change, diminishing ecosystem services, and species extinction.