June 26, 2013

Food, Forests, and Landscapes: Integrating Agendas

Getting the forestry, agriculture, and food security people all in the same room and agreeing upon common goals and strategies is not a task to be taken lightly. Perceived trade-offs between each group’s various interests often deter working together, and historical sector-based inertia is difficult to break. But in spite of this, institutions are beginning to do just that, coming to the table to discuss.

On Monday, two organizations of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) – the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) – convened a panel discussion on landscape approaches to protect ecosystems while feeding the future. Panelists used their time to discuss how removing sectoral boundaries through landscape approaches builds collaborative, stronger solutions for food and nutrition security, concluding with a more thorough discussion of sustainable intensification to improve nutrition.

All presenters agreed that operating in silos leads to a fragmented approach to land management, and makes it challenging to simultaneously meet objectives related to people, food, and nature. They all noted that these approaches must have the human element and benefits accruing to people at their core. Yet even with this common mandate, three presentations provided three different views on a landscape approach. As CIFOR’s Director General, Peter Holmgren presented landscape approaches more as an analytical framework than an operational one, insisting it was relevant at multiple scales, multiple geographies, and across multiple sectors and processes. He also stressed the importance of recognizing the benefits forests provide to agricultural systems, and that a landscape approach is necessary to meeting our sustainable development challenges.

Where CIFOR promoted a lack of structure, the World Bank’s Geeta Sethi (manager of GAFSP) laid out a set of four concrete general steps for a landscape approach. These arose out of a recognition that sector-focused development patterns struggle to yield the best solution, and included: 1) defining the boundaries of a landscape and identifying the areas of interlinkage between livelihoods, agriculture, and conservation; 2) defining long-term collaborative objectives; 3) pinpointing the short and medium term goals and outcomes; and 4) implementing a framework for interventions that yield multiple outcomes. Forests, and specifically tree-based agriculture, can be seen as a potential entry point to taking a landscape approach.

Shenggen Fan, Director General of IFPRI, concluded the panel discussion by addressing sustainable intensification that meets rising agricultural demand under the existing natural resource base, while simultaneously reducing negative impacts and mitigating/adapting to climate change. For him, a landscape approach emerged at the nexus of food-land-water-energy concerns, when actors sought to minimize trade-offs and promote the synergies between sectors.

At the end of the day, these disparate presentations left the audience with many questions. Where do governance considerations fit into a landscape approach? Shouldn’t a landscape approach strive to actually integrate food production and other land uses, rather than simply staging them all side by side? In other words, can we support forests that feed people and farms that provide habitat and ecosystem services? And finally, there was the resounding, yet unspoken, ‘what’s next?’ The presentations, especially where they overlapped and complemented each other, are strong sign that integrated landscape management is a serious model for action on global issues of hunger, poverty, climate change, and rural development. But just how to take the next step to concerted, well-funded implementation remains the ultimate question.

Photo credit: Marco Simola (CIFOR); Image credit: Peter Holmgren (CIFOR)
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1 Comment

  • Shrikant Shankar Hiwale
    June 28, 2013 at 3:26am

    Thank you this is the approach needed to overcome the majority of the problems faced by us.However there no body to bring all these organizations together to get the desire results.

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