March 10, 2017

Landscape leaders call for linking practice to policy

Chimere Diaw commands attention whenever he speaks. “Abako!” his voice booms over the crowded presentation hall.

This initiates a Sudanese call-and-response to focus the audience’s attention. Infused with the energy he exudes, 140 conference participants stand up, answer back, and clap their hands in unison. A communal feeling fills the room as people look at each other, yell and clap a few more times, and laugh at the sheer fun of it all.

Even by the second day of the African Landscapes Dialogue, Tuesday March 7, the tone has been set. This is a place for collaboration, candid conversations, and a passion for finding solutions. This atmosphere was evident in one of today’s six small group discussions, titled, “How landscape initiatives link to policy processes.”

Sitting at a round table with 15 other landscape leaders, Diaw, the Executive Director of Africa Model Forest Network (AMFN), advocated for the need to move beyond the typical project approach. Once a landscape project is completed, funding dries up, maintenance is disregarded, and failure usually follows. The AMFN is built on the idea that if communities integrate new practices with their identity through long-term trust-building with implementing partners, appropriate activity integration, and facilitation of local leadership, those communities will continue the desired practices regardless of the presence of any given project.

Energy fills the room at the African Landscapes Dialogue.

While building identity can lead to long-term sustainability, we still need to link inclusive landscape initiatives to national policy, which is often sectoral in nature. The best way to reach government is through candid dialogue (a recurring theme throughout the conference).

To scale landscape initiatives and advocate for landscape-relevant policy, practitioners need to understand national politics and be able to talk to the government’s issues and objectives. While conversations around landscape implementation often view national policy as something to be worked around, civil society and private companies need to forge close alliances with policy-makers to achieve their goals.

Discussions like these, that bring people together over tough issues, is what is needed to progress integrated landscape management. Only with full collaboration and support from governments can landscape initiatives achieve the speed and innovation required to address the pressing environmental and social conflicts that are present across Africa.

This post originally appeared in Change Magazine. 

Featured image by HoA-REC&N.

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