70% of poor people in sub-Saharan Africa live in rural areas, which forces nations in this region to place a heavy emphasis on rural policy. Policy goals include increased agricultural productivity and improved rural incomes, as well as prudent management of natural resources and climate resilience–necessary not only for the agricultural economy, but also for the tourism sector in much of Africa. These are all closely linked, yet public policies are often developed and implemented independently rather than as part of a broad, integrated strategy. In order to successfully implement integrated landscape management in rural Africa, a set of policy-enabling conditions must be set.
Alignment of sectoral policies and strategies at local and national levels is a key challenge. The roles of governments, local groups and NGOs should be clearly defined and executed. Governments can provide farmers with support for training and extension services, inputs, and market coordination to incentivize more sustainable agricultural practices. Integrated landscape management (ILM) strategies can be used to meet multiple national goals in international policy processes and a multi-objective landscape framework can provide efficiencies to countries as they work to meet their commitments under international environmental agreements. Urban and rural policies can and should be linked in order to facilitate truly integrated management practices. Supportive public investments in ‘green’ infrastructure such as road, rail, energy, storage and dam construction are also needed to lay the foundations for integrated landscape management. Finally, Africa needs more of its own centers of expertise for evidence-based policy analysis that creates the knowledge base for the implementation of ILM. Policymakers and landscape stakeholders also need additional expertise in monitoring the effectiveness of various landscape policy approaches.
Some African countries are in the process of developing new and powerful visions that harmonize economic development with natural resources conservation, and landscape approaches are key pillars of many of these plans. Examples of these include:
- Ethiopia’s community-based participatory watershed development program, implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture with support from the World Bank and TerrAfrica, is an effort to reduce land degradation and improve agricultural productivity for smallholders in watersheds across six regions of Ethiopia through capital investments, technical assistance, and capacity building for farmers and government institutions at the national and sub-national level.
- In the Great Green Wall Initiative, the governments of Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan collaborate to address policies for land degradation and desertification, food security and climate change adaptation by creating a cross-border mosaic of sustainable land uses.
- The Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CAADP) process encourages countries to develop long-term visions for agricultural development, including strategies on production and natural resources conservation. The natural resources agenda includes reduced erosion, improved soil fertility, increased yields, greater food security and enhanced rural livelihoods at the landscape scale defined by natural, cultural and administrative boundaries.
As the above-mentioned and similar initiatives gain ground in Africa, a close eye must be kept on maintaining and improving the frameworks that make them possible. With populations growing and resources dwindling, new approaches to holistic land management are needed now more than ever.
What are your thoughts on policy initiatives to promote integrated landscape management in Africa? Follow the LPFN in Africa Conference for more details and feel free to air your opinions in the comments section below.