By Robert Frederick Finlayson, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)
Governments and communities are finding it easier to work together to create a sustainable, climate-friendly Southeast Asia thanks to a suite of ‘tools’ that support negotiations over land use. But, do you ‘spare’ land or do you ‘share’ it?
If you spare it by ‘protecting’ it, for example as a legally designated national park, does that stop local people, who have used the forest for centuries, from continuing to take timber, fruit, medicinal plants and wild animals from it? Does it stop an ever-increasing population from encroaching on the forest, clearing its margins for new agricultural land? Does it stop the buffer zone of agroforests being converted to monocultural food or fuel plantations? Does it stop poachers? Does it stop new roads and other infrastructure being built? No, in many parts of the developing world it doesn’t.
On the other hand, if you share the land by recognizing that those who have used the forest for a long time—including smallholder farmers, large agricultural businesses, tourism operators, hydropower plants, factories and settlements—all have some kind of claim on the landscape, then how do you allocate the use of the land fairly and efficiently in order to secure food supply, maintain the services provided by natural ecosystems and increase incomes for the poor? You could try an authoritative, top-down approach or you could try negotiating with all the parties concerned.
Scientists at the World Agroforestry Centre argue that the latter is most likely to reach a satisfactory solution for the complex range of issues that typically interact in any given landscape. In other words, to realize both economic and environmental health, governments and communities need to look at the specific requirements of each community’s location and also at the bigger, landscape-size picture that includes trees that farmers want. One without the other will lead to an imbalance of interests and potential conflict over the rights to the natural resources.
To help the people who manage landscapes find a balance—government land-use planners, local farmers and communities, agribusinesses and environmental agencies— the Centre has produced a set of ‘tools’ that combine both hard and soft skills to support negotiations between everyone involved.
The Negotiation-Support Toolkit for Learning Landscapes showcases 49 methods and computer software programs that help create sustainability through rapid appraisals of landscapes, conflict over land tenure and of markets, hydrology, agro-biodiversity and carbon stocks; and through computer-based simulation models that run at various scales (for example, tree and crop interaction at the plot level, water flows in landscapes and land-use-change dynamics), which combine generic insights with the specific properties of any new location. The tools are designed to produce scientific evidence for various development scenarios that allow stakeholders in a landscape to understand the implications of differing actions and then negotiate in an informed manner to ensure equitable, environmentally aware decisions.
The toolkit, which is the result of many years of work over the decades, emerged in its current integrated form through the Trees in Multi-use Landscapes in Southeast Asia project (2007–2010), which was conducted by the Centre in partnership with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the University of Hohenheim, Germany. It has been tested in settings throughout Southeast Asia and elsewhere with staff of various national institutions.
For example, one of the methods—Rapid Land Tenure Appraisal or RaTA—has been adopted into the curriculum for training forestry officers by the Ministry of Forestry of Indonesia as part of a strategy to reduce conflict over land rights. Another, Land-use Planning for Low-emissions Development Strategies, has been mandated by Indonesia’s National Planning Development Agency for use in the nation’s 33 provinces to help reach the national emissions reduction target. A third, Rapid Hydrological Appraisal, is used in watersheds throughout Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa to understand how water flows are affected under varying vegetation and rainfall conditions.
Through testing, it has become clear that the tools are important not just in Southeast Asia. The world’s attention is turning to the Sustainable Development Goals after the uneven success achieved through the Millennium Development Goals. To make the goals a reality, governments and communities throughout the developing world need to go beyond the jargon and find out what the many manifestations of unsustainable development are and how the landscapes where these occur can be managed on a path towards recovery without the loss of local livelihoods.
Most of the issues facing developing nations have to be resolved in negotiation with local communities, which is why the toolkit focuses on these situations and their great importance to the future of the hundreds of millions of people who rely on productive and sustainable landscapes.
Read the book: Van Noordwijk M, Lusiana B, Leimona B, Dewi S, Wulandari D, eds. 2013. Negotiation-support toolkit for learning landscapes. Bogor, Indonesia: World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Southeast Asia Regional Program.
See more on the Agroforestry World blog: Negotiation-Support Toolkit for Learning Landscapes.Photo: Pedro Szekely on Flickr