November 13, 2013

Recognizing Common Ground: Finding Meaning in Integrated Landscape Management

Rachel Friedman, University of Queensland Seth Shames, EcoAgriculture Partners Sara Scherr, EcoAgriculture Partners

‘Landscape’ and related phrases such as ‘landscape approach’ are increasingly emerging in international policy, practice, and research discussions. At the first ever Global Landscapes Forum this weekend, during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP19) meeting in Warsaw, landscape concepts will be given a full airing before climate change negotiators. Of course, the concepts behind the landscapes discourse are not new; and landscape approaches have been discussed, applied, and refined in forest, watershed, and even biodiversity management for decades. However, for the most part, agricultural production areas have remained sidelined, largely absent from these conversations. We have an opportunity now at the Global Landscapes Forum, and COP19 more broadly, to address the challenge of linking agricultural practices, institutions, and policies with other landscape activities and to facilitate constructive and innovative dialogue at various policy levels.


Formerly degraded lands have been restored using an integrated landscape approach in the highlands of Ethiopia. Photo by Raffaela Kozar, EcoAgriculture Partners.

With this opportunity also comes the need for clear definitions; and yet agreeable definitions are difficult to come by in the still nascent ‘landscape community’, which includes experts from a wide variety of sectors, interventions, and contexts. Recognizing this diversity, many groups including collaborators and partners within the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative have wrestled with defining what it means to work in a landscape and how to successfully reach the fundamental goals of enhanced human livelihoods and well-being, improved agricultural production, biodiversity conservation, and ecosystem health. For EcoAgriculture Partners, this process has helped distill how this concept is put into practice; the conclusion: a set of principles defining “Integrated Landscape Management” (ILM) particularly where agriculture is an important land use.

First off, we think of a ‘landscape’ as a socio-ecological system – a mosaic of natural and/or human-modified ecosystems, influenced by the ecological, historical, economic, and cultural processes and activities of the area. Not only are the mix of land cover and use types and their spatial arrangement important features, but the norms and modalities of its governance contribute to the character and functionality of a landscape. Under such variety, one can imagine a great amount of diversity in approaches to managing the land in a sustainable fashion.

So what do we mean by Integrated Landscape Management? It is characterised by long-term collaboration among different groups of land managers and stakeholders to achieve their multiple objectives and expectations within the landscape for local livelihoods, health, and well-being. This includes agricultural production and ecosystem functions and services – like water flow regulation and pollination – but also protection of biodiversity, carbon sequestration, landscape beauty, identity, and recreational value. Based on our collective experience over the past decade, five elements stand out as central to meeting ILM goals:

  1. Shared or agreed management that encompass multiple benefits (the full range of goods and services needed) from the landscape – negotiated among and built upon the experience, knowledge, and goals of the multiple stakeholders present in a landscape.

  2. Field, farm, and forest practices are designed to contribute to multiple objectives, including human well-being, food and fibre production, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

  3. Ecological, social, and economic interactions among different parts of the landscape are managed to realize positive synergies among interests and actors or to mitigate negative trade-offs.

  4. Collaborative, community-engaged processes for dialogue, planning, and monitoring decisions are in place.

  5. Markets and public policies are shaped to achieve the diverse set of landscape objectives and institutional requirements. 

In addressing what it means to take a ‘landscape approach’ in a recent blog post, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) director general Peter Holmgren noted, “we will find combined solutions that are better than the sum of their sector-specific parts.” While we recognize that it may not be possible or even desirable to reach agreement on precise definitions of various landscape terms, we do believe it is important for various communities of practice to communicate clearly about the underlying principles of their approaches. This communication will be critical for the success of ‘landscapes’ as a useful term and analytical framework to understand and address increasingly complex and interrelated agricultural, livelihood, and ecological issues.

Read More:
Defining Integrated Landscape Management for Policy Makers – EcoAgriculture Partners Policy Focus No. 10

What We Call ‘Landscapes for People, Food and Nature’ – Landscapes Blog, 5 March 2012

1 Comment

  • David Kossi Lébénè AGBEMEDI
    December 4, 2013 at 11:11am

    I agree with your ideas, The landscape is a specific environment that needs good management. It is rich on plenty diversity biologies like animals faunas and flora, water resources for human well-being.
    So the lanscape will be managed like all natural resources.