September 16, 2013

Reviewing Integrated Landscapes in Africa: Lessons for Drylands

Jeffrey C. Milder, Rainforest Alliance Abigail Hart, EcoAgriculture Partners

Over the past months, this blog has featured many inspiring “success stories” of integrated landscape initiatives from around the world. But are these just a series of interesting anecdotes—each stemming from its own unique context—or can we begin to derive some generalized principles that might help inform practices and policies for future landscape initiatives in new places? Answering this question is one of the main purposes of the series of “continental reviews” currently being conducted to better understand the state of integrated landscape management around the world.

A team of authors from EcoAgriculture Partners and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), with funding from TerrAfrica and USAID, recently published the first of these continental reviews—for Africa. The Africa review surveyed participants in “integrated landscape initiatives” (ILIs) that sought to improve outcomes for food production, ecosystem conservation, and rural livelihoods by harmonizing activities across multiple sectors and stakeholders at a landscape scale. The resulting 87 initiatives across 33 countries in sub-Saharan Africa (most of which have begun in the past six years) provide the first region-wide portrait of the contexts, motivations, design, participation, and outcomes of ILIs.

Across the board, initiatives are taking place in “mosaic” landscapes encompassing agricultural lands, forests, grasslands, and urban areas, with 64% from drylands regions. As a result, the diverse stakeholder groups have their own objectives for managing the landscape. Unlike sector-focused projects, most of the ILIs included many motivations (an average of 8 per initiative) and invested in at least three of the four key “domains” of landscape functionality covered by the survey: agriculture, ecosystem conservation, livelihoods, and supporting institutions. On average, each initiative involved more than nine distinct stakeholder groups. But although it may seem like a daunting task to coordinate many stakeholders to manage for multiple objectives, it does appear to pay off. Initiatives with higher numbers of stakeholders and more diverse objectives tended to achieve greater numbers of positive outcomes across the four domains. The creation of new landscape coordinating bodies and participation of women’s groups played an important role.

Many of the initiatives identified tangible successes, such as the formation of new community-based conservation areas or land rehabilitation through integrated crop/livestock systems. Others were most proud of their success in establishing or strengthening institutions and human capacity for landscape planning and coordination. In the drylands in particular, initiatives succeeded in rehabilitating degraded lands, improving livestock productivity, and improving watershed scale soil and water conservation efforts.

Despite these successes, the initiatives generally face a number of challenges including a lack of sustained funding, inhospitable policy environments for integrated management, a lack of infrastructure and access to markets for economic development, and the absence of key stakeholders, especially from the government and private sector. Finding the sustained, long-lasting funds necessary for landscape management and supporting institutions will require external investments and seed-funding and local champions to take on a lead role.

The Africa review findings are an exciting sign that integrated landscape initiatives are able to provide key benefits for agriculture, conservation, and livelihoods – all areas of concern to African governments and to the development community. Yet much work remains to measure long-term outcomes, to quantify the multi-functional effects of ILIs more precisely, and to understand how landscape governance structures help shape initiative outcomes.

This week begins the meeting of the 11th conference of the parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP11), and the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative will host an event on supporting drylands through integrated landscapes management on Friday 20 September. The initial insight from the Africa Review into achieving the goals of the UNCCD, and the prominence of arid landscapes in the survey, will hopefully feed the discussions on landscape restoration and countering land degradation over the next two weeks.

Read More:

Milder, J. C., A. K. Hart, P. Dobie, J. Minai and C. Zaleski. 2014. Integrated landscape initiatives for African agriculture, development, and conservation: A region-wide assessment. World Development, 54, 68-80.

Photo credit: Raffaela Kozar (EcoAgriculture Partners)


  • Antoinette Amegbletor
    September 20, 2013 at 6:05am

    Very inspiring.
    Thanks so much for the efforts.
    Best wishes!!

  • Hussvamp
    September 16, 2013 at 6:21am

    Interesting to see … thank you it’s well done article:)