December 17, 2013

Testing the Waters: Experimentation and Innovation in Markets for Integrated Landscapes

A paradigm of agricultural landscape management, in which stakeholders work towards common objectives and the environmental and economic bottom lines are not at odds with one another, doesn’t seem too far out of the question. Yet, as our contributors over the past two weeks have emphasized, it’s not as easy as a wave of the hand or the development of a single project. Major shifts in the structures and incentives within agricultural supply chains, particularly if they are to provide multiple benefits to people, food production, and the environment, take time and consistent effort.

As Gabrielle Kissinger noted, supply chains currently don’t account for external costs to the environment on their balance sheet. So shifting how markets function means shifting incentives and what companies perceive as being in their best interest. Andreanne Grimard and Katie Minderhoud from the Solidaridad Network stressed the public-private partnerships at the core of their farmer support programme, which play a critical role in building the underlying policy and financial environments that shape how landscapes operate. For example, the successes they have seen around Iguazu National Park in Brazil would not have been possible save for an appropriate governance, finance, and market framework to guide actions. But as with any relationships, cultivating these collaborations, growing partnerships, happens over time and through repeated interactions.

Certifications have become more common in agricultural commodity supply chains that trade globally (e.g. coffee), reaching their current market presence over years, even decades. Peter Newton introduced an effort to certify cattle ranching in Brazil under the Rainforest Alliance’s Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standard. Though clearly fraught with hurdles to extending certification beyond its traditional sectors, the initial steps of bringing even three ranches onboard, has provided a ‘proof-of-concept’ that is critical to making the larger scale, transformative changes necessary.

Similarly, moving these standards and certifications past the farm-scale to encompass the functions at a landscape scale have begun to progress. Recognising the complexity of coordinating something like a Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) incentive scheme with the Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) standards, Bambi Semroc discussed how these projects in Mexico and Peru are also the closest thing we have to a landscape standard for multiple uses and multiple benefits. At the end of the day, we are meeting the dual challenges of transforming market structures while simultaneously trying to benefit from the value added of a landscape approach. The expert contributions from the past two weeks have provided insight into the process and time-line to make these changes happen, as well as ensure that these efforts are actually accomplishing what they set out to do.

Read the Full Series:
Getting the Markets Right for Integrated Landscape Management – Introduction

Producer Support Structures for Sustainable Landscapes: Solidaridad’s Perspective – Katie Minderhoud and Andreanne Grimard

Risky Business: A Landscape Approach to Sustainable Supply Chains – Gabrielle Kissinger

Experimenting with Certification: Towards a Sustainable Livestock Sector in Brazil – Peter Newton

Setting the Standard: Improving Monitoring and Evaluation for Sustainable Supply Chains – Rachel Friedman

Designing Standards for Impacts at Scale – Bambi Semroc

Photo credit: Jeremy Hinsdale

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