Transforming the global landscape

6 May, 2014 by (comments)


Like an aerial view, this is an example of where “top-down” works. Landscape approaches take the bigger picture, looking at the overall diversity of eco-systems within a landscape – an approach which has fast gained ground as the best way to ensure sustainable land use.

Global demand for food, biofuel and fiber is transforming the global landscapes. Particularly in Southeast Asia, increasing and competing demands on landscapes threaten the value of other ecosystems services within them, like biodiversity and climate change mitigation.

Yet part of the reason for taking a bigger, “landscape” view is that this approach treads the complex nexus between growth and conservation, development and preservation, aiming to strike a balance between economic development and preserving eco-systems services.

“That is vital for land use development,” said CIAT’s Fred Kizito, senior soils, water and landscapes scientist. “Evaluating landscapes is crucial for finding trade-offs between conservation and development, which includes agriculture. We need to look at external or internal pressures and ask: how can we manage the whole system, without damaging any part of it?”

The bigger picture

The landscape approach also questions wider development agendas. Garry Dunning, Executive Director of the Forests Dialogue, speaking at the Forests Asia Summit in Indonesia which closed on  6th May, hosted by CIAT’s sister center the Center for International Forestry Research, emphasized that even when focusing on sustainable development in forestry, every other sector needs to be taken into account as well.

“The challenge is to make sure that discussions about forests involve other actors and sectors – the agricultural sector and other commodities that impact on the landscape, like palm oil plantations or mining,” said Dunning. “Bringing all these actors together is absolutely essential” for finding lasting solutions, he said.

In a session on food and biodiversity: Changing Outlooks for Food, Fuel, Fiber and Forests (4Fs) in Indonesia: The case of Central Kalimantan, discussions reflected on the power of the landscape approach and how it can be improved.

Central Kalimantan contains lowland forest habitats among the most species-rich in the world. With three million hectares of tropical peatland, the area accounts for almost 70% of Central Kalimatan’s total forest biomass with below-ground carbon stock of 9 gigatons.

Yet encroaching development from mining, agriculture and forestry, is putting those carbon stocks at sever risk of being diminished. Fire used to clear land is the largest driver of greenhouse gas emissions in the area followed by peat decomposition after drainage for agriculture.

Not only does this have alarming consequences for carbon emissions, which under a business-as-usual scenario are projected to jump from 300 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2005 to 430 metric tons by 2015. It also questions wider development agendas, ensuring a holistic approach to land management and a shift towards greener development practices.

As an example, CIAT’s work in Kenya, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and partners, has sought to strike a balance in rural upstream watersheds of the Upper Tana River Basin. The Upper Tana provides 90% of water to Nairobi, and is densely populated, predominantly by small holder farmers.

Upstream dynamics are contributing to poor water quality for downstream urban dwellers, but upstream land users do not have the resources to implement wide-scale solutions to tackle sedimentation. Instead, a scheme has been launched to bring downstream users together to build a fund which will directly address sedimentation issues upstream.

Landscape lessons from Indonesia

The Forests Dialogue facilitated session at the Forests Asia Summit focused on drawing on field experiences of a broader audience of interested professionals working in different sectors.

One message came up more than once: the private sector always has to be part of the solution, not the problem. In the same vein, nothing can be achieved without good governance, again emphasizing the importance of collaborative discussion.

Another point raised was the importance of making trade-offs specific to a context. Everywhere is different – the pros and cons of any intervention or landscape must be weighed up in relation to a specific context, for that context, agreed participants.

Other lessons include the need to engage indigenous people – taking their rights into account in the bigger picture of improving livelihoods. Consultation with different community stakeholders and smallholder farmers is vital for long-term solutions.

Money talks 

Discussion is not enough, though, and once the talk has subsided and solutions have been made, the challenge is to mobilize resources: to get the money where it matters. Tapping resources is a larger question for researchers implementing landscape approaches. It has been estimated that the required funding for sustainable forest management globally is around US$ 70-160 billion per year.

A challenge that remains to be addressed is how to connect governments with smallholders, and ensure that allocated resources get to smallholder farmers. That issue is further complicated by the many different actors involved in every landscape – even within government departments.

Photo credit: Landscape of Kelok Lima. Aulia Erlangga for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

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Filed Under: Asia @en, Climate Change