Improving livelihoods through healthier landscapes

Gloria Pallares & Hugh Biggar
17 January 2018

BONN, Germany (Landscape News) — Getting better at cross-sectoral collaboration, scaling up the involvement of the private sector, and acknowledging the contribution of indigenous people’s production systems to sustainable development. These are some of the key recommendations stemming from a session at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Bonn, Germany, in December.

The session, which explored landscape restoration as a means of improving livelihoods and food security, brought together representatives from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the World Bank, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the government of Bolivia and El Salvador’s Minister of the Environment Lina Pohl addressed the audience ahead of the panellists.

Sean DeWitt, director of the Global Restoration Initiative at the World Resources Institute (WRI), noted that a prerequisite to strengthening collaboration with public actors is getting the narratives right.

“Initially, agriculture and finance ministries see forest landscape restoration (FLR) as tree planting,” DeWitt said. We spend a lot of time pointing out to them that it is about trees in landscapes with other land uses, and that it has far-reaching benefits such as better nutrition, he added.

Weighing in on the imperative of collaboration, Terry Sunderland, principal scientist with CIFOR’s Forests and Livelihoods Program said: “We should think of agriculture and forests jointly; we should talk of system approaches instead of working in silos.”

This is the essence of the landscape approach, which aims at balancing environmental and development goals across a mosaic of land uses with potentially conflicting interests, he said.

In other words, the landscapes approach is an integrated, win-win approach that intends to create sustainable territories by taking “landscapes” —instead of separately taking agricultural lands, natural forests or villages— as the unit for land management. The healthier the landscape, the better the outcomes in terms of ecosystem products and services, Sunderland said.

PRIVATE SECTOR

Working with the public sector to restore landscapes is necessary, but will not be enough to meet global restoration goals such as the Bonn challenge, which targets 150 million hectares by 2020.

“If we want to meet the targets with public funding, we will never get there,” said Paola Agostini, lead environmental economist in the World Bank’s Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice section.

This is why the World Bank engages corporations across the globe to boost restoration efforts on the ground – these initiatives support the sustainable production of commodities such as cocoa, coffee and shrimp by creating markets, explained Agostini.

In Ethiopia, this approach allows small-scale farmers to produce shade coffee under trees that also provide nutritious fruits; in West Africa, it supports the production of deforestation-free cocoa, and in Asia, the breeding of shrimp in sustainably-managed mangroves —systems that double-up as a natural infrastructure by protecting the coast from floods and rising sea levels, she said.

INDIGENOUS PEOPLE

A neglected, but important partners to restoration efforts are indigenous communities, said Joan Carling, co-convener of the Indigenous People’s Major Group (IPMG) for Sustainable Development.

Carling noted that many indigenous communities rely on multifunctional lands and implement sustainable production systems, for example, based on crop rotation.

“We [indigenous people] are being treated as backwards in terms of our traditional knowledge and seen as anti-development, but we are not,” said Carling, from the Kankaneay people in the Philippines. “We’re actually practicing sustainable development and that has to be integrated, especially when we are talking of sustainable landscapes and livelihoods for the people.

I hope we can change this mind set, she added.

Supporting traditional, sustainable practices has the potential to deliver remarkable benefits: All these people would improve their food security and our forests would come back, which would help address global problems such as climate change, she said.

To move towards recognizing the role indigenous people play in sustainable development, she added, it is critical to secure land tenure, and to strengthen partnerships with them.

“Indigenous peoples are part of the solution, not the problem.”