Opinion: Landscapes, Why are they important? (I)

Full text By Peter Holmgren. Originally posted in CIFOR Blog.

In a few days will be held the Global Forum on Landscape and it is time to prepare for the intense debates that aim to answer the following questions: what, why and for what? The concept of landscape has been much interest in the last year but have also raised about what it means to a landscape and how the landscape approach would work in practice.

Over the coming days I will summarize, in a series of blogs, some reflections on the landscapes that have arisen as a result of my conversations with different people. No claim thereby reach a conclusion or a scientist, but I would encourage reflection before the forum.

Getting Started – Why is the “landscape” such an important concept?

The landscape approach is not new to the development, conservation and research. Many, including CIFOR, have highlighted the importance of working across sectors in practice. What is new, however, is that the great interest in the approach has been to a high standard. In previous meetings of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) we learned that the post-2015 climate agreement would integrate agricultural and forestry issues a starting point for the Global Forum on Landscapes. In addition, further work to Rio + 20 on a post 2015 agenda development highlighted often the need of transverse solutions. It seems that the timing and level of sensitivity are conducive to finding new solutions and greater acceptance of the concept.

It is true that some reviews have been less constructive, suggesting that discussion of landscape is a temporary fad that will soon disappear as supposedly the most robust and common approaches persist. However, I’m not so sure. Considering the current reform at the World Bank and FAO, as well as the CGIAR research programs, there is no doubt that they are cross promoting innovative approaches. It is in this light that we should view the landscape approach. Even if we limit the landscape for agriculture and forest management, and the number of people involved in these activities, it is clear that we are talking about an important part of our common future. Depend on agriculture and forest management:

  • Provide income and livelihoods of billions of people;
  • Produce all our food and natural fibers and 10% of energy through biomass;
  • Maintain key ecosystem services such as biodiversity, water supply, ecosystem resilience and productivity of the land;
  • At the same time, these sectors seriously pollute the air, water and food chains, and are responsible for one third of emissions of greenhouse gases.

If we also include other components of the landscape as renewable energy, mining, cities and cultural uses, it is clear that the landscape is a very important part of our future.

So what we hope to improve using the landscape approach?

The main reason for exploring the landscape approach is that existing sectors based on the land use has a poor record of finding solutions that go beyond their institutional territories. Traditionally, they have limited their scope to spaces defined through the history of economic activity, professional communities, geographical boundaries and governance structures.

The basic hypothesis of the landscape approach is that we can find better solutions if we seek economies crossing opportunities, disciplines and disparate territories. I mean, come find combined solutions that are better than the sum of the parts of their specific sectors.

In economic terms, a landscape approach will aim to reduce or even eliminate the externalities between sectors based on land use. In terms of planning, it will consider a more comprehensive set of options, avoiding too limited solutions. It will also encourage more players to consider a broader set of objectives landscape. This does not mean that the landscape approach always creates win-win opportunities; rather it can help us find advantages and disadvantages between objectives smarter.

In short, the landscapes are important because they represent a key part of sustainable development. To reiterate a point made ​​by the research scientist Terry Sunderland in a recent interview, efforts in the field work and better results are achieved when people communicate. It is only through partnerships that the landscape approach can work. And I hope that some of these associations are forged in the Global Forum on Landscapes.


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