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Integrated Landscapes Meet Resource Needs

  • Joe DeCapua

An integrated landscape approach brings together diverse and competing groups to share natural resources. (Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative)

An integrated landscape approach brings together diverse and competing groups to share natural resources. (Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative)

There’s a new campaign to address the growing and often competing demands for natural resources. It’s called the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative.
The initiative warns that “rising human demand” for food, water, land and energy “will collide on a global scale unless bold and creative action is taken now.”

A coalition of agricultural and environmental organizations has released a new report recommending an “integrated or whole landscape” approach. It’s an approach that brings together diverse and competing groups to discuss common needs.

“The world is actually at a crossroads right now looking forward over the next couple of decades to dramatic increases in population and economies that are threatening major food crises, major water crises, major climate crises, major rural energy crises [and] major biodiversity crises. There are attempts right now through policies and programs and funding to treat each one of those separately,” said Dr. Sara Scherr, an agricultural and natural resource economist and founder, president and CEO of EcoAgriculture Partners.

Those crises may be triggered in part by competition within a given area for resources. Scherr said the integrated landscape approach can deal with these more holistically.

“This whole approach came out of the realities of competing interests - that in agricultural landscapes it’s not just the farmers that want the water and it’s not just one set of farmers that want the water. That maybe the crop farmers are competing with the livestock farmers for water and they’re competing with the local towns for water. So a lot of these alliances that we’re talking about started off as conflict situations or at least a lot of tempers being raised on a regular basis,” she said.

Bringing people together

The report says the landscape model creates “coalitions of diverse stakeholders to negotiate more acceptable trade-offs.”

“It’s an approach to addressing these multiple interests and these overlapping interests that shifts from a position of tradeoffs that says that the only way I’m going to get my water is if you don’t get your water, to one that says if we managed our watershed better and we had re-vegetated degraded areas and we protected our streams etcetera, we actually would get much more water overall, and we would be able to allocate among us,” she said.

Surveys show there are several hundred landscape initiatives now underway in Africa and Latin America.

“Let’s do agricultural production systems that also are good for watersheds. Let’s do watershed management that’s also good for agricultural productivity. Let’s incorporate better wood energy into farms by growing trees and shrubs that are also good to provide other forms of incomes for farmers,” said Scherr.

She said too often people focus only on their area of interest or expertise.

“What we find out there right now is that the agriculture people talk to the agriculture people. The water people talk to the water people. The climate people talk to the climate people. Even the words that they use are really different. They look at a landscape and see different things in the landscape,” she said.

The Landscapes for People, Food and Nature report recommends “a vastly expanded network of technical assistance, professional training, and education to support the efforts of local “landscape leaders” and policy makers. Scherr says she hopes the idea will be addressed at Rio+20, the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development.

“I think,” said Scherr, “we have a historic opportunity at Rio and I think we’ve got a lot of people coming to Rio who have come to realize the importance of working across the boundaries. And I think that Rio is the place to turn this into a major strategy for moving forward in terms of sustainable development.”

The Rio+20 Summit will be held in Rio de Janeiro from June 20th to the 22nd.”