Moving towards a Road Map

Knowledge brokering03 Nov 2010Sara Scherr

As we progress to the heart of the conference, our exploratory thinking will start to evolve into concrete suggestions for the Road Map. Here are some thoughts from an ‘eco-agriculture’ perspective.

We must consider the spatial layout of the land we are talking about. The rationale lies in the fact that most of the inhabitable land of the world is being used to at least some extent for food production, with farmed and grazed lands typically in mosaic with natural habitats, production forests and woodlots, and human settlements. In over 40% of the world, crop production accounts for over a third of the land in these mosaics. And these are the very same landscapes that are also critically important for climate change mitigation and adaptation, watershed protection (water flow, flood control, aquifer and stream re-charge, water quality), wild biodiversity conservation, bio-energy, nature tourism and other economic, social and cultural purposes.

Therefore, agricultural production systems must be compatible with, or contribute to, the provision of these other functions, while still increasing production to meet the demands of a growing population and economy. So we really have to work hard to discover, pilot and scale-up various ways to reduce trade-offs, and realize synergies, among these different land use functions.

The larger agricultural landscape is the most pertinent scale for planning and implementing this kind of management (which we call ‘eco-agriculture’). All the stakeholders who affect or are affected by land use patterns in the landscape need to have a voice in spatial planning. Together, they must determine acceptable trade-offs, and establish aligning, coordinating or integrating programmes to realize potential synergies.

There has been an enormous proliferation and innovation of such eco-agriculture landscape-scale initiatives to integrate agriculture rural development with diverse other objectives, from different ‘entry points’– in integrated watershed management programmes, trans-boundary conservation programmes, biodiversity corridors, regional development plans, ecosystem management initiatives, territorial development, urban foodsheds, payments to farming communities for ecosystem services and others. What is especially needed now is systematic support for such efforts, and a paradigm shift in thinking to view these integrative efforts as a central strategy and frame for agricultural development.

To this end, we propose the following actions for the Road Map being developed at this conference:

  1. Support the International Ecoagriculture Conference and Knowledge Exchange planned for January 2012, in Nairobi, Kenya. This international meeting will be co-convened by EcoAgriculture Partners, UNEP, Bioversity International, Conservation International, the World Agroforestry Centre and others, and will be the culmination of a year of developing syntheses and lessons learned by hundreds of organizations around the world who are implementing landscape-scale initiatives, and the ‘state-of-the-art’. Farmer leaders from around the world will play a central role, and be joined by agriculture, environmental NGOs and public agencies, university, agribusiness, consumers, finance and the food industry. Following the meeting, outputs will be synthesized for publications, scientific journals, policy briefs, farmer knowledge networks, media and as input to Rio+20.

  2. Inventory and evaluate integrated agricultural landscape initiatives. Each large country or regional grouping should, during 2011, inventory large landscape initiatives that have agriculture and food production as an important feature, as well as ecosystem/water management, and include interventions that could have climate adaptation or mitigation benefits. Lessons learned about effective organization, governance, planning and monitoring should be synthesized, shared widely and used to inform policy and institutional changes.

  3. Support forums and platforms for integrated landscape management in important agricultural regions. Seed or catalytic co-funding should be made available to support the formation and strengthening of landscape forums/platforms to convene stakeholders, undertake collaborative landscape assessments and collaborative monitoring for adaptive management. Ministries of agriculture should be full supporters of these initiatives, in collaboration with sister ministries.

  4. Strengthen capacity for inter-sectoral planning and action. To achieve objectives in food security, climate change, agriculture and ecosystems in multi-stakeholder initiatives requires that the stakeholders have shared understanding of how landscapes function for these diverse purposes, and have access to user-friendly tools that assist collaborative planning at local, landscape and national scales. The Road Map should support the further development and dissemination of the Landscape Measures Resource Center, and training of facilitators to support landscape forums/platforms to apply relevant tools. Leaders in landscape and national initiatives, from diverse sectors including prominently farmers’ organizations, agricultural agencies, and agribusiness should be provided training in multi-stakeholder landscape or national land and resource planning, as well as in technical and institutional innovations that can reduce trade-offs and achieve synergies between sectoral objectives.

  5. Establish agricultural landscape monitoring to track impacts over time. To guide future strategies of sustainable agricultural development and ecosystem management, we need far more documented evidence of the impacts of action on production, ecosystem and rural development investments on food production, rural livelihoods, ecosystem services. The Road Map should mobilize establishment of a loose network of monitoring efforts, using some common indicators and other locally-generated indicators, and support landscape-based organizations to track and feed results into stakeholder planning processes, as well as international comparative analyses. (See the Landscape Measures Resource Center on multi-stakeholder monitoring approaches, and a 2010 article by Jeffrey Sachs and colleagues in Nature calling for the establishment of an international network).