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New toolbox offers methods to support integrated landscape approaches in multiple contexts

Pragmatic principles a framework for change
, Thursday, 15 Apr 2021
A vibrant terraced hillside landscape
Great views of the hills in the morning in the village of Nalma. CIFOR//Mokhamad Edliadi

One size does not fit all when implementing integrated landscape approaches (ILAs), so a new toolbox is offering a number of possible methods for researchers and practitioners to try when working in landscapes with diverse stakeholders and interests, and differing contexts.

In a recently published book, the COLANDS team opens up its toolbox for ILAs, presenting a range of activities and methods designed to help to develop or enhance a shared understanding among the stakeholders involved in a landscape, in order to reconcile livelihood, environmental and biodiversity goals.

“Shared” is emphasized because understandings and outcomes which are held in common among stakeholders are critical to success in applying ILA principles. These ultimately aim to find ways of integrating multiple agendas in a single landscape, according to the toolbox set out in Operationalizing integrated landscape approaches in the tropics.

The methods in the toolbox were chosen, in part, due to their high level of correspondence with the previously published 10 principles for ILAs, says James Reed, team leader of Collaborating to Operationalise Landscape Approaches for Nature, Development and Sustainability (COLANDS).

These principles will require a greater or lesser degree of focus, dependent on the stage of implementation and tools for diagnosis, decision-making and monitoring will support the respective stages, says Reed. The methods proposed are not new, but using them in combination offers a great deal of potential for success.

“ILAs aim to identify trade-offs and synergies in order to develop more sustainable and equitable land management,” he says. “As such, there is an emphasis on methods that will help to both enhance stakeholder engagement and capacity, and also contribute to monitoring and evaluation protocols that can, in turn, influence the processes of adaptive management.”

Many of these methods have been tested and reported on previously and demonstrate applicability across a broad range of contexts. One example is Q methodology, a diagnostic tool that can help to identify consensus or divergence of perspectives related to specific land-use issues. Another is the use of simulation models — decision-support tools — that can help to predict alternative landscape futures and encourage stakeholder discussion and negotiation of potential trajectories of change.

ILAs are an example of the more holistic strategies being promoted more and more often, suggesting a type of governance strategy that engages multiple stakeholders to reconcile societal and environmental objectives at the landscape scale. But guidance concerning ILAs, based on practical experience, properly assessed and evaluated, has been in short supply. The COLANDS initiative is therefore contributing to the evidence base by operationalizing ILAs in Ghana, Zambia and Indonesia. Researchers are not only applying a variety of approaches; but are then measuring and assessing outcomes, applying the same processes to ensure consistency for cross-site comparison and analysis.

In the Kalomo landscape in Zambia’s Southern Province, for example, such ILAs are being applied to bring together a wide range of varied interests, including tobacco and charcoal producers; smallholder farmers, some living and working inside forestry reserves; conservationists and others concerned with reforestation and over-grazing. Devising a shared vision for Kalomo helps participants come together, to imagine restored forests and fertile soils leading, eventually, to improved livelihoods.

The COLANDS toolbox principles are basically pragmatic, suggesting implementing agencies start their work by identifying key partners and characterizing the landscape and its associated challenges. Identifying common concerns among stakeholders at an early stage is important, since this will be fundamental to achieving long-term engagement in the process. This can involve learning about the rights and responsibilities of stakeholders and their interests while also learning about the relationships between them.

Classifying stakeholders, based on one of the numerous available systems, helps in better understanding those stakeholders. For example, in Indonesia, understanding the level of involvement and power of stakeholders in a landscape, and how they fit into local governance and decision-making, is an important first step. That information helps in formulating appropriate interview questions and in better understanding stories shared by respondents, such as those related to power structures.

The toolbox makes clear the importance of understanding connections between public, private and civil sectors and agencies at all levels, from local to national; and recognizing the influence of socio-economic factors such as demographics, employment, health and culture as well as the local political economy.

The COLANDS toolbox also identifies several well-known data sources that could be useful for practitioners, such as the Living Standards Measurement Survey (LSMS), to help save time and effort in data collection. Understanding the biophysical landscape, including monitoring biodiversity through methods including remote sensing, is also important.

The ultimate objective? “The methods broadly correspond to back-casting, establishing baselines and forecasting and so bringing together diverse stakeholders can help enhance the collective understanding of past, present and future social-ecological dynamics and land-use change,” says Reed.

In doing so, stakeholder’s capacity to negotiate and reformulate governance and land-use challenges is enhanced and increases the potential for collective action to achieve more positive social-ecological outcomes.

For more information on this topic, please contact James Reed at j.reed@cgiar.org.
This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.
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