“Our area has a very good climate for agriculture, but the challenge is always trying to avoid excessive loss of crops,”
What is a landscape?

A landscape is more than a pretty picture. It’s how we solve the world’s toughest challenges.

Landscapes and seascapes can encompass any of Earth’s terrestrial and marine ecosystems, from alpine forests to tropical mangroves and deserts, from mountaintop snowpack to the streams and rivers that eventually connect to estuaries and oceans. These places are home to the rich web of species that comprise all life on the planet. Soil bacteria, fish, songbirds, and elephants all live within these large tracts of land and their associated waters.

Landscapes are also the places where we call home. They provide the space and resources for humans to grow food, live, work, worship, make art, and play. They are complex systems where humans, wildlife, and the environment interact.

EcoAgriculture Partners defines landscapes and seascapes as interconnected natural and human-modified land and water ecosystems influenced by distinct ecological, historical, economic, and socio-cultural processes and activities. We focus on helping people manage these large areas holistically. Why? Because we believe it’s the best way to conserve and sustainably develop ecosystems and communities.

In Central Mexico’s Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, the landscape is the pine, oak, juniper, and cloud forests that sprawl across the mountainous terrain. It’s the diversity of wildlife and people that reside within it. It’s the connected semi-deserts at lower elevations and the streams that flow downhill to knit places and communities together. The region and its economy are alive with farming, ranching, tourism, and artisan goods-making occurring in sync with the surrounding environment.

Meanwhile, across an ocean, in the Kiambu County landscape in Kenya’s Central Highlands, the climate is perfect for tea and coffee production. Most residents there work in agriculture among their lush forests and farmland. Beekeepers help pollinate the farmers’ crops, and producers sell their bountiful food and clean drinking water at local and distant markets. Tourists flock to an eco-resort to reconnect with natural beauty.

With planning and collaboration, EcoAgriculture Partners works at a landscape scale by bringing together different regional stakeholders to help drive sustainable decision-making, developing landscape-focused financial tools, and supporting local economies while allowing nature and people to thrive together. We support communities worldwide as they pursue more prosperous and sustainable livelihoods. Our partners battle poverty while they restore and conserve the unique ecosystems that are priceless pieces of the world’s natural heritage.

Interconnectedness at scale: Benefits for climate, biodiversity, and agriculture

A river can bring life-giving water as it flows from the mountains past farmlands and towns to the sea. But it can also carry fertilizer and pesticides from agricultural lands and sewage and litter from human habitations that will inevitably impact the fish and the fisher’s livelihood on the coast. Rivers are just one way that people and nature are tied together at the scale of the landscape. That’s why we must manage land use at that scale. If we don’t, we’ll never be able to achieve sustainable development, conservation, and climate change goals critical to human and environmental health and well-being.

Whether it be the 383,000-hectare (1,479-square-mile) Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve in Central Mexico or the 253,000-hectare (977-square-mile) area of forests and communities in Kenya’s Kiambu landscape, the specific geography, climate, history, and culture of a place greatly influence the way people work and live within their environment. These unique interconnections knit together a place as much as a river. That’s why the path to sustainability will also look very different depending on a community’s needs–conservation or preservation efforts to protect wildlife and ecosystems, improving food systems through regenerative agriculture, investments to develop a thriving ecotourism industry, or laying the groundwork for renewable energy production.

Community-driven change: Unlocking prosperity and conservation

There is no single generic solution to land management. People working and living with only their self-interest as a guide compete with their neighbors for limited resources like space, water, and timber. This leads to poor labor and environmental practices in agriculture and business, resource overexploitation, pollution, ecosystem and soil degradation, climate change, and biodiversity loss.

But when people embrace the interconnections between each other, their communities, and nature, they start to see there is a better way. They understand that they hold the solutions to the world’s most significant challenges. They realize the many different ways they can drive positive change and greater sustainability where they live: harvesting and selling foods locally; hosting workshops to teach good ranching and grazing practices; switching to more valuable crops; and assembling their friends, family, and neighbors to plan how to allocate the land sustainably for the many different uses everyone has. Culture and environment get their space. As does recreation, commerce, and spiritual practices.

This kind of community-driven change, where those within a landscape participate and drive solutions to their unique issues, is the best way of ensuring long-lasting and meaningful change. It is critical to help communities develop sustainably to put the world on the best path to robust, sustainable conservation and ecosystem restoration.

Interconnectedness at scale: Benefits for climate, biodiversity, and agriculture

Recognizing the interconnectedness of human activities, wildlife, and natural processes is the first step toward fostering a healthier relationship with nature. Integrated landscape management (ILM) lies at the core of this understanding, promoting inclusive decision-making among producers, businesses, and citizens. By collaborating between interests in different sectors, such as agroforestry producers and ecotourism operators, communities can slow deforestation, boost incomes, and mitigate erosion and water pollution.

Harnessing the power of partnerships

Viewing places as landscapes brings together local stakeholders invested in the well-being of the area and its inhabitants. For instance, the coffee cooperative ANEI in Northern Colombia’s Sierra Nevada mountain range has partnered with the 1000 Landscapes for 1 Billion People (1000L) initiative, gaining access to vital financial resources and mapping tools. Similarly, the AlVelAl association in Spain unites landscape leaders, researchers, businesspeople, and livestock breeders to bolster regional landscape efforts. Collaboration among citizens, policymakers, businesses, researchers, and funders supports the landscape’s economic, conservation, and livelihood goals.

Working on a landscape scale requires bringing people together with different outlooks and motivations to find a shared vision for moving forward. EcoAgriculture Partners exists to support the collaborative efforts of citizens to find a more sustainable, prosperous path for their communities. We call these groups of engaged people landscape partnerships.

Promoting prosperity

Prosperity within a landscape takes various forms: promoting local food and fiber production, job and income growth, repairing broken food systems, fostering education, ecotourism, pride in place, and a collective commitment to more sustainable living. Boosting prosperity involves creating solutions that benefit community livelihoods while preserving and protecting the land and its wildlife. Ultimately, a landscape’s objective of securing robust, resilient, and sustainable prosperity is about achieving harmony.

Conservation as a priority

Conserving natural ecosystems and protecting wildlife is often a primary objective within landscapes. Some, like the landscape partnership managing the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Preserve, collaborate with regional governments to establish carbon payment programs. This advanced approach incentivizes landowners to safeguard parts of their land from mining, conventional agriculture, or other sometimes harmful human activities. Sustainable tourism and increased environmental education efforts are other valuable contributions of landscape leaders toward conservation.

Driving policy change

Policy change plays a crucial role in enacting large-scale transformations. Local, regional, and national policies determine funding allocations and designations to safeguard land from external exploitation. Working at the landscape scale fosters dialogues between communities and policymakers, ensuring that local voices contribute to land-use decisions.

Unlocking finance to transform landscapes

One of our primary objectives in partnering with landscapes is to enhance their capacity to access grants, loans, and other financial resources. These enable the implementation of educational programs, water catchment systems, and other tools necessary for livelihood improvement and community and environmental health. Landscape finance is vital for driving change, as local leaders trying to fund large-scale investments often find securing the financing they need challenging. At EcoAgriculture Partners, we are dedicated to aligning global financial flows so they help landscape leaders achieve their goals.

By prioritizing and supporting landscape partnerships, local prosperity and sustainability, ecosystem restoration and conservation, and policy change, EcoAgriculture Partners works towards a more sustainable future for communities, wildlife, and ecosystems.