Our different words highlight the same concept, so how do we come together to make large-scale change in the world?
I have a question for you, readers. What’s the name of your umbrella? Bear with me because it’s not as silly as it sounds at first blush.
As professionals working to redefine society’s relationship with our natural world, we’ve developed a thick glossary of words to explain what we do. Some of us work to promote climate-smart territories. Others spend their days advocating for regenerative landscapes. Take a look below at the list I’ve been compiling over the years. As of December 2021, I had counted 100 different phrases meant to explain roughly the same concept!
But social movements only gain policy traction when many people with different but aligned goals start gathering under a single umbrella. How can those of us championing sustainable land management—with all of its benefits for human livelihoods and health, biodiversity and climate change mitigation–come together when we stay under our own little umbrellas? It’s a situation ready-made for internecine strife that hobbles our message to the policymakers whose support we need.
There’s never been a better time to reach beyond our own communities to advance our shared land management concept and build a global alliance for policy action that will support our common goals. In my view, we should focus on three priorities: reduce confusion for our policy audience, find common ground while celebrating our diverse perspectives and define a shared policy agenda.
Priority #1: Reduce confusion for our policy audience
In 2013, EcoAgriculture Partners published a Policy Brief called “Defining Integrated Landscape Management (ILM) for Policymakers.” At that time, we counted 80 different terms in English alone that sometimes or always referred to ILM. We argued that while these numerous communities of practice were a cause for celebration—so much innovation! so much energy!—they also undermined our efforts to engage and interest policymakers to support our work.
Imagine the confusion that policymakers face: they may meet on Monday with advocates for participatory watershed management, on Tuesday with the forest landscape restoration crowd and on Friday with those promoting agricultural green growth. Each has a different, often narrowly focused pitch. The policymaker can be forgiven for thinking that these groups are each asking for something different. Yet none appears to have a large enough constituency to be important politically, nor a significant enough scale of impact to deliver priority policy goals.
A busy and exciting field immerses us all in a lot of jargon and competing names for things. But so much in-group language just confuses policymakers whose eye is on the big picture. The world needs a revolution to start holistically managing massive tracts of lands, with local people in the lead.
Policymakers need to understand that our landscapes and other large territories are the foundation for everything: the agriculture and supply chain extending from it that people need to earn a living and eat nutritious food, the rich cultural heritage that provides so much to communities, the carbon storage we need to counteract climate change, and the haven for the deep natural heritage embodied in all of the plant and animal species that call it home. And our political leaders need to understand that we have collectively developed powerful tools and strategies to secure those goals.
Priority #2: Find common ground while celebrating our diversity of perspectives
My growing list of terms does reflect some fundamental differences in focus between these communities of practice. The landscape-focused groups may emphasize different entry points for integrated management, such as regenerative agriculture, watershed management, forest protection or climate action. Those who champion territorial development often emphasize the sociopolitical dimensions of place-based development. City-region experts concentrate more on promoting sustainable development for urban centers and their surrounding rural areas.
But all of these viewpoints converge on the critical role of ecosystem health to local place-based sustainable development, recognize critical interconnections among land uses and seek to mobilize a collective response to threats like degradation, climate change and poverty. Most align with the core features of ILM described in our original brief and later refined:
- A multi-stakeholder partnership or platform for long-term learning, negotiation and coordinated action assisted by trusted, neutral facilitators;
- An agreed-upon long-term vision defined by stakeholders for the landscape encompassing human well-being, regenerative economy, healthy nature and inspiration for collective action;
- Adoption of agricultural, conservation and other land-use systems and practices that generate economic, environmental and social benefits aligned with the landscape vision;
- Spatial planning to ensure different land uses and practices across the landscape—in natural habitats, regenerative production areas and human settlements including industry and infrastructure—have positive ecological and economic synergies;
- Policies and market developments that support integrated landscape goals, strategies and landscape stewardship.
Priority #3: Define a shared policy agenda
Our shared goals provide fertile ground to grow a shared policy agenda. If we are to succeed in positioning collaborative territorial and landscape management at the heart of sustainable development, our groups need to advocate jointly for three specific types of support from national and international policymakers that will benefit all our efforts:
1) Multi-level governance: We need national and state policy and legal frameworks that embrace territorial, landscape and city-region action as the focus of multi-level governance for sustainable development. These frameworks should structure government law and policies to empower and support landscape and territorial partnerships that are responsive to local stakeholders. They should help coordinate government agencies and deploy public financial resources not mainly in sectoral silos, but towards integrated landscape development plans.
2) Institutionalized technical assistance for territorial partnerships: We need government, private-sector and philanthropic actors to shift from short-term projects to long-term institutionalized support to strengthen landscape, territorial and city-region partnerships. Such support includes capacity development for leaders and facilitators, inclusive and green market development, mobilizing finance, facilitating connections with public agencies and experts, and supporting scientific research and data infrastructure for landscape management.
3) Innovating financial systems and tools for integrated local investment: We need finance system innovations. These should bring together territorial projects and local businesses by directing financial flows from public, private and philanthropic sources to investment portfolios that reflect a territory’s own vision and food system transformation strategy. With structured support, landscape partnerships can mobilize actions that increase returns, reduce or share costs, manage holistic risks, address change across supply chains and enable more investment.
At the same time, we all need: knowledge-sharing and collaboration among territorial networks. We can accelerate learning and collaboration by sharing tools, evidence and lessons learned; collaborating on advocacy with policymakers and market actors; and mobilizing financial resources at the scale needed.
Now is our time to join together and break through the noise
We’ve made good progress in recent years to bridge our various communities of practice. The umbrella term ILM, made popular by the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature initiative, the Little Sustainable Landscapes Book and the Global Landscapes Forum, is widely used within sustainable landscape communities. CIRAD, the French Agricultural Research Center for International Development, convened its Living Territories conference in 2018, linking integrated landscape and territorial development. The inter-governmental Territorial Platform for Development (TP4D) did the same when producing its white paper and stocktaking exercise. My organization teamed with FAO-North America to convene roundtables in 2020 and 2021 meant to stir dialogue and pursue consensus among these diverse groups.
United Cities and Local Governments) a global network of cities and local, regional, and metropolitan governments and their associations, is representing, defending and amplifying the voices of local and regional governments to leave no one and no place behind in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. A new radical collaboration of leading organizations called the 1000 Landscapes for 1 Billion People is seeking to build bridges among landscape partnerships. The UNFSS process in 2021 identified game-changing solutions to promote Territorial Governance and Landscape Partnerships. All these efforts are successfully linking networks of territorial authorities, landscape partnerships and programs that support them.
We need to act today. In 2022, we’ll see international efforts to address food security, biodiversity, climate change and ecosystem restoration reach a crescendo, with major events like the UN’s conventions on desertification, biological diversity and climate change, among others.
These happenings are sparking unprecedented dialogue among different actors trying to solve the planet’s multiple existential crises. For the first time, policymakers for food, agriculture, nutrition, health, water, biodiversity, forest, land and climate are talking about building coherent policies that bridge these interconnected areas for the betterment of all.
We are all presenting our pitches in these international and national forums. Without coherence across our efforts, we will end up with fragmented, disconnected policy and financial outcomes.
But if we showcase integrated landscape/territorial approaches as the inclusive game-changing solution that can move the needle against all of these massive challenges, and pitch our shared policy agenda with one voice, we will have much greater impact. Let’s take advantage of this unusual moment to pull together our numerous communities. United, let’s coalesce into a global policy alliance for participatory, place-based sustainable development to deliver meaningful policy wins for people and planet.
Table 1. ILM: Different Names, Same Goals (as of December 2021)*
- Ahu’pua’a (original Hawaiian)
- A permanent agriculture
- Agricultural landscape mosaic
- Agricultural watershed management
- Agroecological landscape
- Agroforestry landscape
- Agropolitan territories
- Biocultural landscape
- Biodiverse agricultural landscape
- Biodiversity-sensitive agriculture
- Biological corridor [through working lands]
- Bioregional planning
- Bioregional food system
- Citizen territory
- Climate-smart agricultural landscape
- Climate-smart territory
- Co-existence landscape
- Commodity landscape
- Community-based agriculture and natural resource management
- Complex adaptive coalition
- Conservation landscaping
- Diversified farming system
- Doubly green revolution
- Ecoagriculture landscape
- Ecofunctional intensification in agriculture
- Ecoregional planning
- Ecosystem-based adaptation
- Ecosystem approach to agriculture
- Eco-territorial development
- Evergreen agriculture
- Evergreen revolution
- Farming with nature
- Food sovereignty/food security
- Forest management for food security
- Forest landscape restoration
- Four Returns for landscape restoration
- Functional territories
- Green agricultural growth
- Green infrastructure
- Greening agro-industrial corridor
- Holistic land management
- Indigenous territorial development
- Integrated agricultural landscape
- Integrated approaches to sustainable infrastructure
- Integrated landscape management
- Integrated management of territory
- Integrated natural resource management
- Integrated rural development
- Integrated sustainable solutions from the land
- Integrated territorial development
- Integrated water resource management
- Integrated watershed management
- Intelligent landscapes
- Joined-together landscapes
- Jurisdictional REDD+
- Landscape restoration
- Living landscapes
- Model forest development
- Multifunctional agroecological landscape
- Multifunctional agro-ecosystem
- Multifunctional landscape
- Multi-output area development
- Permaculture landscape
- Regenerative foodscape
- Regenerative landscape
- Regional land use partnership
- Resilient biocultural landscape
- Satoyama landscape (original Japanese)
- Shared earth reserve
- Smart landscape
- Socioecological landscape
- Sustainable agricultural land management
- Sustainable agriculture
- Sustainable agri-culture
- Sustainable agriculture landscape
- Sustainable farming system
- Sustainable intensification
- Sustainable production landscape
- Sustainable urban landscape
- Sustainable working landscape
- Systems approach to rural development
- Territorial development
- Territorial management planning
- Territorialized agri-food systems
- Terroire (original French)
- Transboundary landscape approach
- Transboundary ecosystem management approach
- Urban eco-foodshed
- Whole landscape approach