July 1, 2020

Conclusions from the FAO-EcoAgriculture Landscapes RoundTable: Insights on the African Landscapes Action Plan, Phase 3

Tom Derr

25 June 2020 – FAO North America and EcoAgriculture Partners hosted a virtual Landscape Roundtable on the African Landscape Action Plan (ALAP): Phase 3, which lays out a strategy for achieving sustainable development in Africa through integrated landscape management (ILM). The Roundtable panelists included seven African landscape leaders (click here for their short biographies) of the November 2019 African Landscape Dialogue in Arusha, Tanzania.  They provided insights on recent progress and the recommendations for action developed during the Dialogue, around landscape partnerships and governance, achieving biodiversity conservation and climate-smart agriculture (CSA) through ILM, business and finance, land use planning, and national policy. 

The Landscape Roundtable is part of an on-going series of discussions focusing on agriculture, landscapes and climate change jointly organized by EcoAgriculture Partners and FAO North America since 2009. While the roundtable takes place in Washington, DC, this webinar engaged a global audience and included a dynamic Q&A session with participants, as well as an interactive ‘chat’.

A plan within the context of African development

Vimlendra Sharan, Director of the FAO Office in North America opened the session, placing the discussion in the context of African economic development, food security and environment, and the challenges of the COVID pandemic.  “The plan itself is a blueprint for sustainable rural development in direct response to the challenges of climate change and rapid population growth on a continent where two-thirds of the workforce is engaged in agriculture.” He further added, “We must understand that only broad coalitions, active partnerships and dedicated investments will ensure that this agenda is achieved.”

Sara Scherr, President and CEO of EcoAgriculture Partners, moderated the discussion. Her opening comments provided the history of the ALAP explaining, “in 2014 several hundred landscape leaders from all across Africa came together in Nairobi, Kenya to reflect on how it would be possible to achieve goals in their landscapes through smart collective action.” The event in Nairobi produced the initial African Landscape Action Plan, which was later formally endorsed by the African Union. The second Dialogue in 2017 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia produced and updated ALAP Phase 2. ALAP Phase 3 represents the most recent and up to date collaboration of African landscape leaders and practitioners promoting sustainable development through integrated landscape management. 

Five key recommendations

Louise Buck, Director of Collaborative Management at EcoAgriculture Partners and faculty member of Cornell University, presented five key recommendations proposed in ALAP Phase 3 to (1) strengthen landscape partnership and governance, (2) adapt land use planning and property rights to strengthen landscape action, (3) mainstream biodiversity conservation and climate-smart agriculture through integrated landscape management, (4) mobilize business and finance in support of sustainable landscapes and (5) advance national policy for sustainable landscapes.

Input from the panelist and country-specific examples

The seven panelists represented a broad coalition of actors in different sectors, geographies and specializations focused on collaborating with each other and other actors to promote ILM in Africa. In addition to highlighting specific elements of the ALAP-3, they provided specific examples from their countries. 

John Recha of the CGIAR research program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)  discussed the powerful role of African landscape initiatives in advancing CSA and climate-smart landscapes. Recha emphasized that CSA is not a “one size fits all” approach and that “Partnerships are key to taking climate-smart agriculture to scale within Africa to be able to address perennial food insecurity as well as low productivity.” As an example of this, Recha described the implementation of a “Climate Smart Village” program where participatory methods and technologies are used to explicitly scale up CSA and influence policymakers.  

John Ajjugo, of the Horn of Africa Regional Environment Centre and Network, provided insight into how biodiversity activities in African landscape initiatives need to be viewed in a more integrated way. Integrated land-use plans, for instance, take into consideration the ideas of communities who depend on land for agricultural activities while balancing the needs of protected areas for biodiversity conservation. Ajjungo discussed how this topic extends beyond rural areas as the importance of biodiversity in urban areas is increasingly recognized through, for example, urban tree planting and botanical garden development programs.

Focusing on the themes of business and finance were Nancy Rapondo of Solidaridad and Mao Amis of the African Centre for a Green Economy. Rapondo discussed the importance of businesses being more actively engaged in landscape initiatives so that they are “asking themselves, if there is a change in the landscape or if the landscape has been transformed, then how have they [the business] contributed to that and how can that be attributed to the work that they are doing.” She further emphasized that “as practitioners, it is important that we support businesses to go through this level of thinking.” To demonstrate this, Rapondo described the work Solidaridad is doing in the Mt. Kilimanjaro area of Tanzania to form a multi-stakeholder platform in which investors and the business community have had an active and engaged role in. 

Amis highlighted the significant progress that has been recently been made in landscape finance, citing funds that have specifically been made for landscape-scale investments. Challenges still remain in that there is a bias towards large-scale commercial operators “so small scale farmers are not seeing investments trickling down to them,” as Amis points out. Additionally, there is a challenge of building bankable business models around themes like restoration while also mitigating and sharing risk. 

Closely intersecting all of these themes but often not adequately considered, is youth and gender inclusivity as discussed by Njeri Kimotho of Solidaridad. Kimotho recognized the basic elements of power relations in governance systems as “power over rather than power with” and that to overcome this “we need to look for solutions that are targeted to take everybody along and not to come to the table with a hidden agenda but really make it explicit that it is a journey for everybody.”  In the context of African landscapes, this is especially relevant for issues surrounding land tenure and property rights.

Lastly was Mponda Malozo of the FAO Office in Tanzania, and Luc Gnacadja, the former UN Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, who provided their insights on policy in relation to African landscapes. Malozo discussed how landscape approaches are increasingly being used to meet the overarching goal of FAO to achieve actual food security for all and to support the realization of the right to adequate food. He highlighted the work of FAO supporting the Government of Tanzania in innovative land-use planning systems that support ILM.

As the final panelist, Gnacadja called attention to the current paradigm governing land use in Africa that reflects a “degrade, abandon and migrate” business-as-usual pattern. To prevent this trend, Gnacadja states, “we need to bring at the national level, at least, a framework that will incentivize integrated landscape management.” In the context of Benin, Gnacadja described how policy action promoting ILM happened through close collaboration between key national-level government actors such as the Ministers of Finance, Development Planning, Environment and Water to explicitly discuss the challenges and opportunities of landscape-level action.

The engaging discussions by the panelists during this Roundtable represent a notable step forward in promoting the ALAP recommendations. Other ‘next steps’ will be to (1) strengthen national landscape leader dialogues and networks, (2) raise awareness of ALAP recommendations widely in Africa, and (3) track the progress of ALAP implementation.

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