In this interview, Seth Shames, EcoAgriculture Partners’ Director of Policy and Markets, recounts his experience leading a workshop in Tanzania’s Kilombero Valley Landscape and reflects on outcomes, lessons learned, and the future of Integrated Landscape Management in the Kilombero Valley.
The African Wildlife Foundation, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, IUCN NL, and EcoAgriculture Partners are collaborating to kick off a Multiple Stakeholder Platform (MSP) as a basis for an Integrated Landscape Management (ILM) in the Kilombero landscape.To launch this collaboration, The African Wildlife Foundation, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, IUCN NL, and EcoAgriculture Partners hosted workshop March 5th – 8th titled “Achieving SDGs at a landscape scale: Modeling a sustainable future and creating an investment plan.” The workshop was led by Pastor Magingi (AWF), Seth Shames (EcoAgriculture Partners), Johan Meijer (PBL) and Willem Den Besten (IUCN NL).
Brett Jacobson: The Kilombero Landscape has undergone a tremendous transformation over the last two decades. Can you describe this shift and the central challenges in the landscape today?
Seth Shames: The Kilombero Landscape has experienced a major investment in large scale agriculture, especially surrounding sugar and rice production. This has been a major driver of reductions in wildlife populations in the region, as well as in other crucial ecosystem services. Most notably, increased agricultural production and poor management of watersheds in the landscape have led to the drying of major water sources, like the Great Ruaha River, which has subsequently accelerated the decline in wildlife populations. So the central challenge in the Kilombero Landscape is one of balancing agricultural development with wildlife conservation, something that has generally not been occurring within the landscape over the last 30 years. As this imbalance has grown over time, the conflict between these two priorities has become more and more intense.
Brett Jacobson: How important is the participation of multiple sectors (public, civic, private) for the future of development in the Kilombero Valley Landscape?
Seth Shames: Enormously important. It is probably the important element of landscape planning going forward, but also the most difficult task to accomplish. Because there are such intense needs for this land, by so many different people, for very different reasons, the Kilombero Valley Landscape is a particularly challenging setting to try and create a multi-stakeholder platform. Luckily, there are a variety of actors working within the landscape that recognize the gravity of the situation as well as the need to incorporate a variety of actors in discussion and planning of land management. NGOs that work in the area, particularly the African Wildlife Foundation, who largely focus on conservation and protection of wildlife, recognize that in the case of Kilombero, agriculture is the focal point for understanding these tensions. In addition to this, the Tanzanian government, especially the National Land Use Planning Commission, is a very strong champion of this approach. In fact, Steven Nindi, who is the Director General of the National Land Use Planning Commission, attended and facilitated portions of the workshop. This shows recognition of the idea that land use planning, even at the national level, is most effective over the long term if it is based on the type of multi-stakeholder processes that EcoAgriculture Partners is advocating for and helping to facilitate in the region.
Brett Jacobson: At the workshop, stakeholders discussed priority actions necessary for the sustainable development of the Kilombero landscape. Who were the stakeholders, and what were some of these priority actions?
Seth Shames: Participants at the workshop represented stakeholders in the Kilombero Landscape from a variety of different sectors. Attending the workshop were national government officials and staff, like Steven Nindi of the Tanzanian national Land Use Planning Commission, representatives from major private sector agricultural producers, staff of conservation NGOs working in the region, and other groups operating within the Kilombero.
As for the specific priority actions identified by the participants, actions were focused on achieving a set of key landscape ambitions. These ambitions were conservation of wildlife, sustainable watershed management, improved economic livelihoods, social development, sustainable crop and livestock management, and governance. Within each of these ambitions, participants at the workshop identified groups of actions that could be taken to achieve each ambition. For example, an action participants identified to advance sustainable watershed management was to properly identify and map watersheds in the landscape in addition to their users and the needs of watershed users. Another action participants identified to advance the improvement of economic livelihoods in the region was the improvement of access for smallholder farmers to markets for their goods. This discussion of ambitions helped to create a shared vision for the landscape which is a crucial first step towards the formation of an Multi-stakeholder platform (MSP) in the region.
Brett Jacobson: How can the LIFT toolkit assist the stakeholder group in the Kilombero Valley Landscape to achieve those goals, in your mind?
Seth Shames: In the case of Kilombero, there is not yet a strong MSP that has been formed among actors in this landscape. So the context of the workshop taking place in the initial stages of this process was very interesting. This being the case, much of the workshop focused on the task of translating this list of priority actions and ambitions into investment ideas. By pairing the LIFT toolkit with the SDG modeling tool, by the end of the workshop many of the participants recognized that if they are going to achieve synergistic benefits from investment in the landscape they will need to formalized an MSP.
Brett Jacobson: How receptive were stakeholders to the LIFTkit and were there any key takeaways identified during the workshop in terms of how to improve/modify the toolkit?
Seth Shames: I think at the workshop participants were generally receptive and recognized the need for it, but at the same time the full scope and intricacies of the LIFTkit were not unpacked at this particular workshop. Given the nature of the workshop as operating at the initial stages of creating a shared understanding around priorities and next steps within the landscape, an introduction to LIFTkit was useful more in getting participants to recognize that conversations surrounding finance should be taking place alongside conversations about priority actions. In my experience, this does not happen enough, and I think participants at the workshop recognized finance as a crucial piece to this larger vision for the future of the landscape.
As to the ways in which LIFTkit can be expanded and modified, we think that the key components needed for this tool to be successful are present, but what this experience also helps us to understand how we can improve LIFTkit to make it more accessible to different types of audiences. Furthermore, this will add to our case study material thereby improving our ability to successfully introduce these processes in other contexts.
Brett Jacobson: What is the plan for the LIFTkit process in this landscape going forward? How will you be engaged with them and what are the stakeholders doing with it now?
Seth Shames: Right now, the next step for the stakeholders is strengthening the multi stakeholder platform in the landscape. As for the future of LIFTkit in the landscape, I think that Kilombero is full of potential for sustainable investments, and the stakeholders will be identifying the next steps.