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Managing for Resilience

Framing an integrated landscape approach for overcoming chronic and acute food insecurity



December 3, 2014

Short Summary

To strengthen food security and livelihoods, programs must help vulnerable communities build socially and ecologically resilient landscapes. Landscape-scale management of socio-ecological systems offers a promising strategy for this task.


Twin pressures: Climate Change and Land Degradation

Despite the efforts of food security programs, many communities continue to be at risk of hunger and malnutrition. These chronically poor communities are often socially and politically marginalized, typically surviving on degraded lands with a limited natural resource base. Climate change is only exacerbating these woes. To strengthen food security and livelihoods, programs must help vulnerable communities build socially and ecologically resilient landscapes.

This paper presents a landscape management framework for building resilience to the twin pressures of land degradation and climate change in communities of agriculturalists, agro-pastoralists and pastoralists who are vulnerable to acute and chronic food and livelihood insecurity. It draws on academic literature, field observation, insight from development researchers and practitioners, and agency reports to build a framework for guiding investment in initiatives that stand to sustainably improve the livelihoods of rural populations whose livelihood security is at risk from a combination of poverty and draught, deforestation, over-grazing, forced migration or other shocks.

Integrated Landscape Management as a Successful Strategy

Working at landscape scale to link interventions in agroecological, livelihood, ecological and institutional dimensions of resilience, and integrating the four dimensions through stakeholder-engaged, adaptive collaborative management enables synergies to be captured and trade-offs reduced. The emerging resilience paradigm offers fertile ground for deepening understanding and improving the practice of integrated landscape management in ways that benefit communities whose livelihoods are especially vulnerable to global change processes.

Guidance for Practitioners

To help guide practitioners who are responsible for helping move beyond conventional humanitarian and development assistance models, brief case studies are presented that highlight notable characteristics of emergent landscape resilience initiatives. The paper also summarizes insights from professionals and organizations engaged in resilience programming that focus on ways to stimulate, facilitate and integrate the technical and institutional innovation needed to build socio-ecological resilience in landscapes.  Finally, the authors suggest some opportunities and strategies for accelerating the learning needed to begin mainstreaming multi-dimensional resilience-building through integrated landscape management.

Components of resilient landscapes


Highlighting Successes

Examples of resilience achievements using integrated landscape management in this paper include:

  •     Watershed and agricultural restoration in Tigray, Ethiopia
  •     Agroecosystem resilience in Turkana, Kenya
  •     Inter-sectoral collaboration in Carchi and Sucumbios provinces, Ecuador
  •     Farmer-led regeneration in the Sahel
  •     Forest restoration in the Mt. Elgon transboundary landscape
  •     Large-scale rainwater harvesting in Makanya, Tanzania

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