Integrating Conservation and Development During Rio+20

By David Batcheck

A central part of the discussion surrounding Rio+20 this week is how people and groups will compete with one another for the world’s diminishing land and water resources. To provide insight and analysis to this issue, the Landscapes for People, Food, and Nature Initiative (Landscape Initiative) has released the report Landscapes for People, Food, and Nature: The Vision, the Evidence, and Next Steps.The report calls for leaders in Rio to “dramatically scale up the whole landscape approach—if planet-wide food and environmental crises are to be averted.”

Sara Scherr discusses a report about the world's dwindling natural resources. (Image credit: Landscapes for People, Food, and Nature)

The Landscape Initiative was formed in response to a desire for a broader, more impactful use of integrated landscape approaches. It consists of a group of developmental organizations in the agricultural, environmental, and rural development areas, including EcoAgriculture Partners, UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Bioversity International, and Conservation International, among others.

Members of the initiative partner with one another, share knowledge, analyze experiences, and collaborate with countries that are trying to support a landscape approach—with the goal of supporting them and working with investment groups so they can align with a landscape approach.

Sara Scherr, President and CEO of EcoAgriculture Partners, uses the term ecoagriculture as a strategy for both conservation and rural development. It aims to create a vision of rural communities managing their resources to jointly to achieve three broad goals at a landscape scale: enhance rural livelihoods, conserve or enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services, and develop more sustainable and productive agricultural systems.

Key Outcomes for Rio

Scherr explains that there are a set of five key outcomes that the Landscape Initiative would like to see from the Rio+20 meetings:

Multi-Stakeholder Landscape Initiatives Strengthened. Their highest priority is to see an improvement in the implementation and capacity of multi-stakeholder agricultural landscape initiatives around the world. Scherr says, “We no longer see areas of development as separate problems—we want to treat it as an integrated package.”

Policies Support Integrated Landscapes. Secondly, they would like to see a set of formal policy endorsements that would make it easier to establish multi-stakeholder, inter-sectoral landscape initiatives.

Business Leaders Incorporate Integrated Landscape Approaches in their Business Models. Receiving support from the business community is also desired. The Landscape Initiative seeks a commitment from business leaders to asses their dependence on resources and to expand their look away from a narrow supply chain.

Financing Expanded for Integrated Landscape Investment. The fourth desired outcome is to see an expansion of financing from national and multinational donors to encompass programs and expand integrated landscape investment.

Science and Knowledge Systems Support Integrated Landscape Initiatives. Finally, they seek to sharpen the focus and strengthen the quality of landscape research and to catalyze increased funding for research. “There has been a revolution in landscape science, with Google maps, remote sensing data,” says Scherr. “It is extremely helpful to be able to work in real time, tracking changes to see what’s working and the ability to change directions. All things that were not possible 20 years ago when Rio 1992 took place.”

The challenge of feeding 9 billion people in 2050 is rapidly rising on the agendas of governments and international organizations. Implementing the Landscape Initiative’s approach post Rio+20 has the ability to alleviate conflict over land and water resources, in addition to increasing food production while restoring the degraded environment. And as Scherr says, “Now is the time to scale.”

To read the full report, click here.

David Batcheck is an intern with Nourishing the Planet.

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