Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals
with Integrated Landscape Management
The United Nations’ adoption of Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) with 169 targets, presents a monumental opportunity to the global community to improve human well-being and equality while also conserving Earth’s natural resources and the vital ecological functions on which we all depend. But agreement on the goals is just the first step.
To achieve the goals by 2030 will require a radically different paradigm of development than was applied to the Millennium Development Goals. A new approach that breaks down sectoral barriers, capitalizes on synergies in land uses and human development, and strengthens coordination and participation of a wide range of stakeholders is needed. Integrated landscape management (ILM) is that approach.
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find ithitched to everything else in the Universe.”
City region landscape planning promotes markets for local food, fuel and fiber, which supports robust urban and rural economies and helps sustain “green belts” that provide ecosystem services like clean water, air and recreation to communities.
Restoring degraded land for both forests and agricultural production stores carbon in trees and in the soil, while reducing the need for further agricultural expansion that exacerbates climate change.
Participatory planning secures community support, and sustainable use, of protected forest, grassland, desert and mountain habitats for wild animals, allowing them to avoid agricultural areas where they may damage crops or threaten people.
Spatial planning optimizes sustainable production of a variety of food and fiber products valued in local, urban and international markets contributes to resilient economic growth in rural areas, where 75% of the world’s poor live.
Landscape management includes “remote” stakeholders or their representatives, like fishermen who have an interest in protecting fish spawning habitat upstream. Without landscape-scale management, these critical services are often overlooked or undervalued.
Planning locally-appropriate and synergistic renewable energy sources, like biogas, solar, and wind power, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, empowers communities, and improves human health.
Landscape management captures the synergies between clean fuel and energy sources, a healthy environment that provides traditional medicinal plants and culturally appropriate foods, and social inclusion, multiplying impacts on health and well-being, especially for women and youth.
Landscape management properly values sustainable agroecological intensification, with its ecosystem service, biodiversity and health benefits, contributing to farmer premiums, easier access to credit, and economic resilience, helping break cycles of poverty.
Landscape planning allows all stakeholders, including women and youth, to make decisions about the kinds of economic opportunities they want to pursue that will support a healthy, prosperous and sustainable community.
Landscape planning helps communities and governments protect the value of services provided by wetlands, swamps, and barrier islands, which provide natural flood and storm protection plus water filtration. The value of these services has been estimated at $70 billion annually.
Sustainably managed and lightly used habitat for native plants, birds, bees and beasts provides critical ecosystem services like pollination, pest predation, and wildfire and land slip protection, along with being culturally significant, beautiful and valuable in its own right.
Thriving communities are driven by engaged citizens who have real opportunities to affect the development of their economies and environments: exactly what integrated landscape management is all about.
Siting solar, wind, hydropower and other renewable energy projects so they have neutral or positive impacts on other goals, like food security, biodiversity protection and human health is best achieved at a landscape level.
Landscape planning ensures riparian buffer zones are maintained to prevent soil erosion and siltation of rivers and streams, store rainwater and filter agricultural runoff. This keeps clean water available for downstream users, and improves fisheries and hydroelectric power efficiency.
Agroforestry systems like shade coffee, cocoa, tea, and multi-story annual-perennial systems improve the food security, resilience and livelihoods of farmers and their neighbours in town and downstream, while providing habitat and renewable building materials.
Sustainable management of forests and trees preserves biodiversity and secures the long-term wellbeing of people who rely on timber and non-timber forest products for income and cultural traditions.
Economic growth, improved health and well-being, increased social inclusion, and food security help ensure that investments in education achieve transformative educational outcomes.
Community-based fisheries management is a critical starting point for more systematic planning of contributing ecosystem services in the landscape, connecting human activities on land, including greenhouse gas emissions and consumption and production patterns with the preservation of healthy oceans.
Space, training and time for household food production are not trivial, and are rarely considered in development initiatives unless local knowledge is included. They provide important food security in times of shortage or economic stress.
Integrated landscapes provide the environment, the platforms for investment, and the opportunities for employment and education that help rural communities, where 75% of the world’s poor live, prosper and thrive.
Click the buttons on the image below to see how integrated landscape management allows interventions in the landscape to help achieve multiple sustainable development goals.Take a Look
Since UN Member States have recognized that the Sustainable Development Goals are indivisible and should be implemented in an integrated manner, achieving the goals will require overturning the business-as-usual single-sector and siloed approach to development.
Integrated Landscape Management (ILM) is a stark alternative to the business-as-usual approach that has reinforced current unsustainable development and business models. ILM ensures that by collaboratively managing the underlying natural resources and ecosystem services in a landscape to satisfy multiple objectives, societal needs can be met in the short and long term.
Integrated landscape management (ILM) describes a variety of natural resource management strategies that share these five features: broad multi-sector stakeholder participation; negotiation about objectives and strategies; explicitly spatial planning processes; adaptive management based on shared learning; and sustainability as a guiding principle.
Integrated landscape management offers an action-oriented means to achieve multiple SDG targets simultaneously at local and subnational levels.
Collaborative planning and action at landscape scale in particular is essential to support improved coordination, the identification of synergies, and the management of trade-offs.
In Integrated Landscape Management stakeholders share evidence, information and best practices. Planning, implementation and monitoring processes are harmonized. Strategies and plans are coordinated between national, sub-national, and local governments, making the best use of scarce financial resources by reducing redundancies and risk, and increasing returns by capturing the added value of synergies.
As a home to national parks and bird sanctuaries and over 700,000 people, and the focal point of Kenya’s export flower industry, the Lake Naivasha Basin of Kenya epitomizes a diverse landscape. However, poor agriculture practices, over-abstraction of water, and uncoordinated resource management strain the environmental health of the basin and the floriculture, horticulture, agriculture, and tourism industries that support the majority of the local economy.
In response, the Imarisha Naivasha Board was created to bring diverse stakeholders together, including local government, non-governmental organizations, commercial flower growers, small scale farmers, pastoralists, community groups and citizens, to develop an integrated basin management plan and cooperate to restore the water catchment area. To this end, Imarisha Naivasha adopted the “Lake Naivasha Integrated Management Plan” laying out the goals of development in the basin and a “Sustainable Development Action Plan” outlining specific objectives to be accomplished in five year increments. These stakeholder-developed planning documents form the basis of Imarisha Naivasha’s current endeavors in pursuit of sustainable development in the basin.
By including all stakeholders, interventions are targeted more strategically and everyone is invested in the fairness of benefit distribution, preventing political and social opposition to development plans.
Water action without collaborative management would have failed to create progress toward other goals within the Naivasha landscape: strong institutions, decent work and economic growth, gender equality, and responsible consumption and production. A coordinated response to myriad environmental and social risks identified synergistic investments and interventions, lowering costs for both mitigation and adaptation. Federal government support for the initiative has lowered barriers to multi-jurisdictional management and helped convene key stakeholders, important examples of the key role national policymakers have to play in supporting ILM.
“You are not outside of me and I am not outside of you. You are more than just my
environment. You are nothing less than myself.”
Integrated landscape management has been implemented and is successful in a wide range of environments and cultures across the globe, providing practical examples of place-based implementation to enhance ecosystems and livelihoods.
Some countries are pioneers in promoting more integrated, participatory and adaptive approaches to sustainable landscape management to achieve their ambitious national development goals. They have valuable lessons to share about supporting such approaches.
For example, Rwanda has adopted a national landscape restoration strategy with a goal of improving rural livelihoods while enhancing forest and land resources. Ethiopia is overcoming chronic food insecurity with landscape approaches to agricultural restoration and water management. In Colombia, public-private partnerships for integrated watershed management are improving water quality and lowering municipal water treatment costs while also reducing business risks for commercial brewers. Indonesia is adopting integrated landscape approaches to conserve forest in areas of rapid agricultural development. Eight nations in Central America are implementing an area-based approach to rural development that supports participatory regional planning to address agriculture, environment, health, human development and climate change in an integrated way.
In Ethiopia, chronic food insecurity, extreme poverty, poor health and sanitation and land degradation have gone hand in hand since the famous famines of the 1970s. But in the last 15 years, landscape restoration, planned and implemented at the community level, has helped abate the crisis. Now, integrated landscape management is helping these communities move beyond emergency response to sustainable development.
The Aba Gerima landscape is one of dozens of micro-watersheds, ranging in size from 900 hectares to about 5000 ha, that are integrating technical, institutional and knowledge management interventions through a multi-stakeholder approach. Local people have successfully rehabilitated degraded areas and improved crop lands using physical and biological soil conservation measures.
The introduction and promotion of improved agricultural technologies of crop, livestock and farm mechanization helped to intensify agricultural production and improve the productivity of the farming system. Finally, livelihood innovations targeting youth and women such as honey production, nursery development, sheep and poultry rearing, and energy saving stoves are improving individual livelihoods and providing services to the community.
“Addressing the challenges of climate adaptation, water stewardship and building community relations all require ‘more than the sum of the parts’ thinking.”
The International community, donors, investors, and national governments should prioritize support for integrated place-based - rather than sector-based - development finance.
Recent analysis points to these key conditions for scaling up integrated landscape management.
Laws and regulations need to be coherent and consistent across the landscape. Policies should be both vertically and horizontally coherent: that is, they should be synchronized between levels of government and across jurisdictions.
Rights and control over resources and decision making must lie with the stakeholders in order for them to invest in platforms for negotiation and and long-term strategies and plans.
Coordinated finance is needed to support planning and monitoring as well as on-the-ground activities. Multi-stakeholder decision-making platforms need resources to convene and facilitate, support knowledge-sharing, and create and maintain partnerships, in addition to funds for programs or projects. These resources are not waste. They create valuable social goods and are explicitly called for by SDGs 16 and 17.
Within landscapes, research shows, key capacities are needed to effectively implement ILM.
Commitment to collaborative management by stakeholders is key. This includes both stakeholders within the landscape, such as producers’ organizations, local government, civil society groups and businesses, as well as stakeholders outside of the landscape at regional, national and even international levels.
Spatial and technical information, such as maps of important areas for biodiversity, agriculture and hydrology, is essential to plan strategically for a multi-functional landscape. Adoption of ILM also often requires technical information and capacity, such as improved varieties of crops or enhanced biodiversity conservation techniques.
Incentives for individual land managers, such as market-based premiums for improved practices or payments for the provision of ecosystem services, are often needed to spread practices that promote ILM, since many lack the capital needed to make changes.
Surveys of integrated landscape initiatives (ILIs) reveal that many are trying, and failing, to meaningfully engage business in integrated planning. Around the world, only 1 in 5 surveyed ILIs reported having private sector partners.
Private sector involvement is vital. Without engaging this critical sector in proactive collaborative planning, we will continue a pattern of resource conflict, miss major opportunities to transform financial flows, and frankly, fail to address a root cause of unsustainable development. Both regulatory and voluntary measures will be necessary to get business on board, but many leading companies are already making integrated landscape management a part of their sourcing or operations strategies.
The world’s second largest brewer found it needed landscape approaches to secure water and its reputation in South Africa, Colombia, and around the world. The company faced operational, reputational and regulatory risks to the business based on water quantity and quality concerns, including risks to its agricultural supply chain from water scarcity and declining water quality. They determined that the most appropriate scale to address shared risk was with local communities, governments, stakeholders and businesses involved in the water catchments and ecosystems.
So SABMiller looked “beyond the breweries” to the landscape and communities it operates in to identify shared responsibilities and to craft shared solutions. Specifically, they focused on establishing a farmer-led water user initiative and a groundwater monitoring process and working with municipalities to improve water treatment facilities.
In Colombia, deforestation and degradation in the ‘páramo’–mountainous uplands—of the water catchment brought on by clearing for livestock grazing and agriculture negatively impacted Bogotá’s water quality. Declining water quality created additional costs for the Aqueduct and Sewage Company of Bogotá, which were passed on to water users. Bavaria recognized the solution to escalating water costs lay in addressing unsustainable agricultural practices in the water catchment. The Nature Conservancy, the National Parks System, the Aqueduct and Sewage Company of Bogotá and Bavaria (SABMiller’s Colombian subsidiary) partnered to address the issue at its source. The established a payments for ecosystem services (PES) scheme led by The Nature Conservancy and municipality to affect land use and protect the ecosystem in the páramo. Farmers and ranchers receive payments for improved practices The city of Bogotá is particularly glad to participate: improved watershed management has helped them save $3,000,000/year on water treatment costs.
For SAB in South Africa near the southwestern Cape towns of George and Oudtshoorn, water scarcity for its hops suppliers stood to increase production costs at least $700,000 per year. Invasive tree species reduced surface water runoff, decreasing available surface water by 40% by 2032. A situation assessment identified extreme poverty in the Oudtshoorn area as a concern, as 40% of residents earned no income. Water scarcity is a major constraint to economic development, and thus this issue was prioritized by the partnership.
Through addressing water risks in partnership with local stakeholders and municipal governments SAB achieved the integrated landscape management approach it sought, based on recognition of shared risks and responsibilities. SAB was able to contribute to the creation of 50 jobs, benefitting 900 people in a region faced with high unemployment. This in turn helped SABMiller nurture the local workforce it relies on for skilled labor in hops and barley cultivation. The intervention promotes long-term local ecosystem resilience, insuring SAB’s operations, the municipalities, and upland farmers against future environmental catastrophes.
“We need scientific approaches that overcome barriers between disciplines and methods. We need a holistic vision of the challenges to build integrated responses. And we need local and global political leadership informed by solid science and innovative approaches to problem solving.”
Institutional capacity development, inter-disciplinary research models, public-private partnerships, and effective monitoring are necessary to make the SDG development agenda a success.
Governments will require guidance and support as they look to implement the SDGs within specific national contexts over the next 15 years. Sub-national and local governments will be instrumental in implementing and monitoring interventions, yet institutional capacity to do so remains low. Capacity development—in strategic planning, building multi-stakeholder partnerships, on-the-ground tools development (particularly to address trade-offs and prioritization of actions) and their technical application, monitoring and assessment—is urgently important.
National and sub-national governments will also need to partner with private sector enterprises large and small to build real sustainability into economic growth models. And, monitoring and feedback will need to be part of any implementation plan, so that governments know whether they are on track to reach milestones and targets.
The Mount Kailash Sacred Landscape covers more than 31.000 km2, spanning parts of the southwestern Tibetan Autonomous Region, China, the north-western part of Nepal and north-eastern part of Uttarakhand State, India. Kailash has been for thousands of years a sacred site of supreme importance for the majority of religious groups in Asia, namely Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and Bon. Every year, one hundred thousand pilgrims visit this sacred mountain and surrounding sites in a remote part of western China. The region is characterized by its rich biodiversity and varying ecosystems. Four major river systems emerge inform this region: the Indus, the Karnali/Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Sutlej. These rivers provide irrigation, hydropower generation and a source of life for millions of households downstream in the joining parts of Nepal and India.
The Kailash Sacred Landscape covers more than 31.000 km2, spanning parts of the southwestern Tibetan Autonomous Region, China, the north-western part of Nepal and north-eastern part of Uttarakhand State, India. Its boundaries were defined on the basis of cultural and ecological criteria, watersheds, common livelihood practices and administrative frontiers.
In recent years, changes in rainfall patterns and degradation of natural resources have forced people to change their traditional livelihood systems based on agriculture and collection of forest products. Migration (mainly by men) due to unemployment and the need for education is on the rise, leaving women, elders and children behind in the villages. While local communities and national governments in India, China and Nepal are aware of the diverse ecology of the region, they also understand the future challenges linked to climate change, interactions between upstream activities and downstream disasters, and knowledge gaps on long term climate, ecological and other data. Yet their different interests and the different ways in which they approach such challenges hindered collaboration for a long time.
However, in 2005, with the encouragement of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), the three countries agreed to take an integrated holistic approach towards the different conservation and development issues within this unique landscape. Despite different interests and cultures, the stakeholders agreed on shared objectives for the Kailash Sacred Landscape. Based on these objectives they produced feasibility assessments, a regional cooperation framework, a regional conservation and development strategy and a regional communication and knowledge management strategy.
In addition to specific activities under each objective, partners agreed on the organisation of regular workshops and forums to build the capacity of stakeholders on all levels. Partners also worked to ensure that project plans were linked to national plans in each country. Implementation began in 2011 and is currently planned through 2017.
Despite challenges, the project has already achieved significant impacts in terms of improving regional cooperation and collaboration between the various stakeholders in the field. For example, for the first time, tour operators and other tourism[ stakeholders in China, India and Nepal are working together towards more sustainable tourism in the Kailash Sacred Landscape. The nomination of the Kailash Sacred Landscape as a trans-national World Heritage Site by UNESCO is now under discussion. This listing would help cement future cooperation at the landscape scale between the three states.
Integrated landscape management—with its emphasis on multi-stakeholder participation and negotiation, inter-sectoral coordination, and using natural resources creatively to create renewable value—is the best way to empower everybody to create a sustainable future for humanity.
The partners of the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative, more than 80 international, regional and local development, conservation and agriculture organizations are already helping national governments tackle the challenges of sustainable development through ILM.Get In Touch