FAO in North America

Linking Territorial Development and Integrated Landscape Management


30 April 2020 - FAO North America and EcoAgriculture Partners hosted a virtual Landscape Roundtable on territorial approaches to development and their relationship with integrated landscape management, and rural-urban linkages.

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 an interactive Q & A session with many comments.

“Territorial approaches can be a powerful tool for improving development outcomes, especially as we grapple with the current COVID-19 pandemic and its likely impact on the global economy,” said Vimlendra Sharan, Director of the FAO North America in his welcoming remarks. 

Territorial approaches to development, or multi-stakeholder approaches implemented at a defined spatial level, have the ability to address the complexity of economic, social and environmental transformations happening in a globalized world.

Sara Scherr, President and CEO of EcoAgriculture Partners, launched the discussion, highlighting that large communities of practice around territorial development and the integrated landscape management, emerged out of widespread dissatisfaction with more traditional, top-down development paradigms.

“While landscape approaches tend to prioritize more the biophysical and ecological objectives, the territorial approach looks more at the socio-economic objectives,” said Vera Boerger, Communication for Development Education and Extension Officer for FAO’s Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean. “We need to integrate these two approaches in order to achieve sustainable development.”

A project that FAO implemented in several countries confirmed that countries are increasingly adopting landscape and territorial development approaches into their national development and environment strategies and policies. In a workshop conducted by the project, Boerger stated, “participants also recognized that social dialogue and negotiation, inclusive participation, and ecological integrity are core components of both approaches. Because of different entry points, they have different objectives and sometimes result in different policies, which sometimes don’t come together.”

Louise Buck, Lead Collaborative Management at EcoAgriculture Partners, explained how donors apply different approaches depending on their orientation. “With urban and peri-urban city regions where decentralized governance outcome is the focus, a territorial development seems to predominate. In rural areas where agricultural land uses are prominent and natural restoration is the goal, landscape approaches tend to predominate,” said Buck. Moreover, the two geographic spheres are overlapping, particularly in the food systems application.

“The landscape approach stands to learn from principles and practices for mobilizing grassroots local agency where political struggle may be required to overcome the status quo,” added Buck. While territorial development can learn from the landscapes approach the “inherent dependence of social wellbeing and ecosystem function,” she added.

“The best and possibly only way not to leave anyone or any place behind, and to address inequality, while delivering economic, social and environmental wellbeing is through a combination of landscape and territorial approaches,” said Thomas Forster, Principal at Practice2Policy.

Forster shared principles that have emerged from global proceedings, such as the Living Territories Conference, that cut across the two approaches, as well as tensions between them - noting that polarities between them can be the subject of integration. He emphasized the need to take stock of global experiences, which FAO is working on with GIZ and CIRAD through examples in Asia, Latin America and Africa.

“We need to counterbalance globalization with solidarity,” said Patrick Caron, Director General in charge of Research and Strategy at CIRAD, the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development, in his response to the featured speaker’s remarks. He noted that the current COVID-19 pandemic has increased the relevance of territorial development approaches in response to the crisis.

“The territorial approach is critical for UN Habitat,” said Remy Sietchiping, who leads the Regional and Metropolitan Planning Unit for the Organization. He added that looking at local governments is critical for multi-scale action, since urban and rural linkages cut-across different administrations. The new urban agenda will look at how to optimize resources available to enable effective actions. 

Florence Egal, who formerly worked with FAO for 25 years on nutrition, underscored that approaching issues from a bioregional perspective, rather than a country-by-country, can be a more effective way of addressing sustainability and food systems. 

The interactive session highlighted the need for more synergies between the territorial development and integrated landscape management approaches in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Watch the full webinar.