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Managing landscapes for Climate-Smart Agriculture systems


Step-by-step landscape approach to prioritize sustainable land management investments

The FAO Land and Water Division is implementing a GEF project, 'Decision support for scaling up and mainstreaming sustainable land management (DS-SLM)' in fifteen countries in Africa (Lesotho, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia), East and South Asia (Bangladesh, China, Philippines and Thailand), Europe and Central Asia (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkey and Uzbekistan) and South and Central America (Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador and Panama). The main scientific partner is the WOCAT Consortium through its Secretariat, which is hosted by the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) of Berne University. The expanded consortium – CDE, FAO, World Soil Information (ISRIC), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Area (ICARDA) and International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) – is expected to enhance the outreach and impacts and support south-south cooperation.

The project has adopted a modular structure. In this structure, landscape management represents an essential step for scaling up sustainable and productive management practices and land-use systems on the ground, and integrating sectoral activities and investments through a coherent planning, implementation and monitoring process. The project utilizes the multiscale assessment method that was developed within the global GEF LADA project (2006-2010). The LADA-WOCAT method, which was developed, tested and peer reviewed in six countries with many specialists worldwide, includes a global, national, and local methodology for land degradation and sustainable land management assessment, mapping and documentation. The methods and tools integrate socio-economic and biophysical considerations related to the type, degree, trends and causes of land degradation. It also analyses climate change as a cause of degradation and details how it is perceived, its current impacts, and expected trends. Climate change is analysed in terms of its impacts on water and soil degradation, loss of biodiversity and soil cover, and for its economical and socio-cultural effects. In addition, LADA allows for an analysing of the impacts of climate change on productive, regulatory and socio-economic ecosystem services. To support planning, both the negative and positive impacts of climate change on ecosystem services can be estimated, which permits decision-makers to plan accordingly. For practices that have proven to be successful in curbing land degradation, the LADA method also allow for an assessment of their impact on ecosystem services, which can provide guidance to decision-makers dealing with climate change and other issues.

The steps to implement the landscape approach and support decision-making for more sustainable land management in a specific country or area are presented below.

  1. Define the national strategy and develop an action plan for implementing sustainable land management, scaling up activities on the on the ground, and mainstreaming it into policy processes.
  2. Undertake a participatory wide-scale assessment to identify hot spots and bright spots and determine priorities for intervention using the LADA-WOCAT mapping questionnaire.
  3. Based on the assessment findings, select the priority landscapes for intervention (e.g. landscapes where ongoing sustainable land management practices have not significantly decreased land degradation and its impacts, or where there the degradation is most likely associated with socio-economic and policy constraints).
  4. In the selected landscapes, undertake a detailed assessment to select most suitable ('best') practices, based on livelihood and natural resources, using the LADA-Local diagnostic tool and the WOCAT tools (i.e. the questionnaire for technologies, the questionnaire for approaches and databases) for the analysis and documentation. Other tools can be combined to assess, for example, the carbon balance and resilience to climate change. 
  5. Develop and implement in each landscape, a territorial management plan with the participation of all stakeholders, including those from marginalized groups. 
  6. Scale up the implementation of the best sustainable land management technologies  and approaches that were selected in the landscape assessment and agreed upon in the development plans, ensuring the 'buy in' from all stakeholders.

Figure 1. The DS-SLM project modular structure is a good example of the step-by-step implementation of a landscape approach.