Climate Smart Agriculture Sourcebook

Managing landscapes for Climate-Smart Agriculture systems


Landscape approaches: key concepts

There are many different ways of applying landscape approaches. The different approaches will reflect different entry points, processes and institutional arrangements (Scherr, Shames and Friedman, 2013). Box A3.1 present a list of definitions related to landscape and landscape approaches. According to Minang et al. (2015, p.8) a landscape approach:

“refers to a set of concepts, tools, methods and approaches deployed in landscapes in a bid to achieve multiple economic, social, environmental objectives (multifunctionality) through processes that recognize, reconcile and synergize interests, attitudes and actions of multiple actors” 

In a background paper for the 2012 Second Global Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change, FAO noted that the landscape approach: 

“deals with large-scale processes in an integrated and multidisciplinary manner, combining natural resources management with environmental and livelihood considerations. .... The landscape approach also factors in human activities and their institutions, viewing them as an integral part of the system rather than as external agents. This approach recognizes that the root causes of problems may not be site-specific and that a development agenda requires multistakeholder interventions to negotiate and implement actions” (FAO, 2012a, p.5).

Another important factor in landscape approaches is the management of production systems and natural resources in an area that is large enough to produce vital ecosystem services and small enough to be managed by the people using the land and producing those services (FAO, 2013). Landscape approaches involve long-term collaboration among different groups of land managers and stakeholders to achieve multiple objectives and expectations within the landscape for local livelihoods, health and well-being (LPFN, 2016).

Box A3.1 Defining landscapes

This sourcebook has adopted the definition of 'landscape' proposed by the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative:

"A landscape is a social-ecological system that consists of a mosaic of natural and/or human-modified ecosystems, often with a characteristic configuration of topography, vegetation, land use, and settlements that is influenced by the ecological, historical, economic and cultural processes and activities of the area" (LPFN, 2016). 

A landscape can also be defined as the interaction between human actions, ecosystems and the abiotic factors that shape the physical environment (see Figure A3.1). Landscape approaches are based on “an overarching principle of concept and implementation rather than the retreat into the compartmentalization and order that we all seem to strive for” (Sunderland, 2014). 

Figure A3.1 Landscape as interaction between human actions, ecosystems and the abiotic factors that shape the physical environment (Minang et al., 2015; Scherr, 2013).

The ten principles of landscape approaches have been established by Sayer et al., 2013 and have been accepted by the Convention for Biodiversity. They include:

  • continued learning and adaptation,
  • common concern entry point,
  • multiple scales,
  • multifunctionality,
  • multiple stakeholders,
  • negotiated and transparent change logic,
  • clarification of rights and responsibilities,
  • participatory and user friendly monitoring,
  • resilience,
  • strengthened stakeholder capacity.