Climate Smart Agriculture Sourcebook

Managing landscapes for Climate-Smart Agriculture systems


Governance and decision-making for climate-smart landscape approaches

Ensuring the participation of all stakeholders in the decision-making process is key to enhancing ownership and ensuring strong commitments for the sustainable management of landscapes and the uptake of climate-smart agriculture. The negotiation process must include stakeholders with differential authority, including local officials, local village leaders, land owners, land users, tenant farmers, central government institutions and livestock keepers. A collaborative capacity assessment and facilitated participatory decision-making processes are essential for fostering collaboration and sharing information among different stakeholders (See module C1). To increase agricultural productivity and incomes and deliver environmental benefits, multistakeholder planning and management needs financial support.

The enabling environment for coordinated planning

Within national policy, legislative, and institutional settings, a supportive and integrated policy environment for interventions at the landscape level must replace the traditional 'silo' approach. To implement landscape approaches, joint planning and coordinated interactions among ministries are essential and they can be fostered through cross-sectoral consultation mechanisms. Scherr, Shames and Friedman (2012) highlight that strengthening the capacities for climate-smart landscape planning and implementing climate-smart practices requires land-use planning skills, as well as the capacity to mobilize investments, promote innovation, improve production cycle management. This capacity development is needed to increase productivity and marketability, develop rural businesses, reinforce financial benefits and boost planning and negotiation.

For landscape approaches to be successful, it is necessary to implement a broad planning framework that links diverse planning activities and decision-making processes. If planning is only made at the national or regional level without adequate involvement of local stakeholders, there is a greater likelihood that the implementation of planned activities will not be successful or sustainable. Conversely, activities planned at the landscape or community level that are not supported by enabling policies or governmental authorities may also struggle to succeed due to a variety of constraints, such as insecurity of tenure, poor infrastructure, and inadequate institutions and markets. 

Policies should be developed to support planning processes at local levels and allow communities to manage and benefit from the diverse resources in the landscape, including, for example, forested and cultivated highlands, fertile valleys and watercourses. Local planning processes also need to take into account rural-urban interactions. 

Planning for the sustainable management of transboundary resources (e.g. water, transhumant livestock and wild species) requires coordination among stakeholders with competing claims. This will include groups working to protect the natural environment, and national or multinational institutions, laws and policies, which regulate and create incentives for the sustainable use of resources. 

Institutional capacities are often a crucial bottleneck in creating an enabling environment for implementing landscape approaches for climate-smart agriculture. Scherr, Shames and Friedman (2012) note that the strengthening of institutions and political support for climate-smart landscape planning and implementation through landscape approaches involve systematic comparative analysis of different institutional models to inform programme design. They require flexible governance mechanisms and may also require local flexibility in defining land, forest and water rights and responsibilities. 

A good example of a harmonized approach is the development of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) mechanism of the UNFCCC. REDD+ activities, which also include the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks, address different drivers of deforestation both within and outside the forestry sector. When designing national REDD+ strategies, policies, laws and action plans, consideration can also be given to agricultural and rural development goals, and an integrated landscape approach should be adopted to consider interactions with other land uses. See module B3 and Case Study C1.2 on participatory processes to support improved governance - the REDD+ Participatory Governance Assessment in Indonesia.

In some cases, major policy barriers will need to be removed so that the prioritization of climate-smart development can be ensured and maintained. Some examples of policies that can support a transformative shift to climate-smart agriculture include: 

  • using climate finance as a catalyst to leverage larger flows of public and private funds;
  • establishing social protection systems to support environmental sustainability by minimizing negative coping strategies and enhancing household capacities to invest in sustainable, climate-smart interventions (FAO, 2017a); 
  • maximizing the enforcement of tenure rights (FAO, 2012b); 
  • promoting information technologies that are tailored to the needs of small-scale agricultural producers and developing climate information services that can bridge the gap between data producer and users; 
  • encouraging institutional development that supports mobile services and capacity development methods capable of following producers practicing transhumance to ensure the sustainable use of grazing lands and improve grassland soil carbon stocks; and
  • promoting scenario thinking and data development; improving the accessibility to information for decision-making; and developing appropriate platforms for discussions and the formulation of common strategies.

Policies should be conducive to minimizing trade-offs, optimizing synergies, and monitoring and assessing interactions. To ensure synergies, at the local, national and international level, the core policy framework needs to take into account: 

  • the compatibility and coordination of policies for agricultural development, forest, water, climate, biodiversity conservation and food security, as well as other national priority areas for development; 
  • environmental legislation that acknowledges the potential multiple benefits of climate-smart development, recognizes the rights of farming and pastoral communities, and regulates agricultural production systems and reduces production losses in these systems from mining, tourism, urbanization, fuel production (e.g. fuel wood), energy sources and other demands; and 
  • the removal of public subsidies and incentives that harm biodiversity and agricultural production (e.g. subsidies that encourage degradation of land, water and vegetation).

A good example of a method for designing multisectoral climate-smart policies is the use of the scenario thinking and planning approach. FAO has implemented a scenario-thinking approach in Central Asia to assist in the assessment and rethinking of future multisectoral policies in a changing environment  (see Case Study A3.6, Scenario thinking and the water-energy-food nexus in Central Asia). The scenario-thinking approach brings together a broad range of actors to discuss, clarify and revisit a range of environmental and socio-economic issues and ideally, to arrive at a common vision for the landscape. The FAO Mitigation of Climate Change in Agriculture (MICCA) Programme, together with the Kenya's Climate Change Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) developed a landscape-based consultative process whose overarching recommendations are an example of potential root based policy contribution (see Case Study A3.7, Evidence and policy implications of climate-smart agriculture in Kenya, and Case Study A3.5, Capacity development at multiple-levels for effective implementation of sustainable land management.

Harvey et al. (2014) have proposed a summary of barriers to the integration of adaptation and mitigation goals and activities to create climate-smart landscapes and potential solutions (see Table A3.2).

Table A3.2. Barriers to the integration of adaptation and mitigation goals and activities to create climate-smart landscapes and potential solutions (adapted from Harvey et al., 2014)





  • Adaptation and mitigation agendas are addressed through different policies; discussed in policy debates that rarely linked or coordinated; and led by distinct ministries and engaged in by different constituencies
  • Policies supporting conventional agriculture practices predominate over those supporting climate-smart agricultural strategies
  • Policy planning is short-term, whereas the integration of adaptation and mitigation goals requires long-term planning


  • Develop national strategies and action plans that build on potential synergies related to adaptation and mitigation in agriculture and the reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, for example National Adaptation Programmes (NAPAs), National Adaptation Plans (NAPS) Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) and REDD+.
  • Secure high-level commitments to support conservation agriculture, agroforestry, and other climate-smart practices
  • Promote multistakeholder planning at the local, regional and national level, and in the private sector
  • Raise awareness among policy makers and other decision-makers about agricultural systems that meet climate change adaptation and mitigation goals
  • Promote landscape governance and resource tenure reforms that facilitate and provide incentives for landscape management
  • Strengthen local institutions and extension and advisory services
  • Clarify agriculture's role within the context of REDD+ and UNFCCC decision-making processes
  • Undertake participatory capacity needs assessments to identify strengths, gaps and actionable recommendations for improvement owned and driven by national stakeholders. (See module C1)



  • Adaptation and mitigation funds typically come from different sources and are not coordinated
  • Competition for funding between mitigation and adaptation activities
  • Difficulties in access to capital and technical information by agricultural producers, particularly smallholder producers, to adopt new practices and diversify agricultural landscapes


  • Develop more diverse funding approaches (e.g. eco-certification schemes, incentives or payments for ecosystem services, philanthropic investments, government and private funding) to support climate-smart agriculture, and modify the design of these instruments to ensure they are well integrated
  • Ensure carbon finance initiatives promote the adoption of best practices that combine climate change adaptation and mitigation goals
  • Encourage donors (e.g. bilateral and multilateral organizations, private sector, foundations) to invest in climate-smart agricultural systems
  • Promote strategies that include adaptation as a precondition for obtaining carbon finance for mitigation and conversely, and support mitigation activities in adaptation projects, by engaging, for example, with the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), REDD+, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) or the private sector.
  • Ensure that agriculture is eligible for support from both existing and future climate change funding mechanisms



  • Declines in financial support for agricultural research, extension services, and university programmes limit of transition to climate-smart practices
  • Limited quantitative evidence on potential co-benefits and trade-offs between adaptation on mitigation actions 


  • Develop tools for policy makers and other decision-makers to visualize the potential outcomes of different agricultural strategies on mitigation and adaptation, food production, energy, income, and other related objectives
  • Promote research and development on climate-smart agriculture by universities, state and federal research, and extension services
  • Provide evidence of where and when linking climate change adaptation and mitigation is more beneficial and cost-effective than separate interventions
  • Develop indicators to measure the adaptive capacity of agricultural communities, institutions of production systems, and the impacts of different management practices on productivity, sustainability, food security, incomes, biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services


  • Poverty, culture barriers, limited educational opportunities, a lack of institutional capacities, and insecure land tenure have an impact on the effective adoption of different agricultural practices and land-use decisions by farmers
  • Farm subsidies and national policies do not provide incentives to producers to adopt climate-smart agriculture practices and adopt landscape approaches
  • High investment costs, risks for food security and household well-being, and lack of knowledge and technical support limit farmers' participation in climate-smart agriculture initiatives
  • Promote national-level policy and institutional changes to ensure that farmers have the resources and technical capacities to adopt climate-smart agriculture practices
  • Encourage and support landscape-level governance systems and tenure arrangements that allow for the integration of climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies
  • Encourage donors to support local efforts, especially farmer-led initiatives, that integrate adaptation and mitigation efforts

Assessment for climate-smart planning and decision-making

Expanding landscape management approaches so that they become significant on a global scale will require tapping into multiple sources of knowledge (i.e. scientific, traditional and indigenous knowledge). It will be critical to share knowledge and expand the knowledge base about the multiple uses and users of ecosystems and natural resources. Strengthening institutional capacities for undertaking negotiations and joint strategic planning is also essential. Participation and social inclusion are key principles when carrying out assessments to foster country ownership and commitment, and are crucial ingredients to achieve desired changes. 

Right from the outset, all stakeholders should come to common agreement on the short and longer-term objectives to be met, and understand the potential broader impacts of the proposed management interventions. Lessons also need to be learned from the results of previous interventions. 

It is also necessary to clearly measure, monitor and demonstrate the multiple benefits of promoting landscape-scale interventions and establishing climate-smart production systems. Monitoring objectives must be locally defined, and cover metrics related to productivity and livelihoods, biodiversity and ecosystem services. When embarking on a landscape plan that aims to address multiple objectives, the principles and processes of monitoring should be agreed upon at the beginning through a consultative, participatory process. The tracking of multiple dimensions of change is very important element in the shift away from sectoral goals (Scherr, Shames and Friedman, 2012). Successful monitoring depends on a set of inexpensive and user-friendly integrated metrics that can track the full range of benefits from climate-smart landscape initiatives for the range of stakeholders. These integrated metrics would monitor not only carbon storage, but also the water quantity and quality, biodiversity, and other sociocultural services that are components of a climate-smart landscapes and local livelihood systems. Ideally, the tracking should include the assessment of synergies developed over the course of the landscape intervention (Duguma et al., 2014b). The results of monitoring, particularly on the status of potential compensation measures, the distribution of benefits, and the impacts on rights and conflict resolution, will need to be transparent and easily accessible to all stakeholders (Shames et al., 2011).

FAO has carried out participatory land resources management and livelihoods assessments using the Driving forces, Pressures, States, Impacts and Responses (DPSIR) framework (FAO, 2011b). DPSIR, which is a causal framework for describing the interactions between society and the environment, has been used in more than 25 countries to analyse, using both scientific and traditional knowledge, the status and trends in land management at the local and national levels (see Case Study A3.4 on the step-by-step landscape approach to prioritize sustainable land management investments and Case Study C1.3 on participatory stakeholder capacity assessment to strengthen individual and institutional capacities for adaptation in the Lao People's Democratic Republic).

Box A3.5 Metrics and indicators

Landscape approaches are considered an effective way of addressing climate change at multiple scales. However, they also pose monitoring and evaluation challenges. Landscape approaches require metrics and indicators for assessing the synergies that have been built among activities addressing multiple goals and the progress that been made toward reaching climate-smart agriculture objectives. These metrics and indicators are needed to determine whether the impacts of climate change have been addressed and justify the effectiveness of the landscape management approaches in supporting climate-smart agriculture. 

As indicated in module C9 on monitoring and evaluation, each intervention will need to design a specific and appropriate system of parameters and methods for carrying out quantitative and periodic assessment of processes that need to be measured, and the procedures for implementing these assessments and interpreting their results. This activity will help measure performance and highlight areas for improvement. 

In the application of integrated landscape management, beneficiaries must be able to undertake their own assessment of their own individual needs and the needs of the wider community. Landscape approaches requires the beneficiaries to be part of assessment activities, so that they have the necessary data and information that allow them to engage as equals in negotiations and decision-making processes.

Decision-making processes that can contribute to mainstreaming climate-smart practices involve management planning at the landscape level to reach social, economic and environmental targets. Diverse groups and institutions need to work together to develop strategies for increasing farm incomes and diversifying agricultural economies. At the same time, efforts need to me made to ensure that natural resources are used efficiently and that ecosystem functions and services are sustained over the long term. One of the primary benefits of coordinating efforts at the landscape level is the integration of decision-making processes that can support the achievement of wider objectives and national targets, including the SDGs. 

In Rwanda, FAO has supported the monitoring of climate-smart interventions using local assessments to determine the benefits derived from incentives or payments for ecosystem services. Negotiations and strategic planning processes can be facilitated through the development of databases that integrate local and scientific information, as well as socio-economic and biophysical data on the state of land resources (e.g. soil, water and biological resources), the various drivers of change, climate information, and the impacts of interventions. An example of such an assessment is given in Case study A3.8, Hydrological monitoring helps scaling up watershed services incentives in Rwanda.

Equitable climate-smart landscapes

Often, stakeholders have different visions and understanding of landscape planning and goals, and different entry points and priorities (e.g. land-use systems, risk aversion, increased productivity). Setting-up a successful negotiation process involves taking note of all stakeholders’ interests. This needed to formulate management plans that address land use and resource management, conflict resolution and the minimization of trade-offs. Negotiations should follow procedures and rules that stakeholders have agreed on, and that are enforced by a credible and legitimized third party. This is in line with the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure. Landscape management is an iterative and evolving process that, through multistakeholder involvement, can help tackle and resolve conflicts and facilitate equitable negotiation processes for minority and disadvantageous groups. It can help reach negotiated agreements that involve all stakeholders. For the process to be easily understood and allow for stakeholder involvement in all phases, it needs to be as clear, simple, practical, coherent and feasible as possible given the available resources. The process should also ensure transparency and accountability, so that all stakeholders can meet their responsibilities. 

FAO has developed the Green Negotiated Territorial Development (GreeNTD) approach for multistakeholder engagement to foster a progressive consensus that can ideally lead to a holistic, and negotiated vision for territorial development at multiple scales (FAO, 2016b). The GreeNTD approach promotes a decision-making method that contributes to levelling the power asymmetries among different stakeholders, particularly women, minorities, youth and other marginalized groups. 

A rapidly growing number of researchers have been analysing whether conflicts can be affected by climatic change. Hsiang et al., 2013, have found strong causal evidence linking climatic events to conflicts. Although there has been increased attention and commitment towards empowering women and improving gender equality with regard to access to health and social services in territorial development interventions, the results that have been achieved in translating these commitments into standards and operational practices has been modest. This aspect of development is particularly important in efforts to address climate change because the sensitivity and adaptive capacity of individuals and societies are largely shaped by roles, responsibilities and entitlements associated with various markers of social identities and power relations, including, gender, ethnicity, age, socio-economic class, and caste (Carr and Thompson, 2014). 

Disentangling the complex intersectionality of social inequality and power relations, which can be achieved through the GreenTD approach, is key element in activities to strengthen the resilience of communities and reducing vulnerability, especially for minority groups. An example of FAO work at the landscape scale that is being affected by climate change and conflict is presented, in Case Study A3.9, Mobile pastoralism negotiated vaccination plans enhance landscape-level resilience in Sudan-South Sudan borders). 

Water management and the efficient use of water resources are of fundamental importance in designing landscape approaches for implementing climate-smart production systems that can also contribute to avoiding conflicts. Ecosystem management can also have a key role in this area. Forests and several types of agriculture land management practices, can help store water, reduce run off, protect communities from floods and other extreme weather events. Water management is essential for building resilient production systems and managing the risks associated the impacts of climate change on hydrological regimes and the frequency and intensity of droughts and flooding (see also module B.6). Efficient water resource management involves practices that sustain ecosystem services. These practices need to be based on common agreements among water and land users and other stakeholders on the modalities of use. These agreements will be best achieved through participatory governance processes that are backed up by integrated land-use and resources planning. 

Large hydrological units, such as river basins, need a nested planning approach that involve various stakeholders at various scales. This approach involves linking the detailed management plan for local landscapes, which may be a micro-catchment or community territory, to larger catchment or watershed management plans and a multisector and multistakeholder plan for the river basin. Case Study A3.10, integrated watershed management for a climate-smart development in Uganda and Box C5.7 provide an example of an intervention related to water management deigned to achieve climate-smart agriculture that has grown over time to include landscape management at the watershed level.

Financing landscape approaches

To catalyse landscape-scale interventions for climate-smart agricultural development there is a need to increase access to financing. Achieving financial viability for development initiatives that operate at the landscape level requires that the incomes of all stakeholders are sufficiently high to prevent them from engaging in activities detrimental to local ecosystems and sustainable livelihoods. Several options to create these conditions are outlined in more detail in module C.3 on financial instruments. 

To implement a landscape approach and provide co-financing to climate-smart agriculture activities, mechanisms should be negotiated among multiple users and directed to multiple sectors. These mechanisms can provide incentives to smallholder producers to overcome barriers to the adoption of more environmentally-friendly and climate-smart practices. Incentives for ecosystem services can provide a spectrum of options, ranging from policy-driven incentives to voluntary ones. Funding in this area can be sourced from existing public programmes, private sector investment and civil society initiatives. Improved cross-sectoral coordination of existing co-financed incentives can provide a package of actions to support short-term transitional needs and the long-term sustainability of climate-smart agriculture production systems.

Incentives for applying the landscape approach to implement climate-smart agriculture interventions can be financial or non-financial. Financial incentives can include payments for ecosystem services (PES) – a mechanism to compensate farmers and farming communities for the lost opportunity costs of maintaining ecosystem services. PES can be used as a market-based innovation to scale up sustainable land management and its components, such as sustainable forest management. PES incentives have the added advantage of increasing the financial attractiveness of alternative practices. Non-financial incentives include capacity development, educational initiatives, the provision of inputs and the development of alternative livelihoods. Improving access to higher-value markets, for example through certification for major agricultural commodities (e.g. coffee, tea and cocoa) provide additional incentives for investments in sustainable agricultural initiatives that protect environmental services. 

Several examples of incentive mechanisms of this type already exist in developing countries, such as the Upper Tana Nairobi Water Fund (The Nature Conservancy) in Kenya, the Rio Rural Partnership in Brazil (see Case Study A3.11), Pro-poor Rewards for Environmental Services in Africa (PRESA) Programme (ICRAF) and the Rewards for, Use of and Shared Investment in Pro-poor Environmental Services (RUPES) in Asia (ICRAF). 

There is a need to catalyse landscape-scale interventions by increasing access to finance for climate-smart agricultural development. Incentives for ecosystem services can provide support for an enabling environment to improve the coordination of existing initiatives that can compensate producers for conservation activities. Support for more sustainable, climate-smart production with private sector-led eco-certification initiatives could also be coordinated with large investment programmes to increase access to locally adapted, affordable and high-quality inputs and improve infrastructure (e.g. storage, transport). For climate finance in rural landscapes to be effective, the interventions need to be coordinated with local development activities. 

There are several opportunities for securing additional private and public climate finance (e.g. domestic and foreign direct investment) and bilateral and multilateral climate change funds and programmes, including carbon markets (see module C.3). For example the AFR100 (the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative) is a country-led effort to bring 100 million hectares of land in Africa into restoration by 2030. Initiative 20x20 is a similar country-led effort to bring 20 million hectares of land in Latin America and the Caribbean into restoration by 2020. To harmonize sectoral approaches, climate finance should be linked to agricultural development finance. The implementation of activities to achieve the strategic objectives and priorities that countries have set forth in their NDCs, NAPAs, NAPS and NAMAs can also contribute to landscape-level management. The Green Climate Fund and REDD+ can also support landscape interventions. These national and international policy tools provide the flexibility to fund policy development in support of climate change adaptation and mitigation on a large scale. An example of a success story in this area is presented in Case study A3.11, Financial sustainability for environmental services in Brazil.