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Building Partnerships for Landscape Stewardship

by Sara J. Scherr, Louise E. Buck (orginally appeared on the Project Hercules cultural landscapes blog)

A defining feature of integrated landscape management is long-term multi-stakeholder partnership among different groups of land managers and resource users. Agreeing on and sustaining good landscape stewardship at scale builds on effective partnerships at multiple levels. These ideas are not new, and thousands of landscape initiatives are underway today around the world based on multi-stakeholder partnership models. Methods and tools have been developed to support partners who come from very different perspectives to collaboratively assess their landscapes, negotiate priority objectives, design strategies and interventions, sustain partnership processes and monitor for adaptive management. Policymakers at national and international levels are beginning to recognize the value of landscape partnerships, with their focus on local development, social, environmental and cultural priorities, for shaping high-level strategies to achieve national goals and ensure we live within planetary ecosystem boundaries.

The broad principles of landscape partnerships are fairly well developed and widely agreed (Sayer, et al; Scherr et al, 2014; Kozar et al., 2014). The state of landscape multi-stakeholder partnerships today is that partners are involved primarily because they view partnerships as necessary to realizing their own goals, in the context of multiple legitimate claims on land and resources by different stakeholders. But they are not particularly good at it. More than 80 different communities of practices have arisen to implement integrated landscape management from different entry points and with different philosophies, and there is much ‘reinventing the wheel’. Most trainings and tools are still stakeholder-specific, rather than designed explicitly to engage different stakeholder perspectives. Professional education remains focused on specific disciplines. There are few pathways for professional development as landscape partnership facilitators. Even the most seemingly successful landscape initiatives self-identify major weaknesses in their capacities for collaborative decision-making, monitoring and impact assessment, cross-stakeholder communications and other specific skills.

If the rapid growth in landscape stewardship is to bear the fruit of its potential, we must become more serious about ensuring quality partnerships. It is important to find ways to streamline learning in the core competencies of individuals and institutions to participate in and lead landscape initiatives. Professional education and trainings need to be reoriented to include roles in cross-stakeholder facilitation. To enable the full effectiveness and scaling up of landscape initiatives, new types of organizations operating beyond the landscape must learn to partner with landscape stewardship platforms, such as financial institutions and national-level public agencies. To address this exploding need for improved capacities for ILM, partners in the international Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative are setting up national ‘learning networks’ for landscape leaders in Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Brazil and other countries; developing a ‘Landscape Academy’ (without walls) in Africa, and working with universities to strengthen curricula for ILM. National, regional and international cooperation in the development of such landscape partnership programs could greatly enhance landscape stewardship worldwide.

This blog contribution is part of a series on the science and practice of landscape stewardship and will be further elaborated in the course of a book chapter.
 We are looking for real-world cases of good practices that exemplify the principles of landscape stewardship and that serve as a model to inspire implementation in other landscapes. Please share examples or thoughts by adding a comment!

Kozar, R., Buck, L.E., Barrow, E.G., Sunderland, T.C.H., Catacutan, D.E., Planicka, C., Hart, A.K., and L. Willemen (2014). Toward viable landscape governance systems: What works? Washington, DC: EcoAgriculture Partners on behalf of the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative.

Sayer, J, T Sunderland, J Ghazoul, J Pfund, D Sheil, E Meijaard, M Venter, AK Boedhihartono, M Day, C Garcia, C van Oosten, and LE Buck (2013). Ten principles for a landscape approach to reconciling agriculture, conservation, and other competing land uses. PNAS 110(21): 8349-8356.

Scherr, S.J., Buck, L.E., Willemen. L. and Milder, J.C. (2014). “Ecoagriculture: Integrated landscape management for people, food and nature.” Encyclopedia of Agriculture and Food Systems, 3, 1-17.