The landscape approach for meeting the climate challenge: Examples from Africa

A series of eye-opening case studies from Africa take up a 44-page section of a new ICRAF publication that brings together, for the first time, original research and syntheses on landscape approaches to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The programmes analysed in the section seek to put the concept of Climate Smart Landscapes into practice across large productive landscapes. They cover Kenya’s premier tea-growing district, cocoa agroforestry systems in Cameroon, and the Congo Basin Forests that cover 300 million hectares and span six countries in Central and West Africa. Read more…

‘Diversity matters,’ and other secrets of successful landscape restoration

“My thinking about restoration has gone through a complete turn-around since starting work on this project,” Rhett Harrison, a tropical forest ecologist with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)’s East & Central Asia regional office, told the audience at Tree Diversity Day 2014.

Based on his knowledge of two large-scale projects that have ICRAF as a partner, Harrison went on to give some important tips and considerations for successful forest and land restoration.Read more. . .

Taking the pulse on biodiversity and environmental health: decision support tools, metrics and indicators

Without uniform standards for measurement and evaluation (metrics), and agreement on what to measure (indicators), it is hard to judge how things are progressing, particularly at the landscape scale. Metrics and indicators become particularly important when assessing long-term (and frequently costly) projects such as land restoration aimed at improving ecosystems and biodiversity. And they are crucial for looking at progress towards the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and similar global environmental goals.

A session of Tree Diversity Day 2014, organized by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) at the 12th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP12), was dedicated to this very topic. The session’s three speakers described and discussed recently developed tools and best practices for taking the pulse on biodiversity and environmental health.Read more. . .

Breathing life into degraded landscapes with trees: Restoration in Korea, South Africa and Ethiopia

South Korea, South Africa and Ethiopia are among the many countries around the world that have successfully used or are now applying the power of trees to restore degraded landscapes and bring back life-giving ecosystem services and biodiversity.

The audience at Tree Diversity Day 2014 got insights into the efforts of these countries, and learned that landscape restoration is hard work that needs long-term commitment, spanning the breath of the populace—from the highest levels of government to grassroots communities.Read more. . .

Native trees in African drylands serve as water harvesters

Native trees that dot African dryland areas bring a welcome respite from the tropical sun. In addition, and contrary to old assumptions, they “… may function as water harvesters, contributing to deeper drainage and recharge.” They might thereby help recharge groundwater bodies.

These findings by researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), recently published in the journal Water Resources Research, refute the commonly held notion that trees in drylands worsen water scarcity.Read more. . .

Sustainable land management depends heavily on a farmer’s overall income

Faced with the unreliable weather patterns in a changing climate, high population, and shrinking farm sizes, subsistence farmers in Africa are turning to various coping mechanisms in order to ensure a crop and some income.

A survey in Western Kenya found that sustainable land management methods, such as terracing to control soil erosion, agroforestry, and using manure to improve soil fertility, were being financed with income from off-farm activities. Farmers often raised the money by exploiting communal land to obtain products for sale (so-called ‘Natural Resource Management-based income-generation’), or by working on others’ farms as paid labour.Read more. . .

Mapping, for the people, by the people

“We want mapping to be easy…” Tor-Gunnar Vågen stated at a recent seminar. “… and fun.”

The senior scientist and leader of the Geoscience Lab at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), was demonstrating the features of the new Landscapes Portal, a map website with enormous promise.­­

Soft-launched in January 2014, the Landscapes Portal allows anyone, anywhere, to share, search, visualize and download spatial data from landscapes around the world. By gathering data from users worldwide (crowdsourcing), the portal is expected to improve the availability of location-specific data on natural resources and related phenomena, at better resolution (detail) than previously accessible.Read more. . .

Kenya’s southwest Mau and Vietnam’s highland regions set to become models in sustainable landscape management

Looking out over tea fields to the Mau Forest. Photo courtesy of BBC World Service: One Planet via Flik.
Looking out over tea fields to the Mau Forest. Photo courtesy of BBC World Service: One Planet via Flik.

A new initiative launched on 28 February 2014 will be carry out projects in Kenya and Vietnam, projects whose success could serve as an example for integrated and sustainable land and water management for productive landscapes.

The initiative, called the Sustainable Land and Water Program, will seek to address the joint challenges associated with water, erosion, land, climate and food security. The two project areas are the tea-growing Southwest Mau Forest region of Kenya and the coffee-growing Central highlands of Vietnam. These were selected because they are important for commodity production, but they also provide critically important environmental services beyond their immediate boundaries.Read more. . .

For smallholders, an abundance of opportunities in climate-smart farming

Rose Koech, a farmer in Bomet, Kenya, cuts calliandra shrub for her dairy cattle. She is a member of the East Africa Dairy Development Project. Photo by Sherry
Rose Koech, a farmer in Bomet, Kenya, cuts calliandra shrub for her dairy cattle. She is a member of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded East Africa Dairy Development (EADD) project. Photo by Sherry Odeyo/ICRAF

The landscape appears ripe with opportunity for small-scale farmers worldwide, as their contribution towards feeding the world and fuelling development amidst a changing climate is more widely acknowledged.

“That smallholder farmers’ role in food production and natural resource stewardship is recognized as one of the quickest ways to lift over one billion people out of poverty and sustainably nourish a growing world population is an outstanding opportunity in itself. We should not lose sight of this focus,” said Delia Catacutan, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) senior social scientist, gender program coordinator, and Vietnam country representative.

Catacutan said many fresh prospects for the world’s billions of small-scale producers in developing countries are also coming from “trends towards increasingly secure land tenure and property rights; pro-poor food security initiatives; freer trade across national borders; and private-sector investments in smallholder agriculture value chains.”Read more. . .

Resilient landscapes need the involvement of local people

Communities hold a crucial piece of the resilient-landscapes puzzle, say experts.

Community members have much to offer in the design of resilient landscapes. Photo by Sammy Carsan/ICRAF

Speaking on 17 November at a discussion session titled ‘Building resilient landscapes for food security and sustainable livelihoods,’ Tony Simons, Director-General of World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), advocated for an approach that includes, involves and learns from the custodians of landscapes—the local communities living in them. He said we need to better “understand the needs, resources needed, and opportunity costs of natural resource management,” for resilient, climate smart landscapes.

Simons also discussed carbon markets, which put a price on a tonne of  carbon dioxide (CO2) captured (see Africa’s Biocarbon Experience [PDF]). “Carbon is the most variably priced commodity on earth, from $50 per tonne as firewood, to $100 million per tonne as diamond. We need to move beyond putting a price on carbon, and consider instead the value of trees in the landscape, as providers of essential ecosystem services,” he stated.Read more. . .