Landscape Scale Approaches


The Global Landscape Forum at the University of Warsaw brought together NGOs from all over the world.  It is a new combination of what used to be two different events discussing forests and agriculture in mitigating and adapting to climate change: Forest Day and Agriculture, Landscapes and Livelihoods Day.

Many of the NGOs have projects in Indonesia, East Africa, and Latin America, primarily in the 16 countries which are supported by UN-REDD funds.  All 16 of these countries have submitted and had approved National Programme Documents.

Exhibitors NGO projects highlighted the role sustainable landscapes can play in providing food, shelter, income and ecosystem services and environmental goods.

“The objective [of the Global Landscape Forum] is to develop the potential of the landscape approach to inform future UNFCCC agreements and the achievement of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals.” – conference website.

At the moment, it appears many countries are continuing forward in building the internal mechanisms for REDD+ implementation, monitoring, verification, and reporting in anticipation of it being incorporated into the next international agreement, which everyone seems to be expecting in two years in Paris.


The permaculture practitioner in me was excited by the projects discussed in the “New generation of integrated watershed management (IWM) programs for rural development, resilience and empowerment” session. In particular, the work in Burundi, Tanzania, and Ethiopia discussed by Sally Bunning, of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Land and Water Division, is using techniques such as “contour trenches” (“swales” in permaculture terminology) to infiltrate the small amount of rainfall that falls on very arid areas.  The transformation of desert to green, productive landscapes were stunning.  Key to doing this was working closely with the farmers, using farmer field school approach in which farmers learn by doing, monitoring, and determining the progress for themselves.  In doing so, the farmers become advocates themselves and teach others, spreading the impact.


“Landscape scale approaches” are the hot topic here at the conference. What they’re talking about is the need for systems thinking that permaculture has developed and continues to refine, but they don’t use the word “Permaculture”. It starts with looking at the needs of farmers, the inputs, outputs, and small changes that can have large effects, and integrating issues at the small scale with consideration of patterns across the landscape. Designing from patterns to details.  Tony La Viña, a negotiator from the Philippines and one of the key negotiators on LULUCF in the Kyoto Protocol, calls the landscape approach “an integrated adaptation / mitigation approach to climate change.”

The final concluding remarks on this conference by CIFOR Director Peter Holmgren highlighted three key points for REDD+ and the UNFCCC:
  • more integration, of people and communities to landscape and national scale
  • get action going on the ground
  • be people-centered