EcoAgriculture Partners Newsletter: May 30, 2013
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Engaging Business in 
Ecoagriculture Landscapes
A message from EcoAgriculture Partners' President 
Sara Scherr

Climate change, water insecurity and other resource scarcity, and demographic changes increasingly stress communities where agribusinesses operate. In response, agribusinesses need to make dramatic sustainability improvements to ensure long-term business viability.

 

But faced with competing and complex risks, many traditional sustainability solutions aren't enough. Over the past year, EcoAgriculture Partners, with partners in the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative, has worked with some agribusinesses to examine how landscape approaches offer solutions. 

 

Addressing the challenges of climate adaptation, water stewardship and building community relations all require 'more than the sum of the parts' thinking: they require whole landscape approaches at meaningful scales.  The landmark report Reducing Risk: Landscape Approaches to Sustainable Sourcing looks specifically at what businesses stand to gain from a landscape approach. Companies such as coffee giant Starbucks, brewer SABMiller, and global agricultural supply chain manager Olam found that landscape approaches offer solutions that go beyond  simply scaling up individual interventions at the farm level, and involve collaboration with diverse stakeholders.  A landscape approach was widely discussed at the Sustainable Food Lab Summit in Annapolis, Maryland, USA last month by corporate leaders and NGO representatives. This represented a turning point in major companies' thinking about landscape management. Landscapes should readily factor into business planning for those companies that harvest their profits from the earth's natural bounty, since the approach can stem a variety of risks, including drought, higher temperatures and competition with other sectors for key natural resources.    

 

We are confident that as more businesses look seriously at landscape challenges and opportunities, they will increasingly invest to strengthen the ecological and social systems where they operate, and will become more open to collaborative investment with other stakeholders in the landscape. This issue of our Newsletter highlights some of EcoAgriculture's recent work on markets, business and landscapes. 

 
Sincerely,
Sara
Markets and Business in the Landscape Approach
Advancing the field with new work at EcoAgriculture Partners
By Lee Gross, Project Manager

While leaders around the world, from diverse sectors, are actively working for more integrated management in agricultural landscapes, participation of agribusiness and the food industry in these initiatives has lagged. This is despite the active development of sustainability efforts by many of these businesses. My work at EcoAgriculture Partners has focused on this interface. 

 

For five years, we have worked with NGO partners and businesses in the Biodiversity and Agricultural Commodities Project to strengthen the biodiversity standards of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, the Roundtable on Sustainable Soy, and the World Cocoa Foundation. We have helped develop new tools for practitioners and monitored advances in biodiversity benefits in production and trade. Last year we assessed the evidence and methods for evaluating impacts of agricultural eco-certification on biodiversity, and this year we assessed the new Bonsucro sugar certification. Colleagues at EcoAgriculture Partners and I are working in several landscapes in East Africa to strengthen markets that provide incentives to farmers and land managers to practice ecoagriculture. 

 

I recently co-authored Reducing Risk: Landscape Approaches to Sustainable Sourcing with Gabrielle Kissinger and André Brasser. The report investigates agribusiness engagement in landscape approaches by early movers and concludes that a 'beyond the farm' approach is most clearly needed by companies facing water, climate and community risks. An initial scoping study identified the modes and rationales for 27 agribusinesses engaged in landscape initiatives. We followed this with three in-depth case studies (SABMiller, Starbucks, Olam) to test the findings and begin to elucidate the business case for multi-stakeholder landscape-scale engagement by agribusiness. The project was guided by the Business Working Group of the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative, with advisory input from five business leaders, and support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

 

Colleagues at EcoAgriculture Partners and I are now also working in several landscapes in Kenya and Tanzania to advance markets that provide incentives to farmers and land managers to practice ecoagriculture. We will be extending this work to other landscapes around the world.

 

Consumers, Food and the Landscape Approach
EcoAgriculture Partners' Lisa Swann interviews food systems expert Danielle Nierenberg of FoodTank.org

EcoAgriculture Partners (EcoAg): How do integrated landscapes fit into your vision of a healthy and sustainable food system?

 

Danielle Nierenberg (DN): If we're not thinking about integrated landscapes when we're discussing food security, poverty alleviation, or environmental sustainability, then we're missing the big picture--and we're missing a huge opportunity to really help make sure farmers, consumers (eaters), and the environment all benefit from integrated landscape approaches. The integrated landscapes approach is important for making sure that rural livelihoods, malnutrition, conserving natural resources, gender equity, youth empowerment, etc. are considered when we policymakers, farmers, food manufacturers, and consumers are making choices about what to grow, produce, and eat.

 

EcoAg: Beyond eco-labeling, how can we engage consumers in supporting integrated landscapes or integrated landscape initiatives?

 

DN: I think it's important that consumers understand the whole production chain--and the importance of integrated landscapes. The more consumers know about where food and other products are grown, the better able they'll be to make informed decisions about how they spend their money--and if a product costs more because it was produced using more environmentally sustainable practices, they'll understand why.

 

EcoAg: Should we try to talk to consumers about supporting integrated landscapes initiatives, making that connection for them, or just talk to them about a particular product's sustainability?

 

DN: I think you can do both at the same time--highlight the product's sustainability while also connecting it to something bigger than the actual product. The food movement has been good at putting a face to food, but we also need to make sure that consumers know that a truly sustainable product is one that comes from an integrated landscape. It's not enough to buy local or organic or to care about animal welfare. We also need to make sure that a product is part of a self-sustaining system.

 

EcoAg: One area where business is beginning to make an important connection between food and integrated landscape solutions is in the growing of key products such as cocoa, palm oil and soy - should business be making this connection for consumers of these products?

 

DN: Yes, businesses have a responsibility to educate consumers about these issues. However, at the same time, there's a real danger that businesses will use this information as a way to greenwash their products and make them seem more environmentally sustainable than they actually are. NGOs and eaters also need to educate themselves and make sure that the products they're eating and using are what they claim to be, until there is greater transparency in the food and agriculture system.

 

Landscape Leaders Plan Market Improvements in Mbeya, Tanzania
by Raffaela Kozar, Project Manager

 

In March I traveled to Mbeya in southern Tanzania, with EcoAgriculture/Cornell University colleague Wieteke Louise Willemen, to facilitate a planning workshop with local partners for a landscape of rapid agricultural development that also has exceptionally high-value biodiversity and freshwater resources. We hope this will just be a first step in a long-term relationship between EcoAgriculture Partners and the Mbeya landscape. 

 

The workshop sought to jump-start spatially-explicit planning for sustainable development in the region, which is dealing with many challenges. These include food waste and market access issues due to lack of processing and preservation facilities, poor enforcement of protected area laws, expanding agriculture that threatens protected areas, and increasing land degradation. A lack of coordination and multi-stakeholder collaboration has hindered the uptake of conservation and improved agricultural practices that could benefit both local people and protected areas. The workshop aimed to enhance appreciation of agriculture green growth innovations in the public, private and civic sectors, improve leaders' familiarity with maps as planning tools, and advance promising innovations producing food, nature and livelihood benefits from agricultural landscapes in Mbeya. 

 

An action team discusses green growth innovations using maps of the region.

We organized the workshop together with the East Africa-based Environmental Resources Management Center for Sustainable Development. Participants included 19 local leaders from public, private and civic sectors. The MacArthur Foundation provided financial support.  

 

We guided them through mapping exercises that clarified the spatial and social dimensions of the livelihood, biodiversity, and food production issues facing the region. Participants then identified 50 potential innovations related to crop and livestock productivity, biodiversity, marketing, knowledge systems and learning, and institutions and policy. Next, small hand-picked "action teams," emphasizing cross-sectoral collaboration, evaluated the innovations to determine how to advance the most technologically and economically feasible, socially responsible, and environmentally sustainable innovations. Working in this way reinforced both the importance and the possibility of cross-sectoral collaboration. Action plans were developed for innovations ranging from sustainable rice intensification, formalized participatory land use planning (PLUP), and collaborative conservation of existing wildlife corridors, to a marketing innovation known as landscape labeling. All of these have champions from multiple sectors in the region. 

 

Since the workshop, EcoAgriculture Partners has continued to support these innovators. Our next workshop in Mbeya, to be held in late 2013 in collaboration with Hivos, a Dutch NGO, will focus on developing the landscape labeling innovation. Meanwhile, we are assisting action teams to jump-start sustainable rice intensification, PLUP, and village-led conservation efforts. 

 

Long-term, we hope this work will stimulate and advance a culture of socio-ecologically sustainable agricultural and rural development practice in the region that values and protects biodiversity and ecosystem services and is supported by integrated agriculture green growth policy at national and sub-national levels. To realize this long-term outcome, well-informed, cross-sectoral, adaptive planning mechanisms need to be in place. The workshop spearheaded the development of such a process.


EcoAgriculture Partners at the Climate-Smart Agriculture Global Science Conference
Connecting science with practice for landscape-scale innovation.

Over 300 participants from 35 countries met at the University of California, Davis USA from March 19th to 23rd for the 2nd Global Science Conference on Climate-Smart Agriculture. There, representatives of scientific institutions, universities, NGOs and multilateral organizations looked at scientific priorities for climate-smart agriculture. Sara J. Scherr (President) and Christine Negra (Research Director) of EcoAgriculture Partners served on the Advisory Committee for the Conference and helped to develop an agenda with a strong focus on science for climate-smart landscapes.

 

Participants identified new priorities for research and examined opportunities to strengthen science policy to provide for food security and nutrition, support sustainable development and promote ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes.

In a session moderated by Christine Negra, Andy Jarvis of CIAT/CCAFS, Peter Minang of the World Agroforestry Centre, and Lindsay Stringer of the University of Leeds proposed new modes and pathways for more productive engagement between the scientific community and farmers and other climate-smart agriculture practitioners. You can watch the entire session (and other sessions of the conference) by 
clicking here.

 

Discussing Food Security Futures
Moving hunger solutions out of the silo and beyond the field

EcoAgriculture Partners' President Sara Scherr participated in the Food Security Futures Conference in Dublin, Ireland from April 11-12 2013. The conference was put on by  the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), to provide significant guidance from the food and agriculture science community on research priorities for the 21st century into the Dublin Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Climate Justice held later that week. Participants were drawn from the private sector, civil society and agricultural research systems.

 

Scherr presented a commentary on  the draft document "Food Security and Sustainable Resource Use - What are the Resource Challenges to Food Security?" prepared for the conference by Frank Place (CGIAR) and Alexandre Meybeck (FAO). She offered suggestions for advancing research, and proposed key priorities for action by FAO and the CGIAR: to encourage the adoption of known best practices, to support initiatives advancing multi-objective farms and landscapes, and to focus advanced science on multi-functional landscape systems. 

 

Key findings of the conference included the need for a better understanding of how climate change responses can contribute to justice for the poor. Participants found that the contributions of natural resource systems management must be better assessed, that better metrics are needed for evaluating food systems and natural resources, and that more collaboration is needed to incorporate ecosystem inputs and impacts into food system models.  

 

EcoAgriculture Partners Welcomes Humphrey Fellow Demelash Alem
Ethiopian working on climate change mitigation, natural resources management gaining experience in landscape approach

EcoAgriculture Partners recently welcomed 2013 Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow Demelash Alem to its Washington, DC office. He will spend six weeks with us, working on natural resources and climate change issues related to landscape management. Most of his one year fellowship was spent at Cornell University. In previous years, EcoAgriculture has hosted Humphrey Fellows from Serbia, Cote d'Ivoire, Thailand and China.

The program is primarily designed by the fellows themselves. Alem hopes to take his knowledge back to his native Ethiopia where he works as a Lecturer in the Department of Natural Resources Management at Debre Markos University. Alem is most interested in EcoAgriculture Partners' holistic approach to landscape management policy. "It is the perfect package to bring to what I do," he said, "which focuses on sustainable land management and climate change resilience in Ethiopia."

For more about the Humphrey Fellows program, see https://www.humphreyfellowship.org/.
Our Newsletter has a New Look!
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With this edition, we are launching a new format for our EcoAgriculture Partners Newsletter, which will focus on EcoAgriculture Partners' own activities. Other materials previously featured in our newsletter that covered ecoagriculture-related happenings, new reports by our partner organizations, calls for papers and proposals, and upcoming events will now be announced on the EcoAgriculture Partners or Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative websites, on the Landscapes Blog, and on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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