Simply Better Helping Landscapes Learn from Each Other
A letter from EcoAgriculture Partners' President Sara J. Scherr

As an organization with more than 10 years of experience researching integrated landscape approaches, we've become quite familiar with the growing scientific literature on these approaches. The specialized nature of the agriculture and conservation research communities has meant, however, that many important innovations in landscape management are rarely reported in the peer-reviewed literature, and even more rarely shared with the practitioners and landscape leaders who could most benefit from new insights or methods. At the same time, many innovations generated through learning-by-doing in the field, particularly institutional changes related to collaborative management, group learning, participatory governance, and social inclusion, are never documented for the scientific community.


EcoAgriculture Partners has been working to bridge these gaps between practitioners and researchers in a number of ways. We have had great success with Participatory Action Research methodologies, for instance, the work on agricultural carbon projects described in this issue of our newsletter. Such methodologies emphasize experiential learning and active participation by local people who are both well-equipped to identify and track institutional and social variables and better at communicating key research findings immediately and usefully back to the subjects.


To understand the broader experience of ILM, we need to move beyond individual case examples. EcoAgriculture has partnered with scientists around the world as part of our work with the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative to systematically document 365 integrated landscape initiatives in Africa, Asia and Latin America, based on surveys with field implementers. The results provide valuable foundation for further research, and also help practitioners identify new models for action.


Leaders of landscape initiatives particularly appreciate learning through direct dialogue with one another, Well-designed knowledge exchanges and cross-landscape workshops have proven highly valuable for documenting innovations, sparking new innovation, and improving landscape performance. EcoAgriculture is now supporting several landscape learning networks in several African countries to build on these opportunities, including for Ethiopia, which is described in this issue of our Newsletter.



Yours in connection,


A Challenge to Build Resilience in the Horn of Africa


EcoAgriculture Partners' director of landscapes strengthening Louise Buck was in Nairobi last week, kicking off the second stage of the Global Resilience Challenge. We are part of a team that has advanced to stage two of the Challenge, a multimillion dollar program supported by USAID, Rockefeller Foundation and the Government of Sweden.


EcoAgriculture Partners is partnering with the Horn of Africa Regional Environment Centre & Network and the University of Massachusetts to develop integrated landscape management solutions for resilience in Ethiopia. The approach is based on a recently released report,  Managing for Resilience: Framing an integrated landscape approach for overcoming chronic food insecurity, co-authored by Louise Buck and Ian D. Bailey of Cornell University.


To strengthen food security and livelihoods, "programs must help vulnerable communities build socially and ecologically resilient landscapes. Landscape-scale management addresses all four components of resilience: social, economic, ecological, and institutional," says Buck.


Our team will be working in three fascinating and diverse landscapes in the Horn of Africa:

  • Ethiopia's Central Rift Valley: addressing issues of unsustainable water and soil fertility management in a densely populated landscape with a unique, but fragile, wetland ecosystem and high commercial agriculture investment interests.

  • The urban and peri-urban landscape of Djibouti: addressing issues of insecure urban food systems, threatened coastal resources (mangroves / coral reefs) and sustainable coastal communities, in a context of desertification and expansion of fishery and industrial activities in the Gulf.

  • Kenya's Laikipia County: addressing issues of pastoral livelihoods and production systems where there are threats of rangeland degradation and wildlife management.

A key component of the project will be linking leaders from each landscape for cross-landscape knowledge sharing.


16 teams were selected to receive planning grants in 2015 to develop solutions to the toughest resilience challenges in three key regions, the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and South and Southeast Asia. The best solutions will win up to a US$1 million grant, over two years, to implement their solutions.

Learning from Experience: Connecting Landscape Leaders in Ethiopia


In a recent visit to Ethiopia, EcoAgriculture Partners once again witnessed the capacity of collaborative planning to transform landscapes. In February, Chris Planicka, a Project Manager here at EcoAgriculture Partners, visited the Aba Gerima watershed with members of the Water and Land Resource Centre (WLRC) to assess the progress of small-scale landscape initiatives in the Blue Nile basin. The WLRC is working with these landscapes to encourage multi-stakeholder discussions around economic, social, and policy issues affecting the environmental quality of the basin. Chris checked in on the progress of these initiatives to facilitate their next move: establishing a national "landscape learning network," together with other Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative partners, focused on sustainable land and water management.

The Aba Gerima watershed showed the promise of integrated landscape management to revive degraded lands through the collective action of multiple stakeholders, as well as the potential benefits of an Ethiopia Landscape Learning Network. A formal Ethiopia Learning Landscape Network would connect landscape leaders, through exchange visits, workshops, and research projects, to other leaders  in Ethiopia and in the broader Horn of Africa region. The opportunities to exchange knowledge directly facilitates more rapid scaling up of innovations, both social and technical, that can improve landscape performance. Landscape leaders participating in the network will also have access to a database of case studies, tools, and resources and the collective expertise and excitement of the entire Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative..


Chris reported on his visit to the Aba Gerima watershed and the innovations of local leaders to transform their landscape in a post on the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Blog.

New Infographics: Dive Into Data from the Continental Reviews
Findings from continent-wide surveys of integrated landscape initiatives paint the most comprehensive picture yet of this approach in action. 

EcoAgriculture Partners has developed two infographics that paint a clearer picture of the copious data collected and published as part of the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative's continental review studies. The graphics demonstrate the impressive array of investments and impacts integrated landscape initiatives are making across Africa and Latin America.


The Africa review surveyed participants involved in integrated landscape initiatives (ILIs) across 33 African countries. The purpose was to provide the first region-wide portrait of contexts, motivations, design, participation, and outcomes of such initiatives. Results show that multi-functionality of landscapes is greatly promoted through ILIs; these findings are an exciting sign that ILIs are able to provide key benefits for agriculture, conservation and livelihoods simultaneously, which are all prominent areas of interest to African governments and to the development community.


For the Latin America and Caribbean review, the authors identified and surveyed 104 integrated landscape initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean. The results show that ILIs are growing as a means to manage for multi-functionality, but unsupportive policy frameworks may limit effectiveness and scalability.


These studies were co-authored by EcoAg project manager Abigail Hart together with researchers from Bioversity International, the World Agroforestry Centre, CATIE, Rainforest Alliance, Conservation International,  and the University of Idaho. The Asia review is currently in submission, and research in Europe and North America is underway. The infographics were prepared by Eva Fillion and Elise Ursin of EcoAgriculture Partners.


View Infographic: Africa Review

View Infographic: Latin America and Caribbean Review

EcoAgriculture Partners discusses smallholder carbon projects at the 2015 Climate Smart Agriculture Global Science Conference


This March 16-18th, legions of scientists, researchers, policy makers, farmers, and members of the public flocked to Montpellier, France to discuss an emerging strategy in the field of climate resilience: climate smart agriculture. Challenges and strategies for mitigating climate change in countries highly susceptible to its impacts due in part to their dependence on agriculture will be a focal point of the 2015 Climate Smart Agriculture Conference. Our very own Krista Heiner was among the experts, discussing the ability of climate smart agriculture to meet some of the world's most pressing challenges.


Agriculture accounts for almost half of the world's land use and contributes to a third of the the world's greenhouse gas emissions. The CSA conference sought to close the science-policy gap in the debate on climate resilience. An approach implemented by NGO's, international organizations, and regional organizations is to develop long-term, community-based institutions that can motivate and incentivize carbon-storing activities by smallholder farmers.

Krista represented a team of researchers from EcoAgriculture Partners and partner organizations, Vi Agroforestry and EcoTrust Uganda, presenting the results of a Participatory Action Research (PAR) study of two smallholder agriculture carbon projects in East Africa. The study examined how local institutions are managing agriculture carbon resources, challenges they experienced on the ground, and potential actions for strengthening the ability of local institutions to manage their own carbon projects. The findings have been compiled in a paper currently in submission, "Building local capacity in agricultural carbon projects in Kenya and Uganda through participatory action research."


The two projects, relatively near each other, yet across international borders, were not only linked in the pages of our report. They also engaged in direct knowledge exchange earlier this year, when the project teams from each country spent two days visiting the others' sites. The study's PAR methodology and trips like these meant that research "subjects" were engaged in a process of experiential learning as partners with the researchers, further strengthening local capacity in the process. A virtuous cycle between research and practice!


This research was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), which is a strategic partnership of CGIAR and Future Earth. This research was carried out with funding by the European Union (EU) and with technical support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). 
The views expressed in the documents cannot be taken to reflect the official opinions of CGIAR, Future Earth, or donors. 


New Project: Landscape Approach to Climate Change Mitigation in Vietnam

EcoAgriculture Partners is excited to partner with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) for a new project, "Landscape Approach to Climate Change Mitigation in Agriculture," in Vietnam.


The project will identify economically viable landscape approaches in the region that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions while meeting food-security and economic growth targets. We will be working with two Vietnam-based organizations, The National Institute of Agricultural Planning and Protection (NIAPP) and the Institute for Agricultural Environment (IAE).


With the aim to switch the focus from farms-only to landscapes, engagement with local stakeholders is an essential component of the project. Participatory methodologies will help the project team identify constraints and incentives that lead to an operationally viable landscape approach.


During the first year of work, the main outcome of the project will be the creation of a modeling framework to analyze, quantify and evaluate adoption of climate-smart practices at the landscape scale. An in-depth assessment of stakeholders and their constraints and priorities, and their spatial interactions, in two landscapes - Yen Binh and Ky Anh -- will inform the model and policy options.


To kick off this first phase, EcoAgriculture Partners' Louise Buck visited Hanoi to meet our project partners and hear about other work in the region being supported by the CGIAR. Louise's recent trip sparked excitement for future developments in the region with help from this project.

David Kuria joins team as EcoAgriculture Fellow
Kuria has been a long-time partner as executive director of Kijabe Environmenrt Volunteers (KENVO).

We are pleased to announce that David Kuria has joined the EcoAgriculture Partners team as our newest EcoAgriculture Fellow. David is based with Kijabe Environment Volunteers (KENVO) in Kijabe, Kenya. EcoAgriculture Partners has known David, and worked continuously with KENVO, since one of our first Landscape Leadership workshops in Kenya, in 2007.

Read more about David on the Tusk Award website. He was a finalist for the award in 2014.


With his expertise in community-based management and landscape approaches to conservation and livelihoods, and established connection with EcoAgriculture Partners, we know David will be a great addition to the EcoAgriculture Partners team. Over the coming months he will have many opportunities to meet and collaborate with our partners. Please join us in welcoming David aboard!

Welcome Lucila Fernandez and Marissa Sherman to the EcoAg Team! 

In February, EcoAgriculture Partners welcomed Lucila Fernandez to the role of communications associate. Lucila is an aspiring conservationist hailing from the Washington, DC area, with a particular passion for connecting people with nature. In 2010 Lucila volunteered in Guatemala to teach children about wildlife endemic to Central America. This experience compelled her to work with the Smithsonian, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to engage the public with conservation issues and wildlife in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Having grown up between the U.S. and a farm in Argentina, she's excited to align her passion for  wildlife conservation with agricultural land management issues in her work as our communications associate.

Marissa Sherman joined us in early January as our spring term communications intern. Marissa is a student at the University of Maryland, College Park studying Agricultural and Resource Economics with minors in Sustainability Studies and Global Poverty. She has experience working on campaigns with Green America and Brickyard Educational Farm.


Please join us in wishing Lucila and Marissa a warm welcome!

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