New Report Finds “Alliance-building” Approach Can Stop Rampant Conflict over Land and Water, Increase Farm Production and Restore Degraded Lands, Rivers

Effectiveness of approach seen in Africa’s Sahel and in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, and in dozens of other regions; major agriculture groups call for urgently scaling up “Whole Landscape” approaches ahead of Rio+20

PRESS RELEASEWASHINGTON, DC (14 JUNE 2012)—An unconventional approach that involves building alliances between groups competing for limited land and water resources has the potential to dramatically increase food production, boost rural incomes, improve human health and restore degraded land, rivers and habitats, according to a report released today by a newly launched global coalition of leading research, advocacy and multilateral organizations.

The coalition, known as the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative, a collaborative international initiative with ten co-organizers, warns, however, that world leaders must use the upcoming Rio+20 global sustainable development conference to dramatically scale up the “whole landscape” approach—if planet-wide food and environmental crises are to be averted. The whole landscape approach will figure prominently in discussions at Rio+20.

“Today, the world is stuck in a vicious cycle that locks farmers, governments, companies and communities in the pursuit of short-term, narrowly defined solutions to food, energy and water conflicts as they emerge,” said Sara Scherr, president and CEO of EcoAgriculture Partners, a co-organizer of the Initiative. “We are often solving one problem while exacerbating another, using blinkered crisis management approaches.”

“The whole landscape approach seeks to take down the fences—in some cases both literally and figuratively—that divide up the land and the groups that manage land and water, in order to find solutions that unite interests across a landscape,” said Stephen Muchiri, chief executive officer of the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation.

Feeding an additional two billion people by 2050 will require an increase in food production of 100 percent in developing countries in an increasingly challenging environment. The percent annual increase in crop yields has slowed in recent years, while climate change is predicted to lead to increased climatic variability, more frequent extreme events and reduced water availability in many areas. In much of the tropics, these changes could decrease maize and wheat yields by 10-25 percent.

According to the report, “Landscapes for People, Food, and Nature: The Vision, the Evidence, and Next Steps,” whole landscape approaches offer a way to reverse these declines. The coalition has so far identified more than 300 landscape-oriented initiatives where alliances are being built among farmers, ranchers, pastoralists, tourism operators, forest owners, conservation managers and private industry—many of whom have been adversaries in the past. Data from 23 landscape initiatives outlined in the report show major impacts in agricultural production, improved ecosystems and household and community benefits, including:

  • A previously conflictive situation near the Turrialba Volcano region in Costa Rica has been turned around through a shared landscape strategy that is improving agriculture, biodiversity, forest and water resources. The grassroots-led strategy coordinates activities in a large watershed, among several hydroelectric companies farmers in a key commercial vegetable growing region, tourism operators and recreational water users such as kayakers, forest conservation groups, herders and coffee growers.

Read the call to Action here.

Learn more about the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative at Rio+20 here.