For years, place-based approaches to development have been considered important features in development cooperation, at the BMZ and in FAO. Both organisations are aiming at advancing these approaches: an interview with Adriano Campolina from the FAO on territorial and landscape perspectives.
FAO and BMZ, with support from GIZ, organized the Territorial and Landscape Days (7-9 July 2020) as an online expert dialogue on spatial approaches to sustainable development. Here, practitioners and policy makers from OECD, AfD, EU, CIRAD, RIMISP, UN-Habitat, IFPRI, Wageningen University, FAO, BMZ and GIZ shared their experiences in implementing spatial approaches and discussed ways to further strengthen their contribution to rural development.
On this occasion, the results of a BMZ-funded and GIZ-commissioned stocktaking on territorial approaches by the Territorial Perspectives for Development (TP4D) partner group were presented and discussed. Workshop participants were also engaged in an expert consultation process to deepen the integration of territorial and landscape approaches. The main outcomes of the online event are summarized in the documentation, which can be accessed here.
Can you remember when the time came that you personally thought: a holistic perspective to development seems inevitable…
A long time ago. My first professional experience was in the early nineties. After having finished my studies in agronomics, I began as an extensionist and community development manager where I was supposed to work a lot around participatory breeding of local varieties of maize. When we tried to identify with the smallholder farmers the most productive variety of maize, it was very clear that there was no way that we could have an impact at the level of an farm if we focused only on one product. We had to look holistically at the farm as a whole, from soil to water management and different cash or non-cash crops - they have to ensure the food security of the household. Further, it was impossible to have one farm become sustainable while ignoring the entire landscape. And each one of these areas was correlated with challenges and opportunities like price, price formation, the role of the local trader, the role of the agricultural policies – everything was interconnected and therefore required a holistic perspective.
Did you experience one-size-fits-it-all interventions?
This or extremely precise and focused interventions would very easily get lost or not produce any impact. You could increase the yield of maize, but the prices could have collapsed or the land ownership of the smallholder farmers be at risk, Hence, I learned about holistic approaches pretty much on my first job – the need to integrate the technical solutions with many other types of solutions and dynamics. Particularly on the side of strengthening rural institutions and organizing farmers.
To what extent has this exposed the Corona pandemic?
At the early stage of the pandemic, I examined the smallholder’s access to markets. That was in March. Immediately, we witnessed an impact with holistic consequences. The fact that for instance, smallholder farmers got cut off from access to inputs and markets on initial stages of COVID-19 response with strong restrictions to movement, at once had an impact on the entire food system affected regions. Another example was the impact of restrictions of movements for rural workers: None of these impacts were isolated, they always created an impact on the whole food system. The solutions to these problems were the most effective ones when they provided a holistic response to different areas of impact: from access to inputs, access to markets and addressing liquidity.
Do you have an example for that?
If you are a farmer producing vegetables and next morning you don’t have either access to markets to sell it, or the demand for your product collapsed due to abrupt changes on consumer preferences your entire business is at risk. You deal with many things at the same time. First you have a liquidity crisis, then a financial challenge when you have to repay loans or credits, and then there is the challenge of finding means of production again as you probably have lost an important part of your harvest. Then you have to look to what extent you will be able to have workers to help you in a situation of lockdown. And even when you manage to produce: where selling it? You need to address all those problems simultaneously, otherwise you fail.
Holistic approaches are like magic words - they are used all the time. Even sometimes as a hollow phrase?
People tempt to say “holistic” without being fully aware of the key drivers to change that need to be to address at the same time. You can make a very beautiful phrase about holistic solutions, but that alone does not equip you to act. You have to go to the next level of identifying the five, six key drivers of change that are the most important, and their interconnectedness. Looking holistically, you need to adopt a perspective which allows you to capture all relevant issues in order to reach development trajectories that are truly multidimensional and holistic.. Just saying holistic does not make it holistic. Holistic means implementing a lot of things at the same time, in different sectors, that go into the same direction. For that you need to look at the whole landscape or territory.
Are there any differences between territorial and landscape approaches?
At the FAO we are working towards integrating both territorial and landscape approaches. The two come from different experiences. The territorial one stems very much from understanding the socioeconomic interrelations within a given space. The landscape approach comes from understanding the fundamental natural phenomena of a landscape and the environmental and natural resources management related issues on the landscape. However, any good landscape practitioner would very soon realize that it is impossible to walk into promoting a sustainable landscape if you don’t deal with the socioeconomic issues that are underpinning the trends of natural resources use in that particular space. And reversely, any good territory development practitioner would very soon realize that the dynamics of the natural resources, their characteristics and their interrelation with the society are absolutely fundamental to understand socio-economic development.
But they are different?
They come from different trajectories and entry points. But they have a lot of things in common. They share the idea that you should not look for one-size-fits-all but should design solutions according to the specific conditions of a territory and landscape. Secondly, they see the interrelation between different stakeholders on a particular space as an important thing to work on. These two approaches acknowledge that there is no single sector solution. It can’t be agriculture only, the environmental conversation only, it can’t be the economy only: You must be multisectoral in your thinking to be able to bring solutions. All these thoughts share the crucial issues of scale and multi sector perspective in most of the stakeholders that allows them to come together. However, they flourish through different entry points – and these points are very important and context-related. Sometimes, there would be more and more entry points, but the more we integrate and allow the possibility of each one of them learning from each other and get the best tools of the other, we can advance what we have in common. Hence, territorial and landscape approaches are not same, but they head into the same direction and they share enough to benefit for the better exchange of tools and knowledge.
The more we allow the possibility of learning from each other, we can advance what we have in common.
What are the synergies of territorial and landscape approaches?
I would not necessarily say that we combine it all into a completely new approach, but we rather make sure that we use both of them in a more integrated way. The synergies are fundamentally the fact that they are place-based. And the other synergy is: Both approaches have a very clear understanding of the interrelations between the three elements of sustainability: social, economic and environmental – and that the three have to be brought together; otherwise, you will always lose one. The two approaches have also in common that there is a multitude of stakeholders that have to be taken into account at the same time. And although they are place-based, they are also people-centred. They both see the sense of role that people play. And finally, those are approaches that on one hand, see a given space, a territory or a landscape as the optimum scale of action, and on the other hand they also see the relationship between different scales.
Different players such as FAO and BMZ are now cooperating in the development and evaluation of the approaches. What are the benefits?
The main benefits are really to design processes of development that are inclusive, sustainable, effective and that mobilize the dynamics and different actors in a given space that are fit for purpose to the specific conditions that regions have and therefore make them more appropriate and responsive to the needs of the people.
How does the FAO benefit in concrete terms?
I can give you a couple of examples. FAO’s regional office for Latin America and the Caribbean identified the hundred territories that are left behind in terms of poverty alleviation and economic development. Therefore, they are now engaged in mobilizing resources to integrate them towards territorial development plans that can accelerate in those areas a number of territorial diagnosis and plans which really can bring them up to speed. Another example is the FAO “hand-in-hand-initiative”, that focuses primarily on the least developed countries and looks into how we can understand the levers of various types of intervention in each of those 50 countries to best unlock their potentials. And in these regions we work on building a dataset that allows us to understand the strands of the microregion and we work on coordinating investments, bringing together different sources of investment towards the most adequate solutions to the specific characteristics of that region. We are also undertaking territorial diagnostics in some regions. These are some examples of territorial thinking has been translated by FAO into it’s work.
Are guiding principles indispensable?
They help to reflect jointly on questions related to place-based approaches, share our learnings and develop knowledge. Elaborating these territorial perspectives for development was an important initiative that brought many development agencies together, including Cirad, BMZ, GIZ and FAO and many others. The guiding principles helped us to create a common understanding and a better way to learn from each other. Concerning territorial development and landscape management, there are a lot of initiatives around and many different organizations on various levels are trying to systematize and learn from that.
Speaking of multi-levels: Does the national level sometimes stand in the way of development at local level? Would the higher level have to give up competencies?
It goes both ways. There are moments in which a territorial development process faces impediments at a higher level. For instance, there can be a classic one: People say that you have to decentralize the use of resources – but the budget is not going to be decentralized… It does not work when you decentralize the responsibility but not the capacities and resources. Or you find out the existence of a policy or a national agency that should better be involved at decentral levels – my view is that in many ways the multi-level refers to understand the roles of the various levels, such as national policy making or specific issues that occur at community levels. Within that you make sure that you understand what the conditions and challenges are, and you plan to interact.
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