Planning for climate-smart agricultural landscapes: The case of Kenya’s Kericho-Mau landscape

Photo: N. Palmer (CIAT)Organizations: EcoAgriculture Partners & The Rainforest Alliance

Climate smart agricultural practices are a critical pathway to climate change adaptation in developing countries. However, Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) is usually implemented at the field and farm level, with little efforts at coordination between different scales. EcoAgriculture Partners and the Rainforest Alliance are working to assess climate smart agricultural practices at the landscape level to better understand existing activity and major gaps in CSA implementation.

To what extent can landscape-level assessments help to align disparate actors and finance sources to develop climate smart landscapes? What are the knowledge gaps that must be overcome to populate a landscape-level assessment with the necessary data? What would a climate smart landscape actually look like, and how would it operate in practice? Share your views – join the discussion at the bottom of this page!

Live presentation



Synopsis: Rainforest Alliance and EcoAgriculture Partners will present a participatory assessment tool developed to help align disparate actors and finance sources to translate climate-smart landscape concepts to reality in rural landscapes around the world. Piloting the tool within the tea-dominated Kericho-Mau landscape in western Kenya demonstrated its utility in assessing current climate-smart activities and identifying gaps and future priorities for action.

The Problem ↓

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is an approach to food production and land management that seeks to simultaneously increase food security, improve the resilience of agricultural systems to environmental change, and mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering carbon. While CSA has the potential to address the current and anticipated threats from climate change, particularly for smallholder agriculture in developing countries, most of the focus of CSA has been on field and farm-level sustainable agricultural land management rather than assessing a broader landscape-scale approach. In order for climate-smart agriculture to achieve its multiple, long-term objectives and improve the ability of communities to collectively mitigate and adapt to climate change it is necessary for the scale of planning and interventions to move beyond the farm-level, to a landscape scale. A lack of information concerning feasibility, financing, and operational logistics makes implementation of landscape approaches difficult.

The Solution ↓

Effective implementation of CSA should enlist a “whole-landscape” management strategy that combines a diversity of land uses and food and income sources in synergistic ways. This leads to the concept of “Climate-smart landscapes,” which would operate on the principles of integrated landscape management, and explicitly integrate adaptation and mitigation into their management objectives.  Integrated landscape management approaches work deliberately to support food production, ecosystem conservation, and rural livelihoods across entire landscapes. These are known under various terms including ecoagriculture, landscape restoration, territorial development, Model Forests, satoyama, integrated watershed management, agroforestry landscapes, and the ecosystem approach to managing agricultural systems, among many others. While differing somewhat in focus, all of these landscape approaches have five principles in common.

  1. Landscape interventions are designed to achieve multiple objectives, including human well-being, food and fiber production, climate change mitigation, and conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services;
  2. Ecological, social and economic interactions among different parts of the landscape are managed to seek positive synergies among interests and actors or reduce negative trade-offs;
  3. The key role of local communities and households as both producers and land stewards is acknowledged;
  4. A long-term perspective is taken for sustainable development, adapting strategies as need to address dynamic social and economic changes; and
  5. Participatory processes of social learning and multi-stakeholder negotiation are institutionalized, including efforts to involve all parts of the community and ensure that the livelihoods of the most vulnerable people and groups are protected or enhanced.

To summarize, climate-smart landscapes are characterized not only by climate-smart practices at the farm-scale, but by diversity of land use and management and land use interactions throughout the landscape.  Yet, despite the conceptual appeal of this approach, there is little information available on how to operationalize such “climate-smart landscapes”—or on how to fund CSA via a rapidly shifting array of existing and emerging finance sources. But if this approach is to gain wide support, a more detailed understanding of the operational aspects of the approach is needed, particularly for landscape management elements. These efforts are needed not only for landscape actors, but also for policy-makers tasked with developing the climate policy and finance systems that could support climate-smart landscapes. We addressed this gap in information by developing a participatory assessment tool for evaluating climate-smart landscape needs, opportunities, and finance sources.

The Method ↓

The participatory assessment tool is designed to address the following research questions within a given landscape:

  • What is the suite of activities, capacities, and support structures that would need to be in place to achieve a climate-smart landscape?
  • Of these, which are already in place, which are lacking, and how and at what cost could the missing components be added?
  • What is the aggregate order-of-magnitude investment needed to achieve a climate-smart landscape, and to what extent could emerging climate finance sources provide complementary investments?

We used a template to guide the data collection on activity and stakeholder mapping and future visioning. The template included two major categories:

  1. Current activities – An inventory and description of current climate-smart agriculture activities in the landscape, the implementing actor, the costs, and the source of funding; and
  2. Potential activities – An identification of gaps and opportunities for climate-smart landscape activities. This includes a description of potential activities along with their potential implementers estimated costs, finance sources and key challenges.

We applied this tool to the Kericho-Mau agricultural landscape in western Kenya—an important tea-growing region and watershed where agriculture and ecosystem services are expected to be strongly affected by climate change. To secure sustainability of regional tea production, many of the primary actors in this landscape are considering how best to respond to climate change as well as increasing pressure on land, water, and biomass resources. While some climate-smart activities are already being implemented within this tea dominated landscape, particularly through widespread and growing participation in the voluntary agricultural certification system, Rainforest Alliance Certified, other activities have been identified as priority needs for addressing climate challenges at a landscape scale.

The data template for the Kericho-Mau landscape was populated through the use of stakeholder interviews and consultations and assessments conducted by the local staff of Rainforest Alliance (RA). As a key actor within the landscape, familiar with ongoing activities and stakeholders –particularly within the tea industry – RA was able to inventory its own activities and ideas for the future as well as those of other relevant landscape actors.

The analysis revealed a strong foundation of existing activities and actors supporting climate-smart activities in Kericho-Mau, due in part to the strong presence of the tea industry, which is greatly concerned about climate change. The assessment also identified major gaps, some of which could potentially be addressed by blending new sources of climate finance with conventional private and public investment in agricultural improvement, research, and institutional strengthening. We suggest that a structured assessment tool of the sort tested here can help align disparate actors and finance sources to translate climate-smart landscape concepts to reality in rural landscapes around the world.

  • Greg Robie November 27, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    Urban-centric economic models, like globalized debt-based, limited liability law enabled capitalism, with it’s inherent specialization of labor, is, systemically, an anamatha to such yielding an outcome that is sustainable. History teaches us that every human society “succeeding” in this “accomplishment” fails. I’ll not argue that what I read above is LessStupid than what’s the norm and has gifted us with anthropogenic climate change and klimakatastrophe, but isn’t it delusional to call being LessStupid “smart”? Remember Forst Gump’s Mama: “Stupid is what stupid does.” How about calling it CLSA?

  • david November 30, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    being born at the slopes of mau forest,i have seen its slow death as careless people cut down trees and burn the remainder, as the government watch.i have also experienced the outcome of the above through changes in climate,the drying up and death of the ecosystem of

    lake nakuru and lake elementaita respectively.the only solution is to reclaim the forest back ,fence it and deploy serious forest management.

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