Sustainable food landscapes

A blueprint for a better future for people and planet

What’s at stake

The ever-increasing demand for natural resources resulting from both population and economic growth has led to resource depletion and environmental degradation. Agricultural inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides put soil health, water quality and biodiversity in great jeopardy.

The incessant process of urbanisation and the progression of the agricultural frontier have encroached upon millions of hectares of forests which play a key role in providing our food, regulating water cycles and maintaining biodiversity. This is exacerbated by climate change, to which our global food system contributes 21-37% of global greenhouse gas emissions worldwide (IPCC, 2019). Efforts to deal with climate change tend to be confined to a certain type of land use and carried out by a particular governmental department, often working in silos without establishing the connection between their focal area and the larger landscape.

Forests, water courses and agricultural fields do not function on their own. In the same way, farmers, indigenous people and our society as a whole do not make use of only one of these land types. Yet, current policies and regulations work more often than not in fragmented domains, leaving very little root for negotiations, synergies and/or trade-offs among different, sometimes competing, interests.

Given that one type of land use (e.g. agriculture and forests) can have profound implications on other natural resources (e.g. water and soil) or human settlements, a more holistic approach is needed to bring together sectors and stakeholders across different spatial scales, to reconcile competing objectives and to achieve equitable and inclusive development.  

To tackle these challenges, Rikolto has employed the Integrated Landscape Management (ILM) approach, developed by EcoAgriculture Partners, in its programmes.

What do we mean by ‘landscape’?

A landscape is a complex socio-ecological system that contains various land use types, such as agriculture, forestry, biodiversity conservation and urban areas.

The boundary of a landscape is not simply delineated by its natural features or land use, but should be determined by all the stakeholders involved in landscape management, and may correspond to, or be a combination of, natural boundaries, distinct land features, socially defined areas such as indigenous territories and/or jurisdictional and administrative boundaries.

The Integrated Landscape Management approach derived from these ideas, is a multi-stakeholder approach to landscape governance that seeks to address trade-offs and synergies among stakeholders linked to one or more natural resources and build collaborative relationships to achieve a sustainable landscape.  

Our strategy

Rikolto first implemented the Integrated Landscape Management approach in its Good Food for Cities programme in Nicaragua (Lake Apanás). This approach proved effective in reaching out to different farmer organisations with similar contexts and backgrounds, and in uniting them around a common vision.

In our new programme cycle, we have started to apply a landscape lens to other programmes, too. Sometimes, we adopt the ILM approach perse; on other occasions, we focus on bringing together different stakeholders that benefit from and make use of the same landscape, to tackle shared challenges.

Rikolto's global strategy focuses on three pillars: sustainable production, market inclusion and enabling environment.

As part of our Sustainable Production pillar - depending on the challenges and opportunities within the landscape - Rikolto creates and co-facilitates a multi-stakeholder process within the landscape to catalyse understanding and collective action. As facilitators or thematic leaders in these spaces, Rikolto works with the farmer organisations, research institutions, civil society, and private companies linked to the landscape to design, develop and validate sustainable, regenerative and resilient agricultural production models. Whether it's agroforestry in coffee or cocoa or regenerative farming practices to grow vegetables, our goal is to ensure that more farmers within the food landscape can access and benefit from these agricultural models. We also enable this by supporting farmer organisations to become more professional. This, in turn, helps them access markets and financial resources more easily, resulting in increased income and resilience to climate change and other disruptions.

As part of our Inclusive Markets pillar, in order to make the production and supply of safe food produced under sustainable production models a win-win situation for everyone linked to the food landscape, Rikolto develops and validates more inclusive business models. For instance, facilitating more inclusive and sustainable practices and models in different platforms of commercialisation and distribution of food linked to the landscape, e.g. fairs, local or municipal markets, or the supply of produce from the landscape to schools with healthier and safer food, or long-term relationships with national or international buyers of their produce.

Finally, our third pillar focuses on creating an enabling environment for sustainable agricultural models and inclusive business relationships. We do this by strengthening participatory governance within the landscape by facilitating multi-stakeholder spaces and by documenting and mainstreaming evidence on the models to promote their scaling up, as well as by reinforcing food policies at local, national and international levels.

Multistakeholder partnerships to foster sustainable food landscapes ​

Rikolto works with diverse food systems actors to address complex challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss and access to healthy food for everyone.

We offer years of experience on multistakeholder collaborations within the food system across Europe, Latin America, Southeast Asia, East Africa and West Africa in our guide: “Facilitating multi-stakeholderprocesses: a toolkit”.

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In our three programmes

Good Food for Cities

In this programme, Rikolto facilitates a landscape approach to promote productive, economically viable, sustainable and climate-resilient farming systems that provide healthy food for urban residents and beyond.

Our interventions entail the facilitation of multi-stakeholder platforms with key landscape actors to promote sustainable food landscape management. Based on a collective analysis of risks and challenges, we support stakeholders in developing a shared vision for the sustainable management of the landscape. An action plan is usually co-developed that includes the design and piloting of various initiatives that contribute to a better management of resources in the landscape.

We also actively engage business and government to create incentives for landscape users to adopt more sustainable practices. Lastly, we measure benefits and document processes to make the case for others to invest in the protection and/or regeneration of the landscape.

In Nicaragua, sedimentation caused by human activities in the basin of Lake Apanás, such as agriculture, could reduce the water storage capacity of the lake in the near future. Rikolto adopted the Integrated Landscape Management approach for the sustainable management of the Sisle micro-basin within the lake area. We brought together stakeholders around Lake Apanás to form MASLAGO, a multi-stakeholder group. We worked with MASLAGO on reducing both lake sedimentation and agricultural chemical contamination. This strategy included a project to make the case for inclusive business relations as a solution to preserve the area’s natural resources and foster profitable economic activities at the same time.

The iconic Lake Atitlán in Guatemala is under threat due to excessive deforestation, urbanisation, forest degradation, and dumping. These factors have led to a scarcity of water resources and chronic malnutrition in the region, threatening the ecosystem and the health of the people who rely on it. Rikolto, along with COINDI, AGEMA and CDRO, is facilitating a multi-stakeholder process to identify common actions to promote sustainable landscape management, including improving access to agro-climatic information and coordinating solutions in line with community agreements and indigenous beliefs. Representatives from the municipality of Sololá, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, EcoAgriculture Partners, the University of Valle de Guatemala, and three farmers’ organisations in Sololá have come together to address this challenge.

Sustainable and Climate Resilient Cocoa and Coffee

In the face of the increasing pressure from international markets and the growing impact of climate change on cocoa and coffee production, our programme aims to build truly resilient cocoa and coffee farming communities. Challenges include to scale up successful initiatives due to a lack of integration between the public and private sectors.

Rikolto's interventions involve generating knowledge and using evidence from the field to rally public and private actors around policies and strategies to improve the competitiveness of both sectors. This may involve facilitating or contributing to multi-stakeholder processes such as the Cocoa Sustainability Partnership (CSP) in Indonesia, SICACAO in Central America or the Cajamarca Coffee Platform in Peru. Or adopting an integrate landscape management approach, as in the following intervention:

Indonesia is among the top global producers of crops such as cocoa and coffee. However, unsustainable agricultural practices have driven land use change, deforestation and forest degradation, resulting in declining productivity and quality of agricultural products in recent years. Starting in 2023, Rikolto is partnering with USAID, Olam and Olam Food Ingredients (OFI) on the LASCARCOCO project, which aims to promote sustainable agroforestry practices in cocoa and coffee producing landscapes in Indonesia. The integrated landscape management methodology will be used to address the complex and multi-tiered regulations in the cocoa and coffee value chains.  

Sustainable rice programme

Food landscapes are a diverse tapestry of crops encompassing everything from rice and vegetables to coffee and more. At Rikolto, we believe that looking at each crop in isolation is not enough. Instead, we strive to address the bigger picture, working towards synergies between different key landscape actors to create a more sustainable landscape.

To this end, we are adopting an integrated landscape management approach to increase synergies between Rikolto's global programmes on cocoa and coffee, Good Food For Cities and Sustainable Rice.

In Tanzania, Rikolto is adopting an integrated landscape management approach to address the challenges faced by farmers in rice, cocoa and fruit and vegetables in the Rungwe and Kyela Districts due to climate variability. The Mbeya region, where these districts are located, is a regional food basket. Agriculture is the most important source of income in the region, contributing over 75% of the districts’ gross product. We are working with various stakeholders through a multi-stakeholder landscape platform to increase climate resilience of smallholder farmers and improve access to healthy and nutritious food while reducing the negative environmental impact of food systems in the region.

The landscape platform will be co-facilitated by the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA), and 360 Connect. We are also teaming up with EcoAgriculture Partners to provide coaching during the launch of the landscape platform.

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