Landscapes, scenic and unique abounded the topic of discussion during the Global Landscape Forum, a platform to build dialogue and discussion on integrated land use management. During the two-day forum, held in Bonn, Germany, world leaders, practitioners, private sector representatives, scientists, members of civil society and the media came together to accelerate action for a more sustainable world.
Thought-provoking topic was on indigenous people and communities which have been adversely affected by landscape degradation, their intrinsic values and livelihoods are at risk. Moreover, they carry a wealth of knowledge passed through generations by way of oral traditions. However, to the wider global audience, their voice yet to be heard. Groups such as the Okiek of Kenya live in poverty, it ought to be the utmost priority to respect their traditional knowledge and their ways of achieving sustainable livelihoods, in light of the innumerable impacts of climate change on the lives of the millions of indigenous peoples across the globe. The 5th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), for example, establishes that the livelihoods and lifestyles of indigenous people are highly sensitive to climate change and climate variability. Some indigenous communities, for example, are adapting by changing their migration and hunting patterns.
The effects of land degradation on livelihood of indigenous people cannot be underestimated as it denies them basic human rights. Rights to access food, health status and limiting their access to lands and resources such as forests, hence endangering their social cohesion, adaptive capacity and overall wellbeing which are key features of their collective and individual resilience (AIPP, 2015).
Community-based landscape management was of concern since socially organized communities promote forests conservation, e.g. Mt. Mutis nature reserve in West Timor, Indonesia. This is important given that forests are essential for human well-being as well as rich in biodiversity. The fate of biodiversity and vital ecological processes cannot be sustained through natural processes alone but necessitates sound management of socio-ecological landscapes. From the forum, it was evident that most practitioners, donors and governments are showing interest restoring the landscape at the local level, an effort to protect the global environment. The interest further extended to development activities involving food security, disaster risk reduction and poverty alleviation. Emphasis still remains on community-based efforts in ensuring stakeholder participation through identification, design and execution of initiatives, which otherwise defeats the purpose of sustainability.
Landscape management is key towards achieving the goals of sustainability. Ecosystem services such as medicinal plants, livestock grazing pastures and game hunting provided by landscape contribute to livelihood acquisition. Reforestation of degraded lands will increase carbon sequestration. For instance, Ethiopians have pledged to restore 15 million hectares of degraded lands and forests by 2020, this will prove highly significant for the country’s ecological as well as economic growth. Similarly, in Kenya, restoration of water towers is underway. It had previously been threatened through clearance of land for agriculture.
There is a constant global threat on peatlands that contain nearly twice the stored carbon as in all the world’s forests combined, despite the fact that they cover only 3 percent of world’s surface. Drainage of peatlands cause serious environmental, social and economic damage, the need was emphasized to restore and rehabilitate degraded peatlands. The aim is to save the world’s peatlands through the global peatlands initiative seeking solutions to keep peatlands wet and initiate change in consumerism as well as management through rewetting, revegetation and revitalization.
Another notable engagement by the organisers of the event was the integration of youth into the landscape activities, this gave them the opportunity to become a channel of information and an agent for change. They can be powerful tools to deliver strong messages of restoration in an effort to build a more sustainable world. Further, empowerment and capacity building is a means of bringing ideas into mainstream action and a step to integration of future interests. The role of women was emphasised in most sitings as essential in development, conservation and managing land resources. Sustainable development is impossible to achieve unless equal chance is provided to women to participate in landscape-based activities.
In conclusion, to achieve the sustainable development discussed by the GLF, landscape restoration and reclamation needed to be addressed urgenly. Much effort needs to be put into technology and research, information generation, innovations and provision of incentives. Despite the growing population and the growing demand for natural resources, a symbiotic association of ecosystem services and technology-driven services is the key to achieve a balance in nature. There is a need for greater efforts in data monitoring and mapping of resources, both essential in understanding the extent of landscape degradation.