Closing the gap between man and nature – The Satoyama Initiative

By Isaiah Esipisu

Tony Simons, Director General, World AGroforestry Centre during a joint Media briefing on Rio+20 in Nairobi,Kenya

Just three years after the introduction of Satoyama Initiative, the government of Japan has proven to the world that integrating agriculture and forestry not only  maximises the productivity of the land, but also yields  the much desired green economy.

The Satoyama initiative was a deliberate joint move initiated by the  Ministry of the Environment of Japan and the United Nations University  Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) in partnership with the World  Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)  to build and boost the  relationship between human beings and nature by promoting  reclamation of natural resources to change landscapes.

It is a comprehensive effort to benefit biodiversity and human well-being by promoting the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources in human-influenced natural environments, or socio-ecological production landscapes (SEPLs), that are found all over the world.

Reviewing how the initiative has changed lives of people in areas where it has been implemented, environment experts attending the ongoing negotiations on sustainable development in Rio de Jenairo, Brazil, observed that it was also possible to develop new business models based on sustainable land use including mosaic landscape management.

According to Prof Tony Simons, the Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre, poor landscapes means poor livelihoods. In case of floods for example, the nature of the landscape determines who should be swept away, and who should remain.

“The Satoyama initiative and other approaches are seeking to optimise and balance productivity, ecological functioning and income for the farmers,” he said.

However, he observed that there is a missing link in several governments all over the world, which hinders reclamation of landscapes.

“The key part of the future is having access to the land of which many governments are not ready or do not have systems in place to isssue land to local dwellings or the indigenous people,” said Prof Simons.

He referred to a situation in Kenya where a survey was done recently to analyse 22,000 satellite images of adjudicated land, and un-adjudicated land in order to compare the nature of investments within areas with land tenure and those without.

“The findings of the study show enormous differences between the two landscapes. Where there was land tenure, there ware a massive investments on the ground than in places without land tenure. This means that the future trees and investments is going to be in Satoyama landscapes, where new opportunities will arise to keep the youth in the countryside,” he said.

The environmental experts observed that sustainable use of biological resources is the only way of sustaining biodiversity. This will therefore facilitate indigenous people to enjoy a stable supply of various natural benefits and as well be sure of a sustainable green future.

The ongoing United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development popularly referred to as the Rio +20 rides on two major themes: A green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and the institutional framework for sustainable development.

“Looking at the connection with Satoyama initiative, we figure out that 1800 years ago, the world was covered by approximately 10 per cent forest cover. But 8000 years ago, the world was covered by 60 per cent forest cover. But now, we are down to 30 per cent forest cover. The question is, how low, do we want to go in terms of depleting the forest cover?” explained Prof Simons.

“One of the important things therefore is that Satoyama seeks to restore the forest function of the tree product and tree services that we need. That is what the world desires today, and for years to come,” he added.

According to Kazuki Hoshindo, the Advisor to the Japanese Minister for Environment, enhancing public private partnership is the only way to succeed with such projects like the Satoyama initiative.

“In Japan, the private sector activities towards a green economy have been expanding. The private sector has a promising potential in technology, marketing, cost consciousness and social responsibility,” he told scientists at the Rio +20 negotiation forum.

The government of Japan launched the Satoyama Initiative at the Tenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the Convention on Biological Diversity in October 2010 with an intention of establishing an international platform to accelerate the government’s efforts towards a green economy.

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Green economy focus of RIO+20 Media briefing in Nairobi

Land ownership key to Green Economy

 Useful resources

CLICK here for more about ICRAF’s participation at RIO+20

CLICK here for more on the CGIAR events at RIO+20

Isaiah Esipisu is a freelance journalist who was contracted by ICARF to write this story. 

Editing and additional links compiled by Yvonne Otieno

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