The landscape approach for meeting the climate challenge: Examples from Africa

A series of eye-opening case studies from Africa take up a 44-page section of a new ICRAF publication that brings together, for the first time, original research and syntheses on landscape approaches to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The programmes analysed in the section seek to put the concept of Climate Smart Landscapes into practice across large productive landscapes. They cover Kenya’s premier tea-growing district, cocoa agroforestry systems in Cameroon, and the Congo Basin Forests that cover 300 million hectares and span six countries in Central and West Africa.

In these farming and pristine landscapes, deliberate actions to pursue climate smart practices hold enormous potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Climate smart practices will also help people better adapt to global climate change. Landscapes are considered to be “climate-smart” when they contribute to increasing food security, and improve climate adaptation and mitigation in a sustainable way.

Communities living and working in the landscapes —as users of the resources, NGOs, and traditional or formal governors—play an important role in realizing Climate-Smart Landscapes. Society and institutional structure are therefore a common thread running throughout the four chapters.


A mosaic of tea, maize and other annual crop production, eucalyptus woodlots and forest fragments comprises much of the Kericho landscape in Kenya. Photo by Mark Moroge

A mosaic of tea, maize and other annual crop production, eucalyptus woodlots and forest fragments comprises much of the Kericho landscape in Kenya. Photo by Mark Moroge

In their chapter ‘Operationalizing climate-smart agricultural landscapes: the case of a tea-producing landscape in Kericho, Kenya,’ Jeffrey C. Milder, Mark Moroge and Seth Shames describe the application of a new assessment tool to evaluate climate-smart landscape needs and opportunities.

The tool, made up of a series of semi-structured interviews, was developed by the authors and applied on landscape stakeholders in the Kericho landscape of Kenya, the country’s prime tea producing area. Six key activity domains: on-farm management practices, landscape planning and coordination, energy systems, training and technical assistance, policy support, and technology and information, were surveyed.

According to the authors, the tool “facilitates systematization of information on these themes.” It helps users develop an inventory and description of current activities in their landscape, as well as gaps and opportunities related to implementing a climate-smart landscape approach.

The Kericho landscape is faced with the threat of climate change to tea production; increasing demand for eucalyptus for fuel; and deforestation of the Mau Forest, the source of biodiversity and water to the area and beyond.

“Research and planning tools, such as the one developed for this study… allow landscape stakeholders to identify concrete steps that can move them toward a climate-smart landscape,” state the chapter’s authors.

They emphasize that in order to support the mainstream practice of climate-smart agriculture, “experiences from developing, applying and continuously refining such assessment tools should be documented systematically and shared widely.”


Two case studies are from Cameroon.

Cameroon – institutions

The first is ‘Institutional dynamics and landscape change – a case study of Southern Cameroon,’ by Divine Foundjem-Tita, Stijn Speelman, Peter A. Minang, Peter Mbile, Samuel N. Ndobe and Zac Tchoundjeu. In it, the authors tackle the issue of governance of landscapes.

Institutional dynamics, they write, shape community forestry landscapes. Yet in many African countries, including Cameroon, there has always been a coexistence and often tension between customary laws and formal rules and norms of governance.

Drawing on a review of the literature, field observation and documentation, and personal communication with farmers and experts, the case study presented in this chapter focuses on dominant landscapes in Southern Cameroon. Here, forest and rural agricultural mosaics (e.g., cocoa agroforestry systems and plantations) have multiple sets of institutions governing them, both customary and formal.

The authors conclude that customary and formal institutions are evolving towards a hybrid, and that “it may be possible that hybrid institutions work better for landscape management.”

They give the example of the traditional forest-dwelling Bakas and Bagyelis (or pygmies) of Cameroon. For millennia, these communities lived exclusively as hunter-gatherers. Today, “many are now settling outside of their original hunting and gathering grounds, which in many cases have become protected forests based on the 1994 Forestry Law.” The Bakas and Bagyelis are trying, with some help from NGOs, to integrate into a new way of life with formal rules, and new, hybrid land and forest property rights regimens.

The chapter’s authors emphasize that institutions—formal, informal or hybrid— are crucial to landscape management, as they shape the patterns and functions of landscapes.

Cameroon – cocoa agroforestry

Woman holding a grafted cocoa plant grown in her private nursery in the Efoulan area, Cameroon-Photo by Lalisa A Duguma/ICRAF

Woman holding a grafted cocoa plant grown in her private nursery in the Efoulan area, Cameroon-Photo by Lalisa A Duguma/ICRAF

In the second chapter on Cameroon, Dieudonne Alemagi, Peter A. Minang, Lalisa A. Duguma, Anderson Kehbila and Faith Ngum tackle sustainable intensification and diversification of cocoa agroforestry landscapes (CALs) in Cameroon. Intensification is aimed at enhancing the multifunctionality of the landscapes, by simultaneously providing mitigation, adaptation, conservation, and developmental benefits.

Cameroon is the fourth-largest producer of cocoa in the world after Côte d’ Ivoire, Ghana, and Indonesia. The tree crop is an important source of income for approximately 1.4 million people here.

The authors analyse and discuss three scenarios for sustainable intensification and diversification of CALs in southern Cameroon, and compare these to the dominant current practice (growing fruit and timber producing trees within CALs). The three scenarios examined are:

  1. Full-sun cocoa cultivation (currently encouraged by the government)
  2. Tree-diversified cocoa agroforestry, and
  3. Cocoa enhancement and diversification through vegetative propagation.

Comparing cocoa productivity, biodiversity (tree species richness), and carbon sequestration, the authors conclude that “Cocoa farm renewal through vegetative propagation and the integration of trees (timber and fruits) could simultaneously generate moderate increases in cocoa farms productivity, as well as moderate biodiversity benefits, carbon sequestration potential, and income from the cocoa plants and diverse tree products.”

They note, however, that “Regardless of which pathways farmers choose, sustainable intensification and diversification will only work if it is accompanied by viable policy incentive mechanisms, including technical capacity building, improved delivery of extension services, and improvements in market institutions and infrastructure.”

The Congo Basin

In a chapter discussing Landscape approaches in the Congo Basin, Kalame Fobissie, Coordinator of the Climate Change Program VITRI at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and REDD+ Negotiator for Cameroon in the UNFCCC, compares and contrasts the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Emission Reduction Program (ERP) and the Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE).

CARPE is a 20 year-old Congo Basin regional program of the United States Agency for International Development of the United States Government (USAID), aimed at reducing threats to the Congo Basin forests. CARPE’s third phase, started in 2013 and running until 2020, is operational in the DRC, the Republic of Congo and Rwanda, and builds on the lessons from the two previous phases to protect and manage forests and wildlife in the selected landscapes.

The Congo Basin’s Emission Reduction Programs (ERP), on the other hand, is a World Bank-coordinated program under the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF)’s Carbon Fund (CF) aimed at providing payments for verified emission reductions from REDD+ programs in different countries. So far, Costa Rica, Ghana, Nepal, Mexico and the DRC have their Emission Reduction Program Idea Note (ER-PIN) accepted into the CF’s pipeline.

CARPE and ERP both involve landscape approaches and are increasingly interacting at the local and national levels due to several commonalities that create space for learning across programs.

“The ERPs’ and CARPE’s landscape approaches have different entry points and governance structures, but they all lead to similar destinations in terms of conservation and development objectives, activities and outcomes,” states the author.

Fobissie asserts that contributions from the CARPE landscape approach are inevitable for the successful implementation of the DRC’s ERP landscape approach.


This section of the new publication brings home the rich complexity, but also the opportunities that accompany designing and implementing approaches to achieve multifunctional landscapes that benefit people and the environment within the context of climate change.

The book, as a whole, “speaks in an enabling way to policymakers, civil society, scientists and land managers to address ‘how’ to integrate perspectives and outcomes in managing nested biophysical and human landscapes,” says Prof. Anthony Simons, Director General, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).

Climate-Smart Landscapes: Multifunctionality in Practice was launched at the Global Landscape Forum, a side event of the UN climate conference, on 6 December 2014.

See full program at

The book:

  • Brings together for the first time a range of original research and case studies on landscape approaches for climate change mitigation and adaptation
  • Specifically looks at the pathways, methods and tools needed for achieving synergy between various stakeholders, sectors and institutions at the landscape to meet multiple objectives
  • Presents new ways to bring together science, policy and practice as well as identifying specific opportunities for private sector involvement in landscape approaches

The publication is available at

Related links:

Climate change blogs from ICRAF

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Daisy Ouya

Daisy Ouya is a science writer and communications specialist with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). Over the past 15 years she has been packaging and disseminating scientific knowledge in the fields of entomology, agriculture, health, HIV/AIDS research, and marine science. Daisy is a Board-certified Editor in the Life Sciences ( and has a Masters’ degree in chemistry from the University of Connecticut, USA. Her BSc is from the University of Nairobi in her native Kenya. She has worked as a journal editor, science writer, publisher, and communications strategist with various organizations. She joined ICRAF in July 2012. Twitter: @daisyouya

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