Institutional benchmarks for achieving climate-smart landscapes

Participatory community meeting, Niger. Photo credit: Mahamane Larwanou Climate Smart Landscapes: Multifunctionality in Practice

Participatory community meeting, Niger. Photo credit: Mahamane Larwanou
Climate Smart Landscapes: Multifunctionality in PracticeSeveral actors with diverse roles and affiliations interact within landscapes, and with different mandates, interests, weaknesses and capabilities that call for collaborations that are governed by laws, rules and regulations.

Several actors with diverse roles and affiliations interact within landscapes, and with different mandates, interests, weaknesses and capabilities that call for collaborations that are governed by laws, rules and regulations.

These actors and policies operating at various levels from global to local, shape climate-smart landscapes that explicitly address mitigation and adaptation. For example, actors such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) generate and disseminate climate-related knowledge applicable at global, regional, and local levels. Knowledge generated forms the basis for setting up funding mechanisms by multilateral agencies such as the World Bank and the UN for landscape-level actions. Global scientific research bodies such as the CGIAR Consortium generate scientific knowledge, for example, on agroforestry systems and climate-smart agriculture often piloted at the landscape level.

At regional level are structures with collective policies and goals that can be useful intermediaries between states and the international agencies. Non-governmental organizations such as the Tropical Rainforest Alliance and inter-governmental agencies such as the Central African Forest Commission (COMIFAC) advocate for the interests of their member states at international negotiations. They also formulate ways of addressing regional-level climate change and sustainability challenges. Regional networks play an important role in creating synergies, building human, political and financial capital for climate actions beyond geographical borders.

Government ministries and state agencies formulate, guide and facilitate the implementation of climate and related policies at national, sub-national and local levels. Linked to the global level, these actors are critical for successfully embedding mitigation and adaptation actions to the broader national level policies, defining resources rights. These institutions face challenges around coordination, capacity for climate monitoring, funding and relationships with global structures.

“Institutions at local level are critical in shaping how local communities are affected by, and respond to climate-related challenges and mediate both individual and collective actions,” remarked Susan Wambugu, a research fellow at the World Agroforestry Centre. “They influence the severity of climate change impacts on communities and how communities respond to climate change. Additionally, they broker external support and provide the medium for local presentation and access to resources”.

Although local institutions play a critical role in climate-related matters, they are regarded as recipients of climate-related knowledge in many interventions. They face challenges such as social resistance to change, weak governance, lack of information on climate-related disasters and are often short of assets and insurance to withstand shocks. Despite this, local institutions are gaining significance in regional and global climate networks.

Key benchmarks for institutions in climate-smart landscapes

Institutional arrangements for climate-smart landscapes may be analyzed using seven benchmarks. These are listed below together with specific issues to be addressed.

  • Participatory and collaborative processes – inclusivity of planning and implementation processes of climate-smart practices.
  • Secure tenure – clarity and security of land tenure, forests and tree tenure including use and access rights of these resources.
  • Mechanisms to ensure equitable sharing of benefits – clarity and transparency in benefit-sharing mechanisms, equity in benefits, accountability by actors in benefit-sharing and a pro-poor benefit-sharing approach.
  • Gender consideration – representation of women and youth in decision-making, active participation in project activities, gender equity in benefit-sharing mechanisms and gender-biased cultural practices.
  • Strategic targeting of investments – pro-poor targeted and funds from different sources directed towards commons objectives.
  • Monitoring and evaluation of impacts – credibility of verification standards for tracking carbon fluxes, local communities’ participation in monitoring of fluxes, changes in livelihoods, monitoring of other goals such as wildlife conservation and opportunity for continuous research and learning in the landscape.
  • Explicitly addressing mitigation and adaptation needs – carbon sequestration, emission reductions and adaptation of livelihoods and the ecosystem to climate change impacts.

Susan Chomba, a research fellow at the World Agroforestry Centre added, “While these benchmarks cut across diverse landscapes such as forestry, agricultural, urban, coastal and drylands, the variations between landscapes determine what criteria are prioritized. The benchmarks do not suggest any order of significance but serve as a reference point of analysis of institutional arrangements for climate-smart landscapes”.

Applying the benchmarks

Three projects implemented in Kasigau, the Lake Victoria basin and Aberdare Range landscapes in Kenya, each with different ecological and social characteristics but with related climate-smart objectives, delivered varying outcomes in benchmarking. Project activities were on wildlife and forest conservation, assisted forest regeneration and on-farm tree planting respectively, and based on REDD+ and Clean Development Mechanisms. The cases exhibit a diversity of actors ranging from private, to state and civic, operating at different levels.

A similarity among the projects is that they are all planned and managed by international and civil society organizations, with national and local-level actors included as partners. Projects are technical in nature, excluding local communities and even national-level actors in their initial planning, only engaging them as participants in implementation.

Monitoring and verification of carbon, livelihood and biodiversity impacts was implemented through technical guidelines under Climate Community and Biodiversity Standard and Voluntary Carbon Standard, with little or no participation by the communities. Only one project attempted to engage farmers in carbon monitoring through the Activity Baseline Monitoring System. However, it was largely technical and factually subjective to farmers as it did not take into account their consent and language for understanding, raising concerns on the credibility of information provided in the evaluation.

All three projects had positive indicators for pro-poor targeting either through their geographical scope, distribution of benefits or incorporation of various economic benefits to communities. The level and nature of pro-poor targeting activities however varied across the landscapes, for example with emphasis on women and smallholder farmers with different challenges.

Mode of participation and community representation also varied across the three projects. Communities were organized as either community based organizations, locational carbon committees and community forest associations. This did not necessarily demonstrate democracy or sustainability beyond the life of the projects. Gender equity was varied in the three projects; one explicitly targeted women empowerment through revenue and participation in decision making, while the other two targeted the community in general without specific gender considerations.

Other differences in benchmarks noted were on tenure, mode of participation, monitoring and evaluation and equity in the sharing of benefits, mainly arising from contrasts in land holdings.

Approaches to optimizing institutional arrangements towards climate-smart landscapes

Optimizing institutional arrangements towards climate-smart landscapes involves identifying and engaging key actors in the landscape at various levels, as well as their interests and competencies. It also includes designing effective participatory processes rather than involving communities as mere participants in projects to make other landscapes management objectives succeed. Project designs need to be flexible and simple to realize synergy in mitigation and adaptation, as well as greater efficiency, effectiveness and equity in implementation outcomes. This also applies to monitoring systems.

Additionally, the role of buyers and consumers of landscape products (such as livestock and crops) and services (for example water, carbon sequestration, soil erosion) should ensure sustainability of their production while ensuring minimal negative consequences. Local buyers have a more intimate relationship with the landscapes as the supply of products and services affects them directly.

Joanes Atela, a PhD research fellow at ICRAF concludes by saying “While these seven benchmarks inform appropriate institutional pathways for climate-smart landscapes, they are by far non-exhaustive and that in achieving various project goals, there will be trade-offs and synergies to be considered”.

Download the chapter here and the complete publication here.

Wambugu, S. W., Chomba, S.W. & Atela, J. Institutional arrangements for climate-smart landscapes. Climate-Smart Landscapes: Multifunctionality In Practice. P. 257– 272.'

Susan Onyango

Susan Onyango is the Global Communications Coordinator at the World Agroforestry Centre and is based at the headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. With over 15 year’s experience in communication, she ensures efficient and effective coordination of communication support to units and regions at ICRAF. She joined ICRAF in 2014 as communications specialist for the Climate Change Unit. Susan holds a MA communication studies and a BA in English. Twitter: @susanonyango

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