The Sustainable Landscape Approach (SLA)
The sustainable landscape approach (SLA) is a collaborative process that integrates policies and practices for multiple land uses within a given area. This is done in order to effectively address environmental challenges and maximise positive outcomes.
The sustainable landscape approach brings together all stakeholders (landowners, businesses, governments, civil society, NGOs, investors and others) who have an influence on a specific landscape and incentivises them to partner up in working towards a common goal. The specific roles and responsibilities for the SLA are defined in an action plan, and a committee and landscape manager are also appointed to lead the coordination and the follow-up. Consensus and communal benefit should be at the heart of the process.
Ultimately, the sustainable landscape approach ensures that the landscape is considered as a broader ecosystem of activities and actors, rather than as a patchwork of individual sites and/or projects. The approach also helps address the environmental, social and political challenges commonly associated with the protection and restoration of ecosystems: by systematically coordinating the design, implementation, monitoring, and follow-up of the activities implemented in a territory by a given group of actors, the SLA seeks to reconcile agricultural, industrial, conservation, economic development and other competing land use activities..
Benefits of the SLA
Managing an area with a sustainable landscape approach can provide several key benefits, including:
- Enhanced ecosystem services to store carbon, maintain watersheds and conserve biodiversity, all contributing to the local economy and to productivity in the agricultural sector.
- Improvement of value chains through more efficient use of resources, along with reduced pressure on the agricultural frontier on local ecosystems.
- Defined opportunities for technical assistance to build farmers' capacities in the sustainable management of natural resources.
- The design of financial mechanisms to channel investments into promoting biodiversity and reducing emissions.
- Better access to premium markets and potentially higher incomes from implementing sustainability protocols that are recognised by buyers.
- Incentives for communities to take conservation actions based on clear results.
- Greater recognition of all stakeholders, activities, and challenges through an inclusive governance structure.
The four pillars of sustainable landscape management
All activities implemented under the SLA — like forest conservation or restoration, the installation of solar panels, development of agroforestry and silvopastoral systems, capacity building, job creation or creating better health or education infrastructure — should fall under one of four fundamental pillars:
- Governance: actions to promote transparency, participation, inclusion, and coordination in land use policies.
- Human well-being: actions to protect and improve quality of life across health, education and employment.
- Sustainable production: actions to manage supply chains by using more sustainable practices with a reduced impact on ecosystems.
- Natural capital: actions to protect and restore ecosystems, biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Such activities are generally implemented and monitored by the owner of the land area that is being managed with a sustainable landscape approach, and this landowner receives technical support from other stakeholders, including NGOs, academics and project developers. The landowner reports on progress using specific metrics and shares any lessons learned in order to improve the management of the landscape.