While the Global Landscape Forum may have passed, only the tip of the iceberg has been scratched in pursuing integrated approaches to sustainable development. One panel discussion at this meeting of landscapes leaders, practitioners, and thinkers specifically targeted Landscapes in a Green Economy, drawing out some key insights on how to follow an alternate path to progress.

According to Mario Boccucci, Head of UN-REDD, “a business as usual approach” is no longer possible. His message: the “triple bottom line” is achievable, and trade-offs between development and sustainability are not inevitable. However, the premise underlying the concept of a green economy – that sustainability can be an engine for rather than a hindrance to growth – also relies on reorienting economic development so that we approach land management in a way that maintains natural capital. As President of EcoAgriculture Partners Sara Scherr noted, this move is often difficult because “it requires people to move beyond their comfort zone.”

Scherr pointed to the case of the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT), a project launched in 2009 to simultaneously reduce hunger, drive economic growth, and improve standards of living in a region stretching from Dar Es Salaam to the border of Zambia. SAGCOT initially followed an industrial agricultural model, but stakeholders soon realized that their goals could not be realized without acknowledging dependencies on the region’s pool of natural resources. This realization prompted a new focus on environmental sustainability, to be achieved through a green growth model and landscape scale planning. The resulting Green Growth Planning process demonstrated that opportunities for triple wins do exist.

SAGCOT’s story shows the importance of cross-sectoral planning and participatory processes. These concepts were also highlighted at Landscapes in a Green Economy as the panel turned its attention to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). Boccucci set the stage by emphasizing that “REDD+ is not about forestry.” In reality, REDD+ must engage with drivers of deforestation and degradation from sectors largely outside of forestry. Agnes Leina, Executive Director of Il’laramatak Community Concerns (ICC), an organization working with pastoralist communities in Kenya, added that REDD+ programs should also build off of traditional knowledge and ensure equitable sharing of benefits.

Between cross-sectoral planning, multi-stakeholder coordination, and considering the suite of knowledge available across a landscape, the challenge of building a green economy can seem a bit daunting. Yet the benefits are worth the costs. As Heru Prasetyo, Deputy Head of Planning and International Relations for Indonesia’s President’s Delivery Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight, concluded in his remarks, “economy is the art of managing our household, and a green economy is one where human well-being and social equity are achieved simultaneously with sustainability.” If we want to meet multiple social, economic, and environmental goals, this complex process is the way forward.

By Rachel Friedman, Editor of the Landscapes Blog (blog.ecoagriculture.org