Learning landscape governance amidst the pandemic


From my previous blog, you might already know that my team and I are working on two sites – one on the island of     Luzon, and one in Macajalar Bay in Mindanao Island. I recently travelled to Mindanao to work at the project sites there, and while I was in transit, the government declared another lockdown in the National Capital Region, where I usually live. I had to go through a quarantine period when I arrived in Mindanao, but it did not stop me from coordinating meetings digitally with key stakeholders – so this was still a win from my perspective!

While in quarantine, I used the time to enroll online in the Landscape Academy Massive Online Open Course (MOOC): Landscape Governance – collaborating across sectors and scales, which is organized by Wageningen University, the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF), and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). I kept myself busy, joining discussions and reflecting on the key players, issues, and visible and invisible elements of the     landscapes in which I work. The course has definitely helped me understand how to work with multiple stakeholders in order to make more inclusive decisions, and how to assist in the development of a landscape management plan for different resource users. I am only on module two out of five, and I already feel like I have learned a lot!

This is a practice landscape map that I created during  the course, with my Restoration Stewards project of converting abandoned fishponds to mangroves in mind. BFAR stands for Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, DENR is the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

This is an interest-influence matrix that shows various key players in the landscape and depicts their roles there, and/     or the ways in which they influence decision-making. It is another practice exercise that I carried out as part of the course. AUU stands for abandoned, unproductive and underutilized fishponds.

Here are the six key  lessons that I have learned so far through the course:

1.     Applying a landscape approach means looking at multiple levels and exploring synergies and trade-offs in order to achieve sustainable development in the landscape we are working on.

2.     Landscape governance is a complex decision-making process, whereby a range of stakeholders from      diverse perspectives and scales come together to develop a holistic plan.

3.     Every landscape has specific internal and external dynamics, which affect the space in positive and/or negative ways. For example, in my case, the fishpond lessees who have lease agreements with the government to use the areas in question, and don’t want to give these up despite the low or non-existent productivity of the sites, represent a key internal dynamic. One key external dynamic is the lack of coordination between the two state agencies that govern mangroves – environment and agriculture

4. Landscape mapping needs to be carried out with a range of different stakeholders. This helps to reveal complexities and problems that might be missed if only 1-2 people are doing the mapping. Collaborative landscape mapping processes help us to understand how different stakeholders value the landscape, and the roles they play within it.

5.    It’s important to understand who the key stakeholders are in a landscape – and the dynamics between them – before designing an intervention. Even when people share the same landscape, their perceptions of it often differ depending on how they use the resources within it.

6.     Using an interest-influence matrix (see image above)helps us to understand the concerns and decision making powers of the key players in a particular landscape. In my case, the ‘crowd’ (defined in this context as the local community), cannot be disregarded despite their low interest and influence in the issue of AUU fishponds, because they may be keen to be involved in planning future activities, such as conducting informational and educational campaigns about mangrove forests in the area.

After completing these two modules, I am inspired to carry out the landscape mapping and interest-influence matrix processes with the local community in Macajalar Bay when COVID-19 restrictions loosen. I am also planning to carry out a perception survey about the communities’ knowledge, attitude and practices related to mangroves, and using a landscape approach will definitely add to my understanding of the area. 

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