Wageningen University & Research: Supporting the Rainforest Alliance’s Mount Kenya Sustainable Landscape and Livelihoods Programme

Landscape Approaches, such as Integrated Landscape Management (ILM), have become a popular tool amongst development practitioners to stimulate more sustainable management of natural resources such as land, water and biodiversity. But while the popularity of landscape approaches has been rising, the number of rigorous impact assessments remains slim.

This report on the Sustainable Landscape and Livelihoods Programme in Mount Kenya partially contributes to filling this gap and provides both a situational analysis as well as a baseline for an impact evaluation carried out by Wageningen University & Research and ETC Consultants. It informs the landscape programme to be implemented by the Rainforest Alliance in the Mount Kenya region, and allows for evaluation in later phases.

Complexities conducting a Landscape Approach
Landscape Approaches are proposed as a participatory and inclusive mechanism to mobilise stakeholders around a common agenda. This typically involves improving water supplies, forests, biodiversity or land resources for improving livelihoods and enhancing resilience of communities within the landscape. This participatory set-up makes sure that, at least in theory, there is a governance model in which local stakeholders have a greater say in the management of local resources and creates joint ownership of programme activities.

Yet, this simple phrasing may conceal the many complexities in conducting a Landscape Approach. For example, there can be conflicts of interest between different participants that have to be looked at. There is also a critical need to manage expectations to ensure that stakeholders as well as programme implementers have a realistic understanding of what the approach can deliver.

Situation analysis and first steps of an Impact evaluation
This report presents a Situational Analysis, aimed at documenting the current landscape in great detail. It takes key environmental pressures into account, and key actors (groups) with their individual ambitions and constraints. It also provides more insights into existing development initiatives in the region that can be used to prevent duplication or build synergies. This Situational Analysis provides detailed information that helps the Rainforest Alliance to update and refine planned activities directly. It also helps the organisation to understand and manage emerging complexities along the way. Further, the report also documents the baseline for the impact evaluation, including information on current farming practices, crop yields and income levels, which helps to assess impact in later phases.

Many of the insights from this report are context specific. However, a number of more generic lessons for (successfully) conducting and evaluating Landscape Approaches can be learnt.

First, the success of a landscape approach greatly depends on the setting of the scope in the initial phase of the project. This includes the scope in geographical terms, areas and their environmental pressures that are targeted (and which are not). Success also depends on the measure of inclusivity with respect to actors involved and whether all can agree on a joint problem statement and prioritisation of activities.
Second, the envisioned activities need to balance between the incentives of a diverse set of actors, including women, youth or resource-poor farmers, each with specific interests and incentives. Activities need to enhance these incentives for a considerable group of citizens without negatively affecting those of others, while improving the targeted natural resources.
Third, the success of the Landscape Approach is determined by how tensions and trade-offs are resolved. It requires mechanisms to resolve conflict, while the choice of programme activities can serve to lessen trade-offs. Some of these could be outside of the initial scope, like simulating employment outside of agricultural production, thereby lessening the competition for natural resources.
Fourth, evaluating Landscape Approaches also requires due attention for the selection of the relevant indicators, not only capturing changes in the environment or livelihoods, but also assessing changes in the governance mechanisms in the region and how such changes are valued by inhabitants.
Next steps
Wageningen University & Research and ETC Consultants will carry out the mid- and end-term evaluation of the Sustainable Landscape and Livelihoods Programme in Mount Kenya, for and with the Rainforest Alliance in the coming years. Studies such as these enhance our understanding of where, how and when Landscape Approaches contribute to better natural resource, thereby learning about key successes as well as failures and how and why these materialise.