Landscape Approach and green development

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Sustainable landscape management (Landscape Approach) has been a major topic of national and international policy discourse in recent years.

A landscape approach is about having stakeholders discuss and agree on land and water-use decisions that provide an optimal balance between community, commercial and conservation interests.

It is seen by the Palm Oil industry as an efficient way to implement concrete field action and address the sustainability principles of People, Planet and Prosperity.

The landscape approach is gaining traction in Palm Oil industry and is used to develop strategies for areas based on green economics and inclusive development.

What exactly are landscapes? In ecology, landscapes mean large areas of diverse and interacting ecosystems such as forests and rivers. In the context of Musim Mas, the Group’s concept of landscapes also includes social system patterns such as land tenure system, legal land-use system, cultural beliefs as well as natural resource use and practices.

In practice, a landscape approach is a collaborative effort among multiple parties to implement conservation on a landscape level. It is usually headed by a lead organisation or agency, along with other partners such as NGOs, private sector players and government agencies, working on a common goal to move forward. With smart collaborations, groups with different perspectives can turn the world’s most efficient oil crop into a model of sustainable development.

The landscape approach represents the next step beyond the existing traceability work, building upon the efforts of the latter.

The Group’s traceability work on third-party supply chain has shown that verifying third-party compliance against the Group’s Sustainability Policy may not be sufficient. A stop-purchase will not always yield positive results because Fresh Fruit Bunches (FFBs) can be sent to other mills within the geographical proximity. Furthermore, there are actors from other industries within the same landscape such as forestry products or mining. Traceability does not adequately address the environmental challenges.

The industry is looking at various landscape models for conserving large, ecologically valuable landscapes and the wildlife that depends on these landscapes - a model that will combine private and public resources with a commercially viable approach to secure land, restore wildlife and benefit people.

One example of an industry initiative based on the landscape principle is the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)’s Jurisdictional Approach. To scale-up current certification efforts, RSPO is looking at certifying Palm Oil production based on provincial landscapes instead of company level, emphasising on High Conservation Values, High Carbon Stocks and other elements.

Nonetheless, the landscape approach has its challenges. While identifying ecosystems in need of conservation and engaging private organisations are part of the journey, the real challenge is to devise initiatives that operate within the constraints and opportunities of the landscapes. Moreover, the landscape approach is still a concept and will need to be trialed to find a way for practical implementation.

Its abstract nature is also its strength; as the Centre for International Forestry Research has rightly pointed out: “It is about muddling through and being flexible enough to adapt to change.” To this end, Musim Mas will work with other Palm Oil players to scale-up conservation efforts via the landscape approach and ultimately hope to provide real protection for ecologically valuable landscapes.

Landscape initiatives which Musim Mas is linked up to: 

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