- Developing landscape initiatives requires a wide range of different organisations, institutions and expertise.
- Regional government ‘buy in’ has been central to the design and overall feasibility of the Unlocking Forest Finance sustainable landscape initiatives.
- Such initiatives need support from a local organisation with the capacity, interest and experience to help design and and implement it on the ground.
As an example, the three Unlocking Forest Finance projects brought together 12 key partner organisations in the UK, Germany, Austria, Peru and Brazil, and worked with many others. These organisations came from local government, private consultancy, financial institutions and a wide range of academic and non-governmental bodies.
It is common to build such an initiative on already-existing partnerships and platforms, according to a report from UNFAO/UNCCD. This was the case with Unlocking Forest Finance. Alternatively, these partnerships could be built from scratch.
Specific expertise needs should be identified at the early stages of a project. These needs should help identify key partners and consultants.
Each partner or consultant should have specific and clearly defined responsibilities.
Communication across different thematic/technical areas is vital to ensure everyone is working towards the same goals.
This is particularly important the initial phase of the project. Partners should share a common understanding of the core principles and objectives of the project and their specific contributions to the overall outcome. They should also understand the inter-dependencies with other partners. This may be facilitated with flow charts demonstrating each phase of the project in a clear way so that all partners understand the overall mission.
- The main project ‘deliverables’, such as reports, analyses or other pieces of information, should be clearly defined, so all partners understand what is needed by when and how their different responsibilities make up the big picture.
Different partners and roles
The following section examines the roles of different partners in this process.
The Unlocking Forest Finance projects worked at the sub-national scale, as aims were strategically aligned with regional government objectives. In smaller countries, a similar approach might work equally well with national governments.
The Unlocking Forest Finance initiatives are coordinated by non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The best NGO partners can bridge the gap between the policy world, the financial world and those working on the ground, including farmers, cooperatives and conservationists.
Sub-national governments could also coordinate initiatives. Even if they are not coordinating, sub-national governments must be involved. This means that coordinating partners will need to work closely with government officials working in specific sectors, such as agriculture or conservation.
Throughout this process, regional governments will need to provide detailed information, vital for estimating current and future agricultural production, conservation and other issues affecting land use. This should be a dialogue: preliminary results of analysis should be communicated and evaluated with government officials, to ensure technical analyses reflect local realities.
Government involvement ensures local ownership, and that the initiative reflects local needs and ambitions. This makes it much more likely that the project will be successful.
In the Unlocking Forest Finance initiatives, technical partners defined the analyses they would need to carry out. This helped define data needs in the form of templates and lists of required data. With this information, local partners carried out detailed research, interviewing people from a wide range of local institutions.
Local partners should work closely with researchers who will ultimately use the data
There are good reasons for close collaboration between local partners gathering the data and technical partners using the data (see Modelling and analysis, below). In some cases, this may mean working together on several field visits. Such collaboration can help ensure that the most useful data is collected. Moreover, this is particularly important when some information is unavailable, so partners can best assess how to produce meaningful results given the circumstances.
There is more information on general principles of data gathering here.
Modelling and analysis
Sustainable landscape initiatives will need several technical partners who can carry out detailed analysis and economic modelling.
As a first step, technical partners should review the information and ensure it is usable. They then carry out preliminary analyses for consultation with local partners. This may include preliminary cash flow analysis, environmental impact assessments or safeguards analysis. These are then carried out more comprehensively.
Some partners will also need to carry out specific modelling analysis, such as Ecosystem Services Assessment and the assessments of climate change risks.
Creating environmental safeguards
Sustainable landscape initiatives aim to generate a positive balance of environmental, social and financial returns. A strong safeguarding framework is a way of ensuring this.
Environmental NGOs, sustainable certification organisations and others have the appropriate expertise to designing safeguards and Codes of Conduct, so may be valuable partners in a sustainable landscape initiative.
In some cases, it will be useful to engage financial institutions in a consultative role, for example in designing the financial mechanism. Even if they are not investing directly, some banks and other financial institutions may be interested in participating in this process as a way of learning about new mechanisms.
Most landscape projects are led by non-governmental organisations, while large financial corporations are currently less involved in these projects, according to a UN report. This is likely to change as interest grows in financing sustainable landscapes.
Potential conflicts of interest
It is essential to ensure there are no conflicts of interest at any stage of the project. For example, if the same people are responsible for both technical assistance and monitoring, technical experts may be incentivised to report positive results. Moreover, in this situation farmers may be less inclined to openly discuss problems they are having in case it jeopardises funding.