Implementing Landscape-Scale Interventions in the Tropics

Terry Sunderland headshot
Dr Terry Sunderland

In the early morning hours of October 29th, we debuted our book Operationalizing Landscape Approaches in the Tropics at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) Biodiversity Digital Conference. We were joined by over 600 researchers from around the world who attended the virtual launch.

Chronicling two years of research in Ghana, Indonesia, and Zambia, the book details Collaborating to Operationalise Landscape Approaches for Nature, Development and Sustainability (COLANDS) – a joint initiative between the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the University of Amsterdam, and the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Forestry that highlights how integrated landscape approaches can address the challenges of land and resource management in multi-functional rural landscapes.

What are Landscape Approaches?

Simply defined, landscape approaches facilitate multiple stakeholders coming together to identify and negotiate synergies and trade-offs at each site, ideally resulting in more sustainable and equitable land and resource management. The approach recognizes the need for integrated solutions to interconnected social and ecological challenges, such as biodiversity loss, food security, and poverty.

Multi-stakeholder workshop in Kalomo District, Zambia
Multi-stakeholder workshop in Kalomo District, Zambia

The COLANDS initiative seeks to operationalize landscape approaches in three tropical landscapes in Zambia, Ghana, and Indonesia. A team of local scientists and government and community partners work together in each country, with support from team members in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.

Context is key. Each landscape has a unique set of social and environmental needs, meaning landscape approaches will likely manifest differently in each site and are dependent on the objectives defined by the local context and stakeholder needs. However, some of the overarching questions we are exploring include: what are the priorities of stakeholders and how do they align? Will increased collaboration lead to sustainable use of natural resources? Do existing governance structures and policies enable and foster collaboration between stakeholders? How do we monitor and evaluate these processes? What are the major trends across sites that contribute to land use change?

We hope the sum of our activities, as presented in our recent publication, provides guidance and lessons learned for other initiatives alike given the ubiquity of landscape approaches in the current academic and evelopment narrative. In essence we are seeking to report confidently on what has worked in terms of implementation, but just as importantly, what has not.

Terry Sunderland with workshop group in Zambia
Terry Sunderland with workshop group in Zambia

Download the book

Alida O’Connor is a PhD student in the Sunderland Lab and member of the COLANDS team. Dr Terry Sunderland is a professor in the Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences and Senior Research Associate at CIFOR. He can be reached at


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