Maintaining cultural landscapes worldwide: A report from the second meeting of the Satoyama Initiative

By Friederike Mikulcak

From March 12 to 13, 2012, the second meeting of the International Partnership for the Satoyama Initiative (IPSI-2) was held in Nairobi (Kenya). As one of the 117 members, we considered it relevant to attend the global conference. So I’d like to briefly summarize the event. But before I do so, it might be important to describe what Satoyama is actually about.

The term stems from the combination of two Japanese words – sato (village) and yama (mountains, woodlands and grasslands). Satoyama describes traditional Japanese cultural landscapes that integrate human settlements, agricultural land (often used for wet rice cultivation or tea planting), and managed coppice forests along surrounding mountainsides. Due to the close dovetailing of both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, Satoyama landscapes are particular rich in biodiversity – not despite, but because of their human impact. Rising intensification or abandonment of land, rural migration, and ageing of the rural population are threatening not only Japan’s cultural landscapes, but all cultural landscapes and their integral richness in biodiversity on a global scale. As host of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) conference in 2010, the Japanese Ministry for the Environment set up the Satoyama Initiative and thus attracted worldwide attention for the degradation of what they called “social-ecological production landscapes” (SEPL). The United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) in Yokohama was charged with hosting the Initiative’s secretariat.

The goal of the second IPSI meeting was to provide a platform for knowledge exchange on social-ecological production landscapes, for potential cooperation, and for the acquisition of funding by IPSI members such as through the GEF (Global Environment Facility), UNDP (United Nations Development Program) or UNESCO. Fifty-eight member initiatives, represented by both scientists and practitioners, joined the conference and discussed drivers of change, threats, and solution strategies to maintain or restore cultural landscapes. The meeting was chaired by Dr. Tony Simons, Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), and framed by resilience thinking. Thus concepts such as adaptation and transformation were central to the three working groups that were formed. I presented our research project on Transylvania as a case study and also held the position as rapporteur for working group 1: Capturing and Promoting Resilience including Disaster Risk Management. During the working group, we discussed the development of resilience indicators which, based on both traditional and expert knowledge, are intended to support the comparison of social-ecological production systems in the future. In addition, these indices are meant to help local communities to build or maintain resilient regional production landscapes, or simply “social-ecological systems”.

The secretariat of the Satoyama initiative is currently preparing a report on the relevance of maintaining social-ecological production systems that will be prominently promoted at the upcoming Rio+20 conference. Besides, the implementation of so called ‘action points’ that were adopted in Nairobi will be tackled. Among many others, the conference participants wish to (a) develop both a conceptual framework and ‘toolkit’ to compare and strengthen social-ecological production systems; (b) mainstream the goals of IPSI into other policy instruments such as National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAP); (c) stipulate multi-stakeholder dialogues on all policy levels around the globe; and (d) foster strategic cooperation with other science-policy platforms such as the IHDP (International Human Dimensions Program on Global Environmental Change) or IPBES (Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services).

The roadmap sounds ambitious, and we’ll need to wait and see whether and to what extent IPSI manages to meet its goals. It’s definitely worth observing and, if possible, also actively supporting the activities of the Satoyama Initiative. A next step in this direction could be to attend IPSI-3 in Hyderabad (India) in October 2012.

For more information about the initiative and results of IPSI-2, please visit its website at

One thought on “Maintaining cultural landscapes worldwide: A report from the second meeting of the Satoyama Initiative

  1. Thats good initiative of which would enable local community to participate in enveromental consavation widely.

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