The International Partnership for the Satoyama Initiative (IPSI) is a partnership made up of 172 member organizations dedicated to working together to realize societies in harmony with nature.
In many parts of the world, people have developed ways to utilize and manage their surrounding natural environment to sustain and improve their daily lives and production activities such as agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Based on knowledge and practices locally accumulated in such human-nature interactions over a long time, production activities and their management mechanisms have created elaborate systems that have continued to support local communities by providing foods, fuels, and other materials, nurturing traditions and culture, and maintaining ecosystems and biodiversity. However, they have been increasingly threatened by rapid socio-economic changes in recent years. Many have been converted into more uniform, efficient and large-scale production systems that often cause environmental degradation and loss of cultures and traditions. Therefore, it is important to explore ways and means for using and managing natural resources sustainably that benefit current and future generations.
To tackle this critical issue, the Ministry of the Environment of Japan (MOEJ) and the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS: formerly the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies) jointly initiated the Satoyama Initiative. This international effort promotes activities consistent with existing fundamental principles including the Ecosystem Approach. IPSI was established in 2010 in order to undertake and facilitate a broad range of activities to implement the concepts of the Satoyama Initiative by diverse stakeholders.
Current global trends have highlighted the unsustainable use of natural resources around the world. In response, increasing attention is now being paid to knowledge in traditional land use systems that have evolved from local communities’ long-term efforts to adapt to their surrounding environments and enjoy their bounties in a sustainable manner. Harmonious interactions shaped in such areas have created complex mosaics of different land use types, and contributed to both human well-being and biodiversity.
These landscapes have a variety of different names across countries and languages – Spain has its dehesa landscapes, Hawaii has ahupua’a, and Japan has satoyama landscapes, to name a few. Such landscapes and seascapes vary widely due to their unique adaptations to local climatic, geographic, cultural, and socio-economic conditions; however, they are all valuable in terms of sustainability. Unique forms of land use and natural resource management are also identified by various names around the world, such as mauelsoop in Korea, muyong in the Philippines, and kebun in Indonesia and Malaysia. (Many other examples can be seen in the case studies provided by IPSI members and relevant publications.)
A need for inclusive terminology has arisen in recognition of the potential wealth of knowledge about sustainable use of natural resources that is generated by these interactions. The term “socio-ecological production landscapes and seascapes” (SEPLS) was coined to highlight the important role that both social and ecological components play in shaping and sustaining areas where production activities are undertaken. The concept of SEPLS originates from the discussions in the Japan Satoyama Satoumi Assessment (JSSA), which adapted the conceptual framework of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.
In short, SEPLS are dynamic mosaics of habitats and land uses where the harmonious interaction between people and nature maintains biodiversity while providing humans with the goods and services needed for their livelihoods, survival and well-being in a sustainable manner.
When they are well managed, SEPLS can make a significant contribution to securing a wide range of ecosystem services to the local and broader communities. SEPLS also have deep roots in the identities of indigenous peoples and local communities, who serve as the keepers and managers of biodiversity.
Furthermore, SEPLS are important for the three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Among the three objectives of CBD, the SEPLS concept is most relevant to the second objective, the sustainable use of biological diversity. It is now widely recognized that attention must be paid to extensive areas outside of protected areas, especially in production landscapes and seascapes, where the sustainable use of natural resources is needed to protect the world’s biodiversity. SEPLS can also make significant contributions to relevant national policies for sustainable development and to the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), as well as contributing to combating desertification and to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
However, in recent years, many SEPLS have been destroyed, damaged, or abandoned for various reasons. The loss or degradation of these SEPLS has inevitably led to a decline in the various ecosystem services that they provide, with serious consequences for the lives of the local and broader communities that rely on them. The Satoyama Initiative was developed to support or reinstate harmony between societies and nature by promoting socio-economic activities such as agriculture, fishery and forestry practices that are in line with natural processes.
An example of how harmonious human-nature interactions can sustain landscapes over prolonged periods is provided by one of Japan’s traditional agricultural landscapes – the satoyama landscape. Satoyama landscape is characterized by a mosaic feature of different land uses such as woodland, grassland, paddy field, farmland, irrigation ponds and canals, and human settlements, which have been maintained in an integrated manner. Satoyama are where farmers grow rice, cut grasses to maintain soil fertility and feed animals, and use wood for fuel and as a house-building material, just to name a few of the associated production activities. These landscapes also play an important role as the setting in which a range of religious and cultural activities are conducted. High levels of biodiversity have been maintained in these mosaics of diverse habitats, which were shaped and sustained by appropriate human management such as coppicing and farming. The same spirit of harmonious human-nature interaction characterizes satoumi, coastal areas or seascapes, which also enjoy higher levels of productivity and biodiversity. These include sandy or rocky seashores, tidal flats, coral reefs, and seaweed beds.
Satoyama and satoumi have undergone significant changes since the middle of the last century, causing negative impacts on the sustainable supply of goods and services and on biodiversity. Factors contributing to these changes include rapid urbanization and industrialization as well as intensive and uniform production activities. Economic globalization and the decline of rural populations has brought about reduced use and insufficient management of satoyama, leading to changes in ecosystems formerly held in balance by appropriate management. This under-utilization of satoyama has been identified as the second crisis for Japan’s biodiversity among the four crises recognized in Japan’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan. Efforts are underway in Japan by diverse stakeholders including local communities, NGOs, and local and national governments, to conserve, revitalize, and rebuild satoyama and satoumi. While there has been growing understanding of the importance of satoyama and satoumi in Japan, it is also recognized that there are similar situations all over the world – knowledge and land use systems that have sustained ecosystem services and human well-being, and new challenges they are facing.
The term satoyama has been used with slightly different meanings, depending on the social and economic background of the specific time period in which it was used. More recently, the definition was discussed during the Japan Satoyama Satoumi Assessment (JSSA), a project participated in by 200 stakeholders from 2006 to 2010. In order to provide scientifically credible and policy-relevant information for the use of policymakers, an assessment was conducted on the ecosystem services provided by satoyama and satoumi, their contributions to human well-being, and changes they have experienced in the last half century. After a series of discussions, the JSSA defined satoyama and satoumi landscapes as “dynamic mosaics of managed socio-ecological systems producing a bundle of ecosystem services for human well-being” (Duraiappah et al. 2012).
The descriptive and inclusive term “socio-ecological production landscape,” which was derived from this definition, was found helpful to communicate outside Japan when referring to landscapes that have a similar spirit in terms of function and significance. The Satoyama Initiative has adopted the concept generated during the JSSA, and further developed it to explicitly include seascapes as well, leading to the term “socio-ecological production landscapes and seascapes” (SEPLS).
The Satoyama Initiative was started through a joint collaboration between the Ministry of the Environment of Japan (MOEJ) and the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS: formerly the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies). It aims to realize societies in harmony with nature through conservation and advancement of socio-ecological production landscapes and seascapes (SEPLS) that secure ecosystem services and conserve biodiversity to support and enhance human well-being. It will achieve this by broadening global recognition of their value and importance, and by exploring and implementing ways to mainstream biodiversity in production activities.
From its inception, the Satoyama Initiative has taken a global perspective and sought to consolidate expertise from around the world regarding the sustainable use of resources in SEPLS. The Initiative’s concept was developed in a series of meetings and consultations. One important milestone came in January 2010, when the Global Workshop on the Satoyama Initiative was held at the Headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris. The Global Workshop built on two preparatory workshops held in Asia, the first in Tokyo, Japan in July 2009, and the second in Penang, Malaysia in October 2009. The objectives of the Global Workshop were to discuss the Satoyama Initiative’s concept and define the elements of activities to be included in the Initiative. The “Paris Declaration on the Satoyama Initiative” was one of the major outcomes of the Paris workshop. It was subsequently submitted to the CBD’s fourteenth meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA-14) as one of the official documents of the meeting, and became a fundamental document that led to the Initiative’s recognition during the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 10), held in Nagoya, Japan in 2010.
[Meetings and workshops on the Satoyama Initiative before the establishment of IPSI]
- International Experts Meeting on the Satoyama Initiative Concept (25 July 2009, Tokyo, Japan)
- Asia-Pacific Regional Workshop on the Satoyama Initiative Concept (1-3 October 2009, Penang, Malaysia)
- Global Workshop on the Satoyama Initiative “Ecosystem Services and Human Well-Being” (29-30 January, 2010, Paris, France)
- CBD SBSTTA14 Side Events (10 & 17 May 2010, Nairobi, Kenya)
- Side Event at WGRI3 (24-28 May 2010, Nairobi, Kenya)
- International Partnership for the Satoyama Initiative Preparatory Meeting (23-24 August 2010, Yamanashi, Japan)
- South America Regional Workshop on the Satoyama Initiative and its International Partnership (22 September 2010, Brasilia, Brazil)
At CBD COP10, Decision X/32 was adopted recognizing the Satoyama Initiative as a “potentially useful tool to better understand and support human influenced natural environments for the benefit of biodiversity and human well-being.” The International Partnership for the Satoyama Initiative (IPSI) was established on 19 October 2010, also during CBD COP 10, to promote the activities identified by the Satoyama Initiative and to share relevant information and experiences. A total of 51 organizations entered into partnership as founding members of IPSI.
Since then, IPSI has provided a comprehensive platform for sharing knowledge and creating synergies among its diverse membership to promote a wide range of activities to conserve and advance SEPLS.
Please see here for more information on the Partnership.
The vision of the Satoyama Initiative is to realize societies in harmony with nature, comprising human communities where the maintenance and development of socio-economic activities including agriculture and forestry align with natural processes. By managing and using biological resources sustainably and thus properly maintaining biodiversity, humans will be able to enjoy a stable supply of various natural assets well into the future.
The three-fold approach of the Initiative is intended to maintain and rebuild landscapes and seascapes in which land and natural resources are used and managed in a more sustainable manner by:
- Consolidating wisdom on securing diverse ecosystem services and values,
- Integrating traditional ecological knowledge and modern science to promote innovations, and
- Exploring new forms of co-management systems or evolving frameworks of “commons” while respecting traditional communal land tenure.
Understanding diverse ecosystem services and values that give rise to human well-being is an indispensable aspect of this approach, as is the consolidation of wisdom on securing these services. It is also critical to create synergy between traditional knowledge and modern science in order to promote necessary innovations. Exploring new forms of co-management systems or evolving frameworks of “commons,” while respecting traditional communal land tenure where necessary, is vital to the process. This includes not only landowners and local residents, but also various parties who also benefit from the relevant ecosystem services. This new social mechanism would support and promote the maintenance and rebuilding of SEPLS.
In following the above approach, the maintenance and rebuilding of SEPLS in various localities – in other words, putting the sustainable use and management of natural resources into practice – should entail five ecological and socio-economic perspectives:
- Resource use within the carrying capacity and resilience of the environment
- Cyclic use of natural resources
- Recognition of the value and importance of local traditions and culture
- Multi-stakeholder participation and collaboration in sustainable and multi-functional management of natural resources and ecosystem services
- Contributions to sustainable socio-economies including poverty reduction, food security, sustainable livelihood and local community empowerment
Using this approach, IPSI provides a platform for the Satoyama Initiative to promote activities to conserve and rebuild SEPLS with the ultimate goal of realizing societies in harmony with nature.