IPSI Newsletter, April 2021


Dear IPSI members and friends,

Greetings from the IPSI Secretariat in Tokyo, Japan.

The cherry blossom season in Japan is now all over and it seems that early summer is already in the air in Tokyo. We hope that these sunnier days are also a sign of hope for the future.

IPSI and its members continue to stay active in a wide variety of projects and activities towards “societies in harmony with nature”, even during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including active participation in the series of sessions held by the CBD Secretariat over the past few months for the development of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), as well as the upcoming formal SBSTTA-24 and SBI-3 meetings scheduled for May and June.

This month’s newsletter contains updates from recent IPSI activities including the subsidiary meeting of the IPSI Steering Committee and the COVID-19 Response Survey, the recently-published sixth volume of the “Satoyama Initiative Thematic Review”, a report from a recent online event related to forest conservation, an introduction of a case study from the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy, plus a message from William Dunbar.

As always, please feel free to contact us to submit any new case studies or other information about your activities, or if you have any questions or comments.

IPSI Secretariat

Update on recent IPSI activities

A subsidiary meeting to the fifteenth meeting of the IPSI Steering Committee was held online on 31 March 2021. This meeting aimed to discuss the process of updating the IPSI Strategy and the IPSI Plan of Action 2013-2020 (the “PoA”), which were both developed in the early years of the partnership, to make them more strategic and action-oriented reflecting our decade of experience, the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development among other recent developments. With the advice of the SC members, the IPSI Secretariat is currently preparing for the establishment of a sub-committee for updating the abovementioned documents and will announce further updates on this in due course. Please keep an eye out for announcements via email to members, this newsletter, and the IPSI website.

Furthermore, we at the IPSI Secretariat have been conducting an IPSI COVID-19 Response Survey of all IPSI members, from 7 to 25 April to gain a deeper understanding of the experiences of our IPSI members and their communities, including the challenges and opportunities faced during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The findings of this survey will help the IPSI Secretariat develop strategies to foster resilience in SEPLS to cope with different ecological, social, and economic shocks and disturbances, update the IPSI PoA, and contribute to furthering the effective implementation at the landscape level of the Post 2020 GBF and its various targets. We greatly appreciate all the members who have participated in this survey for your kind cooperation and understanding.

(Photo from the recent subsidiary Meeting of the IPSI Steering Committee)

New Publication: Satoyama Initiative Thematic Review Vol. 6

The sixth volume of the Satoyama Initiative Thematic Review (SITR) annual publication series was recently published, with the theme “Fostering Transformative Change for Sustainability in the Context of Socio-Ecological Production Landscapes and Seascapes (SEPLS)”, by UNU-IAS in collaboration with the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES). For the first time in the history of the SITR, this volume was published as a book through Springer Publishing. The sixth volume focuses particularly on how SEPLS management relates to the idea of transformative change, considering that SEPLS approaches can result in multiple benefits beyond biodiversity conservation, including cultural ecosystem service provision, preservation of traditional knowledge and practices. It compiles eleven selected case studies from IPSI member organisations and a synthesis chapter that summarises the findings of the case studies. The publication provides useful knowledge and lessons for achieving global goals on biodiversity and sustainable development, while having great potential to offer substantive inputs to the upcoming IPBES “Thematic assessment of the underlying causes of biodiversity loss, determinants of transformative change and options for achieving the 2050 vision for biodiversity”. It will be of interest to a broad audience including policymakers, practitioners, and researchers.

The publication is available here.

Recent event: APN seminar on “our familiar forests”

A seminar titled “A lot of wonders and challenges of our familiar forests – thinking about forest environment in 30 years” was held online on 28 March 2021, organised by the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN) and the Graduate School of Agricultural Science, Faculty of Agriculture Kobe University. The IPSI Secretariat’s Research Consultant, Dr. Evonne Yiu, delivered a presentation titled “Let’s revitalise Satoyama! The importance of forest conservation from the perspective of the Satoyama Initiative”, highlighting the importance of creating locally-oriented mixed industries based on agriculture, forestry, and fisheries with high added value in harmony with biodiversity and ecosystems. From this perspective, IPSI and its activities were featured as best practices.

More information on the seminar is available on the APN website here (Japanese), and the event can be viewed on YouTube here (Japanese).

Recent Case Study: Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy

We are pleased this month to share a case study from the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy in China, titled “Working with nature for a more resilient world to COVID-19: Inspirations from farmer communities in China”, which reflects a central topic of recent discussion.

This case study presents a series of stories of 14 farming communities in China collected with support from China Farmers’ Seed Network and UNEP-IEMP to show how working with nature can help people cope better with and recover better from crisis like COVID-19 and climate change. According to the case study, “Working closely with scientists and drawing on traditional knowledge, farmers collectively conserve and breed crop varieties that are better adapted to climate risks like drought. They revive traditional farming techniques for pest control, such as combining organic rice with duck and fish production. They practice and promote traditional intercropping to increase biodiversity on farm and better manage soil and water. As COVID-19 continues to disrupt transportation and travel, those farmers found that working with nature has made their farming communities more resilient not only to climate change but also to COVID-19 impacts. They have secure access to seeds as they conserve and breed seeds themselves locally. They grow a diversity of food on their farms so access to nutritious and affordable food has not been disrupted.”

For the full case study, please see the IPSI website here.

Column – a message from Mr. William Dunbar, former Senior Communications Coordinator at UNU-IAS -

Dear IPSI members and friends,

Some of you may remember me, but for any readers whom I am not fortunate enough to know yet, I served in the IPSI Secretariat for around seven years until my contract ended at the end of the year, and was lucky to communicate with many IPSI-related friends as focal point for membership issues. I have already been in touch with many of you via email, and thanks again to those of you have sent kind messages on my departure. While our work with landscapes and biodiversity conservation is something to be proud of, for me the most precious takeaway from the past years has been getting to know so many wonderful people, and I hope we will all remain friends for years to come.

I have been asked to provide some thoughts for this newsletter, and although I am reluctant to seek attention or presume to have insights of interest to anyone, I am now in the USA visiting an ailing parent for a few weeks, and between this and the end of my time at UNU-IAS, as well as all that is happening in the world with the COVID-19 pandemic and everything else, it is after all a good time for reflection.

To be honest, my years of working with landscape approaches and having the opportunity to visit many friends in their own landscapes have opened my eyes to things that I would never have otherwise considered about life here in the USA. While there is much to love about my hometown, I now see serious problems in the physical landscape here. Local laws require people in my neighborhood to live in single-family homes on large plots, surrounded by wide swaths of mown grass. Because of the distance between houses, public transportation is not viable, so every household needs at least one car to go anywhere. We drive through the city without stopping to communicate, and in most cases do not even know our neighbors. Virtually no time is spent in public spaces, and in any case there are few other people in the spaces that do exist. All of this private space, however, demands huge costs in maintenance of lawns, roads, and other non-productive infrastructure. The very layout of the landscape seems designed to prevent the creation of community and force people into unsustainable lifestyles, thanks in large part to policies that make it literally impossible to design the landscape in a way that would increase population density and make the land productive for human well-being. Society, the environment, and the physical form of the landscape are all tied together in ways that ultimately determine nearly every aspect of our lives, for better or for worse. The COVID-19 pandemic has only helped to underscore this by forcing people even further away from each other.

The pandemic has had, and continues to have, an incalculable cost economically, environmentally, and perhaps most importantly in human terms, that must not be ignored or understated even as we start to return to normal with wide-scale rollout of vaccines. Still, the spirit of a landscape approach is to see things in broader context and with a holistic view, and in this sense it is worth asking whether the current challenges are really an outlier situation, or whether it is one more spike in an ongoing cycle of crises and short-term solutions that will continue indefinitely unless we find a more sustainable way of living on earth.

For this purpose, my suggestion based on these reflections is that readers also take a moment to really look at your own place and how your physical landscape influences society, and vice versa. Would it be possible to design the landscape in a way that fosters a more fulfilling life for the people who live there, and how? In the spirit of the multiscale landscape approach, what can we do at the global level, the national level, the local level, and even in our personal lives, to make life fulfilling and worthwhile?

For me, the weather here is unseasonably cold, and the flowering trees are covered with April snow. In the neighborhood, people inevitably get older, and some get sick and pass on. Governing bodies resist change and make well-intentioned policies that can have unintended consequences. Pandemics and other disasters will likely continue to come and go. We all have to live in some kind of a landscape. What I take away from the past few years is that, if we work to make our landscape a good one, it just might allow us to live a better life.

Thank you all again for all of your help and friendship over these years.

William Dunbar


Please be sure to let the Secretariat know if there are any changes in your e-mail address or contact information.

Secretariat of the International Partnership for the Satoyama Initiative

United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS)
5–53–70 Jingumae
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-8925

Tel: +81 3-5467-1212
Fax: +81 3-3499-2828
Email: isi@unu.edu

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