THE LEARNING INSTITUTE 

Founded in 2005, The learning Institute (LI) is a non-profit, non-political Cambodian organization working with a wide range of civil society, public and private sector organizations to effectively contribute to the sustainable management of natural resources to the rural landscape of the country.

Since its inception, LI has worked in 19 Provinces of Cambodia, supporting rural communities who depend on natural resources for their livelihoods – across agriculture, forestry, and fisheries. It engages local stakeholders, both community members and government authorities, as participants in Action Research projects based on Landscape Approach principles*, to develop more collaborative, integrated and sustainable Natural Resource Management (NRM) in Cambodia.

The Learning Institute also believes that gender equity is integral to poverty reduction and the achievement of long-term sustainable and fair use of natural resources. Effective development (poverty reduction/livelihoods/food security) requires an awareness of, and response to, the ways in which gender relationships influence how women and men, girls and boys participate in, and are affected by, the process of development. 

Improving natural resource management practices and protecting the environment require reducing poverty and achieving livelihood and food security among rural women and men. That goal will not be reached unless women are included in the conversation.

Because of gender-differentiated roles and responsibilities in natural resources management, interventions must address the specific needs and opportunities of rural women and men, particularly the poorest, to reduce inequalities, stimulate growth, and reverse environmental/resource degradation. 

LI has been instrumental in facilitating natural resource co-management models through projects aimed at more sustainable NRM, securing livelihoods and empowering local communities as co-researchers and management actors, through adaptive capacity building and mechanisms for equitable benefit-sharing, with a focus on the most vulnerable groups and individuals.

LI also publishes and shares research project outcomes at sub-national, national and international levels, for evidence-based advocacy and policy reform.

 

*more on the landscape approach principles below

 

The ‘ecosystem’ or ‘landscape’ approach differs from more traditional sectoral and project-based approaches – it provides a conceptual framework to address this complex web of social, economic, and environmental objectives, and to manage the ‘trade-offs’ entailed by efforts to simultaneously address conservation and development objectives – with an emphasis on identifying obstacles at institutional and governance levels.

‘Landscape’ here refers to more than the physical space of a resource area; the concept invokes a sphere of interaction between the natural and human systems. It is best described as a human-centred approach, applied at ‘landscape scales’ – taking into account the range of economic, cultural, social, and political drivers of a given context, and stakeholders from the most vulnerable of local communities to policy-makers. 

Its principles emphasize adaptive management and broad stakeholder involvement in achieving sustainable and just outcomes in this competitive environment. The quality of decision-making is held to be a function of the process by which the decision is reached, and that the achievement of multiple objectives requires an ongoing cycle of engagement, negotiation, learning, adaptation, and improvement.

 

The Ten Principles of the Landscape Approach are linked and mutually reinforcing:

Continual learning and adaptive management. Landscape processes are dynamic, but the development of new understanding, drawing upon multiple sources, informs decision-making and revised strategies.


Common concern entry point. Solutions to problems need to be built on shared negotiation processes based on trust. Stakeholders have different values, beliefs, and objectives, but identifying shared, short-term objectives allows for immediate ways forward to emerge. In working toward these initial goals, opportunities arise for shared learning, and a process of trust-building creates a foundation for tackling further issues collaboratively.


Multiple scales. Outcomes at any scale are shaped by processes operating at other scales. Influences include external drivers, demands, and constraints. An awareness of these higher and lower level processes can improve local interventions, inform higher-level policy and governance, and help coordinate administrative entities.


Multifunctionality. Landscapes and their components provide a diverse range of values, goods, and services, with these multiple uses and purposes valued in differently by different stakeholders. The landscape approach acknowledges the various trade-offs among these, and the need to reconcile stakeholders’ multiple needs, preferences, and aspirations.


Multiple stakeholders. Failure to engage stakeholders in an equitable manner in decision-making processes will lead to sub-optimal, and sometimes unethical, outcomes. Developing a landscape approach requires an iterative process of identifying stakeholders and recognizing their concerns and aspirations, while solutions should encompass equitable distribution of incentives and benefits.


Negotiated and transparent ‘theories of change’ logic. A fundamental goal of a landscape approach is to build and maintain consensus. Transparency is the basis of trust, and is achieved through a mutually understood and negotiated process of change, towards a shared vision. All stakeholders need to understand and accept the general logic, legitimacy, and justification for a course of action, and to be aware of the risks and uncertainties. 


Clarification of rights and responsibilities. The rights and responsibilities of different actors, regarding resource access and land use, shape both social and conservation outcomes. They need to be clear to, and accepted by, all stakeholders. When conflict arises, there needs to be an accepted legitimate system for arbitration, justice, and reconciliation. Gone is the ‘command-and-control’ approach to natural resource management – facilitation and negotiation have emerged as the core business of NRM agencies.


Access to information and Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation (PME). The gathering and interpretation of information is a vital part of developing and updating the ‘theories of change’ on which the landscape approach is based. No single stakeholder has a unique claim to relevant information, and the validity of multiple knowledge sources and systems must be recognized. All stakeholders should be able to generate, gather, and integrate the information they require to interpret activities, progress, and threats.


Resilience. Wholesale system changes are usually detrimental and undesirable. In contrast, bolstering resilience, as the capacity to avoid or deflect threats and to absorb and recover from unavoidable impacts, is vital to the sustainability of processes and benefits. Factors that contribute to system resilience are diverse and reflect context-specific ecological, social, and institutional attributes. 


Strengthened stakeholder capacity. The ability to participate effectively, including exercising various roles and responsibilities, presupposes certain skills and abilities). The learning and sharing process of the landscape approach is one means by which stakeholders can improve their capacity to judge and respond.