October 2016 - Marie Parramon Gurney is the lead coordinator in Africa for SUSTAIN, an initiative to implement the Sustainable Development Goals in African growth corridors with the aim of facilitating the greening of growth that is inclusive and climate-resilient.

As well as overseeing both Tanzania and Mozambique coordinators, Marie facilitates regional partner engagement for the initiative and provides strategic guidance for programme implementation. She identifies landscape-level learning, focal areas for policy implementation, opportunities for fundraising and capacity training, and provides a critical role in ensuring the reality on the ground reflects SUSTAIN’s theory of change. On the latter she quickly gained some valuable insights:

            “An initiative needs to start with a clear common vision, without it progress is very difficult. Building a common vision among different actors is essential. Pre-determined results and indicators need to be ground-truthed, and we need to accept that stakeholders may have different objectives and processes to achieve them".

During SUSTAIN’s implementation, she realised that while the landscape approach is being used in SUSTAIN as an organising principle, our understanding of what it means in practice, and how it differs from what people are already doing, needs to be consolidated.

In June 2016, SUSTAIN convened two workshops on integrated landscape management in Maputo and Tete (approx. 50 pax attended, 40% female, 60% male). While a lot of the concepts were familiar to participants, the challenge was how to ground them in reality. In working with the initiative’s stakeholders, it was clear to Marie that a shift from conceptual theories to concrete implementation was needed.

Despite the normal growing pains of a large new initiative, Marie continued to see how SUSTAIN can play this unique role in making integrated landscape management happen. Her way forward is by building a social, environmental and economic case (a ‘framework book’) for integrated landscape management, based on evidence gathered through the SUSTAIN programme.

SUSTAIN is a critical initiative – it can really support African governments, and its focus on agriculture is very opportune at this time in Africa”.

Integrated landscape management relies on a solid set of building blocks consisting of those who work in water, forest, and business. This means applying the principles of integrated landscape management to how IUCN plans for, manages, reports and learns from SUSTAIN. For example project partners such as AWF have done a great job in developing integrated workplans. At IUCN progress in that space is being made too. For example by enhancing internal dialogue within the SUSTAIN programme – in order to learn from eachother’s perspectives, language, lessons learnt, and ongoing work. 

For this, Marie feels the bi-annual SUSTAIN meetings really help in creating space for reflection and evaluation, asking questions about direction, and making room for adaptive management.

More knowledge on SUSTAIN and supporting documentation can be found here