Sara Scherr on how to work on landscape scale regeneration on 1000 landscapes for 1 billion people

After five years Dr Sara Scherr, agricultural and natural resource economist, President, CEO and founder of EcoAgriculture Partners, comes back on the podcast to share about 1000 landscapes for 1 Billion people and much more. 5 years ago in conversation with her, we talked for the first time ever about stranded assets in agriculture.  



Why is landscape scale regeneration crucial to any investor interested in food and agriculture? What are the bottlenecks, the opportunities, and how do we build the fundamentally local institutions needed to put those billions, which have been committed to regeneration, biodiversity, regenerative agriculture/food, and rural development to work?

Enabling local regeneration initiatives to thrive

EcoAgriculture Partners promotes the development and sustainability of integrated landscape management and tries to bring together key actors in a context of climate action, conservation of biodiversity and water, which are fundamentally integrated and interconnected. As defined by Sara a landscape is a pretty large land area with many actors sharing the same natural resource base, and the objectives can only be achieved by bringing our resources and people together. There is a great potential and so many examples that show that things are actually working and a landscape transformation can be reached. We need to leave behind a trade-off mentality and focus on co-designing and co-creating new solutions and being aware of the needs of other groups.

“A landscape partnership is when those different actors in a landscape make the decision to come together and address this challenge of sustainable development jointly.” – Sara Scherr 

“There’s a lot of things farmers can do that are relatively easy that dramatically improve the habitat quality of their land and the lands around them for many kinds of species.” – Sara Scherr 

What is needed before we can put billions to work on landscape regeneration 

Integrated landscape management, an interconnection between different investments, the development of innovative large scale funding mechanisms, along with the development and help of supportive financial institutions at a local level, are all very important aspects to think about when we talk about regenerative landscapes. 

“They need to align with one another, and they need to mutually support one another. What we are finding is places where they’ve managed to get hundreds of millions of dollars into a landscape for regeneration of agriculture and forest, and in the same landscape there’s five billion dollars worth of highly degrading investing that’s going on.” – Sara Scherr

Landscape investment portfolios

Landscape investment portfolios need to be developed and strong landscape partnerships have to be forged. Those include government, philanthropic and multiple private sector partners that provide the funding sources for larger-scale efforts and that have done the landscape assessment. They need to know where they need to go, and what the vulnerabilities are. You need to have many different actors in the landscape.   

“This is the real weakness of most of these landscape partnerships, they have good action plans often, but they haven’t turned them into investable projects and investable businesses.” – Sara Scherr

Need for landscape literacy 

Three things that need to shift in people’s collaborative minds in order for the partnerships to work are: landscape literacy, trade-off mentality and fear of the messy and complex process. 

“I think that it is valuable if you’re an investor of your own money to go to a landscape that you care about and you think of having a commitment to that landscape over the next couple of decades” – Sara Scherr

Interconnections and knowing what other people are doing in that landscape are crucial. People have a trade-off mentality: if you are going to get something, it must mean that I am going to lose something. For Sara, there’s a lack of trust and experience with the power of collaborative design. People are fearful of what they see as a complex process with a lot of different actors. People, though, are not comparing the costs of collaborative action with the risks of not taking collaborative action. A shift of mental models is needed. 

“They don’t have what we call landscape literacy. They know their piece of the landscape but they don’t know how it interconnects with others.” – Sara Scherr 

Landscape Partnership developments in two decades

Water scarcity has brought a wide range of changes in the landscape in the last two decades but there is also vastly more knowledge and experience in working the landscape that ends up with a thriving agriculture and biodiversity. Climate change and the importance of every place needs to have a platform for resource users to collectively work together how they’re going to move forward. 

“We are on the cusp of being able to have a real, strong regenerative economies with many agroforestry components and farming systems which can dramatically change the footprint of agriculture in terms of watersheds and biodiversity” – Sara Scherr 

Landscape Investing and Financing 

There is a huge increase in interest and activity around landscape investing bringing vast number of funds and investment programs- facilities being set-up for farmers within landscape sphere. This economy is operating in a way that it’s going to lead to regeneration, it is operating in a way to emphasize that the interconnection between different investments (public, private and civic investments) is really important. It is crucial for them to be aligned and support each other. The frontline innovators that are willing to take the risk to try new kinds of approaches feel they are in the right direction to go forward, but they also face issues that constraint their growth as the system is still not set up for these people.   

“A lot of the funding, when we talk about the billions needed, is actually already flowing into the landscape but it’s flowing into things that are degrading rather than regenerating.” – Sara Scherr

1000 landscapes for 1 billion people

Set up in 2019 as a radical cooperation, 1000 landscapes for 1 billion people is a network of hundreds of organizations across the world with the shared vision of locally led multi-sector partnerships going after ecological benefits, human sidle benefits and economic benefits within the landscapes. The biggest change in the landscape partnership would be the recognition by powerful actors in government, business and finance that they need to support these partnerships and in long term address regeneration and sustainable development. This would bring huge impact and benefits pretty quickly. 

To know more about Sara Scherr who has been working on landscape regeneration for over 20 years and currently heads the initiative 1000 landscapes for 1 billion people, download and listen to this episode. 




Feedback, comments, suggestions? Reach me via Twitter @KoenvanSeijen, in the comments below or through Get in Touch on this website.

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The above references an opinion and is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.

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