Future Landscapes
Integrated landscapes to promote ecosystem services and sustainable land-uses in agriculture, forestry and natural ecosystems in Southern Africa

Land-use systems of the future have to be holistic to support different needs of the society. Systems must be able to balance ecosystem services such as water and food provision, carbon sequestration and biodiversity (multifunctional landscapes). Coordinated actions between different stakeholders are needed to improve recent farming practices, while reducing the pressure on land conversion and improving food security in a sustainable way. An improved understanding of the water - land-use relations is essential to develop strategies for integrating resource-efficient land use, agricultural productivity, sustainable water management and conservation of the natural ecosystem and ecosystem functioning. To meet these challenges more research is needed to better understand the land-water-energy-climate nexus. Moreover, innovative methodologies and decision-support tools to manage land for a balanced provision of food, timber, fiber, a sustainable bioeconomy and conservation of biodiversity and development of natural ecosystems are urgently needed.


To develop more sustainable and resilient agricultural systems there is a need to redesign agricultural landscapes and to integrate different land-use types including natural and semi-natural areas from the farm to the landscape level. A differentiated land use with complex landscape structure has been previously proposed for Central European agricultural landscapes, but has rarely been realized in practice. A key challenge for implementing sustainable and resilient agricultural systems is to develop appropriate governance structures and set appropriate incentives for land users. In South Africa, more than a decade ago, awareness for habitat and biodiversity protection on agricultural farms has increased, resulting in impressive public initiatives and campaigns for promoting biodiversity in the western Cape region. The “Wine & Biodiversity Initiative”, for example, was established in 1998 and developed guidelines for sustainable and eco-friendly wine production to encourage wine growers to integrate natural habitats of high value (mainly fynbos and renosterveld) into their planning concepts.

Mutual learning including South to North knowledge transfer

The established best-practices and research approaches in South Africa are suitable cases for a South to North knowledge transfer to European farming systems. Central European agricultural systems also suffer from an urgent need to optimize yields under climatic change and increasing water scarcity in the future. These land-use changes also have to address a considerable loss of high nature value areas due to conversion to agricultural land . Understanding and coordinating interactions between the agricultural, forestry and nature conservation sectors is still one of the major challenges in Germany. Initiatives to capture the willingness-to-pay of consumers of agricultural products for biodiversity conservation exist on a small scale (for example labels for apple juice from apple production in traditional orchard), but these efforts are less successful than for example the wine and biodiversity initiative in South Africa. A joined Southern African-German initiative will contribute to new insights and arguments for coordinated land-use systems, which address the challenges caused by global change in the sense of multifunctional landscapes.



Prof. Dr. Klaus Birkhofer

Dr. Maik Veste

Prof. Dr. Frank Wätzold

Prof Dr. Guy Midgley


Volkswagen Stiftung: Initiative Knowledge for Tomorrow – Cooperative Research Projects in Sub-Saharan Africa


  © Maik Veste 2017-2020 Last update: APRIL 2020