Sustainable Land Management Status Conference 2013

Increasing number of people require more intensive utilisation of the land resources. Therefore, it is important to come up with new ways of looking at land as a resource. The sustainable land use requires innovative solutions to deal with the land use conflicts. Against this background, a conference for the exchange of interim results on the land management topic was held in Berlin, on 17th-19th April, 2013. The event included both thematic foci of the entire Sustainable Land Management research programme ("Interactions between land management, climate change and ecosystem services" - Module A, and "Innovative system solutions for sustainable land management" - Module B).

In total, around 540 experts from science and practice participated. The objective of the three-day conference was to present and discuss the preliminary results and findings of the research programme, and to provide a good environment for networking among the 25 regional projects.

Councillor Reinhold Ollig (BMBF)

On the first conference day, the characteristics of the research programme (philosophy, objectives and key messages) have been presented to the audience. The conference was opened by Councillor Reinhold Ollig (BMBF) who emphasized the integrated, regional and implementation-oriented perspectives of the funded activities and the close cooperation between science and practice that enables all stakeholders to work together in order to develop new strategies for the sustainable use of existing resources. To increase publicity of the Sustainable Land Management research programme among the general public, external experts for keynote speeches and a round-table discussion, moderated by Volker Angres (ZDF), were invited. Prof. Dr. Klaus Töpfer, the executive director and founding director of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) pointed out that land has been a long-neglected resource, which is currently gaining more public attention. Prof. Dr. Joachim von Braun, the director of the Center for Development Research, focused on the global context and different drivers affecting the competition for the land.

Further perspectives on this topic were brought up during the round-table discussion by Prof. Dr. Karin Holm-Müller (Vice Chair of the German Advisory Council on the Environment and Chair of Resource and Environmental Economics at the Department of Agriculture at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn) and Prof. Dr. Angelika Zahrnt (Member of the German Council for Sustainable Development and honorary chairwoman of »Friends of the Earth Germany« - BUND). Professor Holm-Müller emphasized a necessary trans-disciplinary collaboration within the regional projects for implementing relevant research findings. Prof. Zahrnt reminded the already existing activities focused on various aspects of sustainable land management, which are for the first time brought together within the BMBF funding measure.

The first day was concluded by opening the ‘Market Place’ for all conference participants. Here, representatives of the regional projects presented their findings with help of various illustrative items. At the same time, this exchange forum offered an opportunity to discuss challenges and solutions in sustainable land management. In addition, detailed information about further activities of the individual regional projects was provided at a separate poster exhibition.

The second and third day were used for a general programme presentations and discussion of various results of the regional and the two scientific coordination projects. Current land use conflicts were addressed and solutions from the regional projects were identified. In various thematic sessions, research of the individual regional projects was presented. Further, the participants had an opportunity to take part in the open-space forums in order to discuss common issues in more detail and to continue networking.

The diversity of stakeholders and their interests reflected in the thematic breadth of the conference programme. Due to the different drivers in the project regions in Africa, Asia, South America and Germany, the approaches of the individual projects on how to cope with the land resources also differ. The 39 sessions and 7 open-space forums on the second and third day therefore concentrated on different descriptions, analyses and evaluations of land use in the regional and international context. A lot of space was also dedicated to the discussion of different management and governance approaches.

Through the keynotes and round-table discussion, as well as the sessions and open-space forums, the status conference revealed many innovative approaches for resolving land use conflicts and developing various forms of management and governance. The conference was a first event where all regional projects could participate together and thus an important step towards a knowledge exchange within the entire research programme. The exchange of information and experience with other countries about their different planning approaches and management tools proved to be very helpful in terms of stimulating a discussion about project own insights.

The conference evaluation based on anonymous questionnaires showed that most participants considered the status conference a success. This accomplishment was primarily achieved thanks to an intense and creative engagement of the regional and scientific coordination projects. Numerous contributions at the marketplace and in the sessions, together with conversations during the breaks documented the wide diversity of topics within all regional projects as well as the overall innovation of the research programme.