Guardians of Productive Landscapes

Guardians of Productive Landscapes

Ivo Strecker
Abraham plowing the fields
Abraham plowing the fields

The GPL Project: Introduction

By Ivo Strecker

September 17. 2017

 

Initial steps towards the "Guardians of Productive Landscapes" (GPL) Project were threefold:

1. In February 2016 Dr. Feleke Woldeyes (then President of Arba Minch University) endorsed the plan for a major film series proposed by Prof. Ivo Strecker. The films would focus on indigenous crops in Ethiopia and would be of national interest, both as a means for teaching and research as well as creating awareness of the high productivity and nutritional value of these often undervalued indigenous crops.

2. In April 2016 Prof. Günther Schlee and Ivo Strecker went on a field trip to Tigray, northern Ethiopia. As they reflected on the age-old small-scale organic farming in the region they developed first ideas for a project that would support these subsistence farmers. Simultaneously they coined the title, "Guardians of Productive Landscapes"(GPL). Note that the attribute 'productive' is crucially important, and also note that the 'landscapes' are conceived here as agents, as subjects who are able to do things, - produce crops if you do not neglect and abandon them but caringly use them according to often age-old local values and knowledge. Because of its immense evocative power the notion of productive landscapes has also been used by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) as well as the European Tropical Forest Research Network (ETFRN; see news 56, 2014).

3. Once conceived as such, it was a logical third step to incorporate the GPL in the "Lands of the Future" (LOF) initiative directed by Dr. Christina Gabbert at the Max Planck Institute of Social Anthropology in Halle/Saale. As an integral part of the MPI research agenda and endorsed by Prof. Schlee the GPL has meanwhile begun to receive substantial support from the MPI (acquisition of high quality film equipment, funds for field work and the preparation of future workshops etc.).

"Time flies", as the saying goes, and the GPL is now on the way of becoming "a multilevel, polycentric and self-organizing initiative which in due course will include a combination of funding sources supporting - at different scales - both research and development components" (see Dr. Marco Bassi's "State-of-the-art paper", 2017; see also the "GPL project proposal by Feleke Woldeyes, Guenther Schlee and Ivo Strecker, 17. August 2017).

At the present stage it is important to distinguish the following GPL activities and terms:

a) Guardians of Productive Landscapes Initiative: All activities having to do with "Guardians of Productive Landscapes", whoever sponsors or implements them, anywhere on the globe. Most prominent is the Global Environmental Facility with an impressive funding scheme that up to now "has provided biodiversity protection and planning for more than 350 million hectares of productive landscapes and seascapes" (GEF website).

b) Guardians of Productive Landscapes Project: These are the activities currently sponsored by the MPI Halle (Saale), mainly the ethnographic film series and a set of four workshops planned for 2018 and 2019 addressing theoretical and empirical questions. The MPI project will eventually have a global scope, but currently its focus is on Ethiopia.

c) Guardians of Productive Landscape Program. The GPL Project aims to generate empirical and theoretical knowledge that will eventually help to create the model for a global ‘Guardians of Productive Landscape Program’. This would eventually be run by an UN agency or a combination of UN agencies, in coordination with national cooperation agencies (GIZ, SDC…) and research institutions (universities and research centres).

Three projects in the Guardians of Productive Landscapes Film Series are currently on their way:

(1)  Abraham and Sarah. Creators of a productive landscape, by Ivo Strecker.

(2)  Dancing Grass. Harvesting Teff in the Tigrean Highlands, by Mitiku Gabrehiwot.

(3) To live with Enset, by Eyob Defersha. Research for the film has been completed.

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Abraham with his sons on the threshing ground Zoom Image
Abraham with his sons on the threshing ground

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