Research Article: Discourses mapped by Q-method show governance constraints motivate landscape approaches in Indonesia

Date Published: January 31, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): James Douglas Langston, Rowan McIntyre, Keith Falconer, Terry Sunderland, Meine van Noordwijk, Agni Klintuni Boedhihartono, Margaret Holland.


Interpreting discourses among implementers of what is termed a “landscape approach” enables us to learn from their experience to improve conservation and development outcomes. We use Q-methodology to explore the perspectives of a group of experts in the landscape approach, both from academic and implementation fields, on what hinderances are in place to the realisation of achieving sustainable landscape management in Indonesia. The results show that, at a generic level, “corruption” and “lack of transparency and accountability” rank as the greatest constraints on landscape functionality. Biophysical factors, such as topography and climate change, rank as the least constraining factors. When participants considered a landscape with which they were most familiar, the results changed: the rapid change of regulations, limited local human capacity and inaccessible data on economic risks increased, while the inadequacy of democratic institutions, “overlapping laws” and “corruption” decreased. The difference indicates some fine-tuning of generic perceptions to the local context and may also reflect different views on what is achievable for landscape approach practitioners. Overall, approximately 55% of variance is accounted for by five discourse factors for each trial. Four overlapped and two discourses were discrete enough to merit different discourse labels. We labelled the discourses (1) social exclusionists, (2) state view, (3) community view, (4) integrationists, (5) democrats, and (6) neoliberals. Each discourse contains elements actionable at the landscape scale, as well as exogenous issues that originate at national and global scales. Actionable elements that could contribute to improving governance included trust building, clarified resource rights and responsibilities, and inclusive representation in management. The landscape sustainability discourses studied here suggests that landscape approach “learners” must focus on ways to remedy poor governance if they are to achieve sustainability and multi-functionality.

Partial Text

Landscape scale interventions to achieve economic development while supporting environmental integrity are being promoted in Indonesia as a means to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals [1]. Commonly referred to as ‘landscape approaches’, these interventions are used in intergovernmental initiatives and by governments, by research and academic institutions, NGOs, as well as the private and business sectors [2]. Such space-based approaches are considered preferable to ‘commodity’ based approaches to managing the environmental, social, and economic sustainability of global production systems [3–5]. The attraction of landscape approaches is the perceived potential for delivering conservation and development synergies and minimizing trade-offs [6]. Landscape scales are considered by many to be where broader sustainability challenges are most manageable [7]. Recent discourse has suggested that the global sustainable development community might coordinate to unlock ‘potentially trillions’ of dollars to be directed into landscape approaches for achieving sustainable development [8]. Such approaches are, of course, compelling and have permeated almost all corners of the development and conservation discourse. Yet, in reality, long-term and sufficient funding for the conservation of natural resources and economic development of rural societies remains elusive.

Overall, statements referring to “corruption” and “lack of transparency” scored highest, and statements on agricultural policies and biophysical factors such as topography and climate change, the lowest. When participants considered a landscape they knew best, the results changed slightly: the rapid change of regulations, limited local human capacity and inaccessible data on economic risks increased in relevance, while scores for inadequacy of democratic institutions, overlapping laws and corruption became less important. Both generic trial and specific trial highlight that corruption, lack of accountability, policy and sectoral inconsistencies, weak enforcement of rules and regulations, divergent goals and unsatisfactory stakeholder respect are ranked as the main constraints to landscape functionality. Table 1 shows a list of the most and least constraining factors according to our P-set for both the generic and landscape specific trials. The most illustrative set of main constraints and least constraints fell at a convenient Z-score threshold plus one and minus two (see Table 1).

At the beginning of this paper we suggested that the broad range of understandings of a landscape approach implies that implementers are likely to diverge in their perspectives as to what the obstacles are for landscape functionality. To a degree, our results suggest otherwise. A governance leitmotif runs through the overall results and discourses. This suggests that of the many applications and contexts in which they are used, the motivation behind landscape approach implementation is perceived ubiquitous governance failures. However, the overall differences between ranks for ‘generic’ Indonesian landscapes and ‘specific’ landscapes represents fine-tuning of generic perceptions to local contexts.

To achieve sustainability, landscape approach implementers must understand the comprehensive range of narratives of the problems that they aim to solve. “Policy emerges in a complex process where opinions and concepts matter at least as much as objective evidence, if the latter exists at all” [52]. In this paper we provide evidence that a diverse group of landscape practitioners and researchers have common concerns- that poor governance constrains landscape functionality in Indonesia. The evidence also shows that there is variation in the discourse, depending on the values that underpin one’s political vantage point. Landscape approach implementers must grapple with divergent political vantage points when striving for consensus on the theories of change for landscape development trajectories. As landscape approaches to achieving sustainable development become more prominent in Indonesia and among international agencies to achieve sustainable development, researchers and practitioners must focus on the key obstacles if they want to achieve impact. The results of our discourse analysis show that there are numerous angles from which landscape sustainability is seen to be obstructed by poor governance. We identified six discourse groups among our participants: (1) social exclusionists, (2) state view, (3) community view, (4) integrationists, (5) democrats, and (6) neoliberals. Overall, corruption, transparency and accountability are perceived as the major constraints on landscape functionality. If landscape approach implementers do not address governance issues of major concern and grapple with their own political differences, then interventions risk being displacement activities [94]. Theories of change for landscape approach initiatives must incorporate strategies to account for political stances among landscape stakeholders and rectify governance failures. Only then will sustainability be within sight.




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