Applying Systems Thinking in Promoting Climate-smart Practices in Land Use Sector

Mr Allan Barcena, Assistant Vice President and Head of CSR for the renewable Energy Development and Cooperation (EDC) shared his experience and insights during the ACLP session on the private actor’s perspective, presented relevant initiative on practicing climate-smart approaches. Photo: GIZ/Diella Dachlan

The second module of the ASEAN Climate Leadership Programme (ACLP) took place from 6 to 9 September 2021. Concentrating on the theme “Observing the System Closely”, each session is centred on the practice of observing the systems from various perspectives within the context of land use and climate change.

The workshop underlined the importance of cross-sectoral cooperation in enacting change.
It brought together diverse perspectives from the private sector, high-level policymakers, and civil society to the discourse of mainstreaming climate-smart practices, including learning from experts whose hands-on experiences have been inspirations to many people in the region.

Moreover, the module continued to strengthen the participants’ competencies and their commitment in promoting the implementation of climate-friendly and resilient land use practices, guided by ASEAN policies and priorities.

Introduction to systems thinking

Participants were introduced to systems thinking by Mr Andre de Wit, Amsterdam Leadership Academy. Systems thinking is a way of looking at an issue from a higher perspective and seeing how multiple elements are connected.  Systems thinking is an essential component in the leadership programme since it trains the participants to think of comprehensive solutions with greater impacts across various working areas relevant with land use sectors.

Theory U is a central concept in the design and conduct of the ACLP programme. It is change management tool which can be used beyond the Change Project. In this module, participants learned to familiarize themselves with the theory and put it into practice.

Landscape approach in addressing climate change

During his session, Dr Rex Victor O. Cruz, a professor from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) explained the interlinkages between the national level implementation of climate-smart practices and ASEAN guidelines. The regional priorities being discussed were; Promoting climate smart agriculture; Agroforestry development; Promoting responsible investment in Food, Agriculture, and Forestry (FAF); Gender mainstreaming in FAF sectors; and Public-private partnership for technology development in FAF sectors. These are all regional policy outputs that are informed and endorsed by all ASEAN Member States.

Furthermore, Dr Cruz introduced the landscape-based approaches in addressing climate change. The landscape approach uses a framework to allocate multiple uses and management of land, as well as to integrate policies and practices for an inclusive growth. He explained the key guiding principles of the landscape approach is holistic, inclusive, participatory, science-based, with multiple goals. The landscape-based land use planning uses the land itself as the physical framework, using it to analyse situational issues, the allocation of uses, and trade-offs between land allocation options.

Dr Cruz also shared a methodological framework to help participants bring the concept of landscape approach alive during land use planning. However, the presentation was not blind to the challenge that comes with this approach. Major changes and adjustments in coordination and collaboration need to be resolved, as the approach deals with multiple stakeholders who have different priorities and perspectives.

Insight from Different Perspectives: Local Policymakers, NGO & Communitiesand Private Sectors.

The core theory which forms the foundation of the programme promotes the understanding of an issue from multiple perspectives and cooperation between different sectors to tackle any concerns. The workshop aims to share various perspectives and ideas in managing the land using climate-smart approaches. It brought together different initiatives from policymakers, civil society, communities and private sector to the discourse of mainstreaming climate-smart practices in the region.

Conservation Farming Village (CFV) is an approach initiated by the ASIALAND Sloping Lands Management (ASL) network, which transforms the traditional upland farming system into a more sustainable one. The implementation in the Philippine is coordinated by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD). This programme covers upland degradation and stimulation of upland community development, which is adaptive to climate change. CFV case studies and experiences were presented by Ms Maria Soledad Prena, Environment and Natural Resources Officer of the Local Government Unit (LGU), who works on 19 barangays or districts in Ligao City, Albay; and Mr Albert Gutierrez, a former Municipal Planning Development Coordinator of the Local Government Unit, who has worked in La Libertad, Negros Oriental. Mr Gutierrez said the programme was very useful for getting technical support, because the area had problems with severe erosion, land degradation, and deforestation.

Mr Gutierrez expressed the need for more outreach and education for farmers to further convince them of the programme’s potential in improving their living standards.

During the session on listening to the NGO and communities’ perspectives, Mr Wilson John D. Barbon, Country Director, Myanmar Programme, International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR), shared his experiences in building climate smart villages (CSVs), a platform for resilience building in agriculture, food security, and women empowerment in rural Myanmar.

Mr Wilson emphasized two key points when working with villages: understand the context of the village by assessing the motivation of the farmers and adapting to the local culture and language. He also emphasized that co-creating and co-designing solutions together with the community is important.

Mr Allan Barcena, Assistant Vice President and Head of CSR for the renewable Energy Development and Cooperation (EDC), on the other listening session to the private actor’s perspective, presented relevant initiative on practicing climate-smart approaches. Through the BINHI greening programme, EDC protects, maintains, and enhances the forest to improve ecosystem resilience not only in the operational geothermal areas, but also nationwide.  The programme utilizes 96 native tree species in the Philippines to restore the forest cover and biodiversity resources. The challenge faced while working on the BINHI programme was that forestland has varying degrees of degradation, and there is no one-solution-fits-all scheme. The selection of seeds needs to be considerate to the ecosystem. Each programme in different area should develop its own appropriate strategies for restoring the forest landscape, beyond only planting seeds for the sake of CSR programme.


The four-day workshop showed why and how systems perspective and approach are pivotal in designing and implementing programmes with long-lasting impacts. The workshop illustrated the need to foster good relations between sectors to encourage creative and innovative actions.

Through active observations and engaging discussions in each session, both participants and speakers acquired new insights in bringing climate-smart land use closer to the planning and implementation stages.  

The ASEAN Climate Leadership Programme (ACLP) is an initiative led by the Climate-Smart Land Use (CSLU) ASEAN project in collaboration with the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA). The programme is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammernarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

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