Frontier landscapes present some of the greatest challenges to sustainable development, but also great opportunities. These are geographically remote, scarcely populated areas that are being transformed rapidly by agricultural expansion and associated socioeconomic changes. The population is usually a mix of established communities and recent arrivals, from very diverse backgrounds: from large-scale agri-business and mining operations geared to international commodities markets, to subsistence farmers.

As starkly different groups of people and interests come together in frontier landscapes, they often fundamentally change the landscapes’ makeup and development trajectory. The rates of natural vegetation loss, land use change and social and economic fluidity are typically high. Governance is often weak, and as different actor groups compete over land and other natural resources, the rapid pace of change may lead to crucial decisions being made early on that have long-lasting ramifications.

Frontier landscapes bring into sharp focus many of the most pressing sustainability challenges faced by rural areas around the world: from slowing and preventing deforestation, to ensuring that development benefits more vulnerable communities, rather than weakens them. But how can such challenges be addressed, and how might policy goals and outcomes in a frontier landscape need to be different from those in regions that no longer have such high levels of natural capital, or socio-economic fluidity?

Devising specific governance strategies that effectively address the complexity of social and environmental change in frontier landscapes is no easy task. This policy brief, based on a multi-stakeholder forum at the Global Landscapes Forum in Lima, Peru, last December, distils key insights from recent experience into six propositions, aiming to contribute to the adoption of a more comprehensive and holistic approach to fostering sustainability in frontier landscapes across the developing world.

Download the brief (PDF, 1.3MB)