IFLA AFRICA is a body representing landscape architects across Africa. The African region of the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) came into being at the ‘Landscape Architecture in Africa: Status of Education, Practice and Future Challenges’ symposium held in Nairobi, Kenya from 5 – 7 October 2011. It was the newest of four other regions associated with IFLA: Americas, Asia-Pacific, Middle East, and Europe.
IFLA AFRICA currently comprises six Member Associations:
IFLA Africa is actively supporting individuals in several other African countries to enable them to submit membership applications to IFLA.
A significant event held in Athens in 1988, brought together many landscape architects from the IFLA Central Region. The event, organized by the Panhellenic Association of Landscape Architects and the Hellenic Society for Aesthetics, and hosted by George Anagnostopoulos, Vice President of the IFLA Central Region, attracted 130 participants from twenty-three different countries in Europe, Africa and Asia. This was the first time that several landscape architects from across the African continent had been able to gather in one place.
Amongst these were Melanie Schwenke (now Richards) (Kenya), Ludo Verheyan, Graham Young and Menno Klapwijk (South Africa), who presented papers that contained an appeal for an African perspective on landscape design and planning problems. Mr Young, in uniting this cry, stated that
‘The dilemma of planning in Africa … is the phenomenon of Western-oriented theory and practice being imposed on purely African problems in a manner which does not result in the best solution’ and hence the need for ‘the development of African answers to African problems’ (Young 1990:119).
Perhaps this sentiment reflected the need for an African-wide organization to bring African landscape architects together regularly to debate these issues?
Several initiatives took place in African countries over the next few years; however, they did not gain much traction. In 1991 “A joint IFLA/UNESCO Regional Symposium on Landscape Education in Africa related to Professional Education and Training was held at the Natural Resources College in Lilongwe, Malawi. Nothing came of the proposals developed at this meeting although Julius Fabos, USA, and Alex Rattray, Canada, provided advice on curriculum development” (Khonje 2008:1).
At the 30th IFLA World Congress held in Cape Town in 1993, hosted by the Institute of Landscape Architects of South Africa (ILASA), a small group of South African landscape architects along with Melanie Richards and Hitesh Mehta of Kenya, held a meeting to discuss networking across the continent. Unfortunately, this effort waned and the initiative soon lost momentum. A year later in 1994, the IFLA Central Region, through an initiative by past IFLA President Zvi Miller, felt the need to support Africa, and the establishment of a Master of Landscape Architecture Programme at the University of Nairobi was suggested as a way forward. To this end, lecturers, Hitesh Mehta, and Robert Kariuki from the University of Nairobi, Department of Architecture, co-organized a symposium, “Education in Landscape Architecture in Africa” held in Nairobi, Kenya. The purpose of the symposium was to profile the profession in Africa, and particularly, Kenya and to kick-start an African-wide interest in landscape architecture. A curriculum was proposed but unfortunately, the critical support needed from IFLA Central and the Executive Committee of IFLA was not forthcoming and this effort died a slow death.
This hiatus continued through to 2004 and the idea of a continental organization of professionals was not making headway. However, African nations that were Member Associations of IFLA, remained part of IFLA Central Region which, at the time, comprised both the European and African continents and Israel. Unfortunately, the focus of the IFLA Central was on Europe, and Africa received little attention with no further inter-continental efforts scheduled to network or share ideas.
In 2005, IFLA reorganized to create the Europe Region, which was established to focus on the common interests of Europe. In many ways, this was a fortunate move for African landscape architects as it became necessary for IFLA to form a regional organization dedicated to Africa.
The process for establishing this new region was initiated by then-President Martha Fajardo (2002 – 2006 Colombia) who created an ‘African Working Group’ in 2005. Prof. James Taylor, Canada, was appointed to head the group. Finally, the idea of an IFLA Africa Region had resonance and the efforts of the working group soon began to pay dividends.
The working group was small and evolved to become the IFLA Africa Committee (Committee), which was successfully brought into existence in 2007 by then IFLA President, Diane Menzies (2006 – 2010 New Zealand).
Under her leadership, the Committee, which included Prof James Taylor (Canada) and Hitesh Mehta (Kenya) was mandated to establish a process to form a new IFLA region that would serve Africa.
Its first step was to connect landscape architects in all parts of the continent. A list was developed (The African Network) by the Committee, which included educators and practitioners from throughout Africa and others interested in advancing the profession in Africa. The Committee also put forward a proposal that was supported by the IFLA World Council, to hold an IFLA Africa Forum (Forum) and to establish a strategy to support the profession in Africa.
The Forum was convened in Dubai, UAE on 22 January 22, 2008, concurrent with an IFLA Executive Committee meeting. The purpose of the Forum was to bring together leaders within the profession in Africa to examine key issues, opportunities and needs for the region and to develop an action plan to establish a fully-fledged IFLA Africa Region.
Presentations were made by David Gibbs (South Africa), Abigail Khonji (Malawi), Robert Kariuki (Kenya) and Niyi Kehindi (Nigeria). Following the presentations and a round table discussion, action items were proposed in six areas of professional development and cooperation: 1) improve recognition of the profession; 2) expand educational capacity; 3) engagement of existing associations, individual members and organize new associations; 4) improve communication; 5) capacity building; and 6) seek external support and partners.
The Forum was followed by a mission to Africa in 2009, by then-President Diane Menzies and Committee Chair Prof. Taylor. The purpose of the mission was to meet the profession “on the ground”, expand contacts, review the state of the profession, and provide logistical assistance for the organization of the 2012 IFLA World Congress, which was to be held in Cape Town, South Africa. The Committee also met in October 2009 at the 46th IFLA World Congress, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to further strategize around these matters.
At the 2011 IFLA World Congress held in Zurich, Switzerland, a workshop on Africa was held as part of congress proceedings. It provided an opportunity to advance the progress made by the Committee and for the participants to introduce themselves, provide information and raise issues relating to the establishment of an IFLA African region. In attendance, were representatives from Africa, the Committee, and other interested parties. Morocco was approved as a new member of IFLA, thus becoming the first North African country to join IFLA. The IFLA World Congress organizing committee sponsored congress registration that made it possible for students and young African practitioners to attend. Arising from the workshop was the directive to organize a second African symposium.
The symposium took place in Nairobi, Kenya between 5-7 October 2011. It was a successful occasion which was attended by nearly 200 enthusiastic delegates from many parts of Africa. Its theme, “Landscape Architecture in Africa: Status of education, practice and future challenges”, reflected an ongoing preoccupation with increasing the number of qualified landscape architects on the continent through the development of adequate educational opportunities.
An important outcome of the event was an organizational meeting for the establishment of the new IFLA African Region. Representatives from three IFLA member associations; Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa, served as voting delegates. Morocco, the newest IFLA member association, was unable to send a delegate but filed a report in support of the initiative.
Five other African countries, representing Niger, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia were in attendance along with members of the Committee, IFLA past President Martha Fajardo and then IFLA President Desiree Martinez. The Malawian delegate, Abigail Khonji, was unable to attend due to her studies in the UK.
During the symposium, delegates and IFLA representatives engaged in robust discussion around the best way to move forward with the establishment of an IFLA Africa Region. Finally, it was agreed that the IFLA Africa Committee hold an election to establish interim leadership derived from the three-member nations. Prof P. G. Ngunjiri, Kenya, Mr Herman de Lange, South Africa, and Niyi Kehinde, Nigeria, were elected as the first IFLA Africa Region executive members. These three nations were considered growth points to enhance the development of landscape architecture in Africa. A fourth nation, Morocco, became a member association in 2011 and formed the hub of North Africa’s landscape developmental activities. On the final day of the Symposium, an inaugural meeting of the IFLA Africa Executive Committee was held and an agenda for action was established. Committee members, James Taylor and Hitesh Mehta were appointed to be co-advisors to this new region’s executive committee. This two-man committee eventually became known as the ‘IFLA Africa Oversight Committee’ (Oversight Committee).
In September 2012, at the IFLA World Congress in Cape Town, IFLA officially launched the IFLA Africa Region, which had been established the previous year. Unfortunately, the enthusiasm that came with the Nairobi initiative did not follow through. The EXCO became inactive and little progress was made during their term.
The situation began to improve in 2013. Several concerned landscape architects from South Africa, Morocco, Kenya, and Nigeria, supported by the Oversight Committee, pushed for a 3rd IFLA Africa Symposium. This time to be held in Abuja, Nigeria in October 2013 The Society of Landscape Architects of Nigeria (SLAN), under the leadership of Prof. Tunji Adejumo, organized the symposium and chose the theme, “People and Landscapes”.
The event was well attended and included two meetings that established a ‘nomination’ process for a new executive committee and the next steps for the IFLA Africa region. This was not a rigorous voting process. In the absence of a Constitution, it involved discussions between attendees and the Oversight Committee, which led to the appointment of an executive committee. It was agreed that the presidency would rotate to the different countries through mutual agreement and that the Regional Council Meeting would take place at a symposium hosted by one of the member associations, also on a rotational basis. The meetings were attended by representatives from member nations Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya along with IFLA President Desiree Martinez and the Oversight Committee. A framework for the organization and the appointment of officers was approved, as was the ‘Abuja Declaration’, which set out the commitments and objectives of the IFLA Africa Region until a Constitution and By-Laws could be established. It was also agreed that IFLA Africa should hold its bi-annual Regional Council Meeting at a symposium organized in one of the member association countries on a rotational basis. The appointments followed and the executive comprised: Tunji Adejumo (Nigeria), President African Region; Graham Young (South Africa), Secretary-General; Carey Duncan (Morocco), Treasurer; and Hosea Omole (Kenya), Chair of Education.
The following two years saw the EXCO meet via the internet on a bi-monthly basis to provide direction and carry out administrative duties. EXCO’s main aim was to develop a ‘strategic plan’ that focused on education, communications (the creation of a database) and professional development (to encourage other countries to apply for member association status with IFLA), and to meet in person at the ILASA National Conference, held in Cape Town on 4 and 5 September 2014. The development of a Constitution and the African Landscape Charter later named the African Landscape Convention, were items also high on the agenda. During this period, Tunisia became the fifth African member nation to join IFLA when their application was ratified at the World Congress in Buenos Aires in June 2014.
IFLA Africa was gaining momentum under the activity-orientated leadership of Prof. Tunji Adejumo.
In 2015 the Kenyan Association of Landscape Architects (LAAK) hosted a regional congress for the second time, the 4th IFLA Africa Symposium under the theme, “Resilience: The Role of Landscape Architecture in Urban Areas of Emerging Economies”, in Nairobi on 14, 15 and 16 October. Soon after the conference, with the support of the Oversight Committee, Tunji Adejumo, Graham Young and Carey Duncan agreed to continue for another two-year term to retain the impetus that had been gained over the past two years. It was also suggested that the Tunisian association be asked to nominate a representative to replace the Kenyan member. At the Regional Council Meeting, held remotely as all EXCO members could not make it to Nairobi, it was confirmed that the 5th IFLA Africa Symposium would be held in Morocco in 2017.
In 2016, as part of the 53rd International IFLA Conference held in Turin, Italy, IFLA Africa convened a forum. The Africa Forum intended to take the opportunity to increase the awareness of landscape architecture and related practices in Africa and to convey levels of understanding of the profession in a continent with great diversity and severe challenges. Graham Young, Fadera Williams (Nigeria), Carey Duncan, Hitesh Mehta and Lorenzo Parilli (Kenya), presented a series of projects that highlighted approaches to design problems that are unique to the region and which led to sustainable solutions and positive social impact. Landscape advocacy was another goal of the Forum. In seeking to regionalize the International Landscape Convention (ALC) as a developmental solution to contemporary continental challenges, Prof Adejumo presented a draft of the ALC to an open discussion, which included delegates from 13 different countries, National Association delegates and IFLA Executives.
In seeking to expand the IFLA Africa network beyond South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, and Morocco, the Ethiopian Landscape Forum was held in Addis Ababa, on 15 December 2016. The Forum was hosted by the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building and Construction (EiABC) on behalf of the landscape architecture programme at Addis Ababa University. The Forum aimed to understand how the curriculum of the new master’s in landscape architecture programme could be improved upon to provide a professional platform for Ethiopian landscape architects and to positively define the future of national urban and rural landscapes. The theme was well expressed in the presentations by EiABC Scientific Director, Joachim Dieter and Chair of the EiABC Landscape Architecture programme, Aziza Abdulfetah Busser. Kathryn Moore, then IFLA President (2014 – 2018 Great Britain), reiterated the importance of a global landscape framework as the appropriate model for diverse landscape issues and unveiled the newly formed IFLA Education Capacity Building Working Group, which aimed to advise institutions in developing nations, on adopting landscape architecture education curriculum content. IFLA Education and Academic Affairs (EAA) Chair, Andreja Tutundžić, shared options for curriculum development based on the European Council of Landscape Architecture (ECLAS) model, and Graham Young presented a case study on the South African approach to landscape architecture curriculum development.
The 5th IFLA Africa Symposium, “Learning the Landscape // Landscapes of Learning”, was held in Rabat, Morocco on the 13 and 14 July 2017 under the High Patronage of His Majesty the King of Morocco, King Mohamed VI. It was organized by the Moroccan Association of Landscape Architects (AAPM) under the leadership of Carey Duncan, chairperson of the organizing committee. Notably, it was the first bi-lingual IFLA Africa symposium using English and French as the primary languages. Over 15 nationalities attended representing Africa, Europe and North and South America. The symposium resulted in vital exposure for Moroccan landscape architects, who considered the event to be a huge success and a big step forward for their profession. Prof. Kathryn Moore, IFLA President and IFLA’s Executive Director Ben Roberts, were also in attendance.
The baton was passed by Prof. Tunji Adejumo, who stayed on as immediate past president, to a new Executive Committee, which was appointed within the guidelines of the Abuja Agreement. Carey Duncan (Morocco) took over the leadership and other office bearers included: Graham Young (South Africa), Secretary-General; Sondes Zaier (Tunisia), Treasurer; Carolyne Wanza (Kenya), Chair of Education, Roberta Orambo, Chair of Professional Practice and Policy (Nigeria); and Akram el Harraqui, Chair Communication and External Relations (Morocco). However, soon after the meeting, Nigeria elected Dr Maimuna Saleh-Bala as their representative, who took over the PPP Committee Chair. Mr el Harraqui (Morocco) declined his nomination, and Mr Kharbal Kaltho (Nigeria) was appointed as the Chair of the CER Committee.
The symposium was closed with the newly elected IFLA Africa President, Ms Duncan, reading the ‘Rabat Declaration on Landscape’, which emphasised “that the focus on educating tomorrow’s landscape architects, through the development of new and improved programmes in landscape architecture for Africa as discussed, must be a priority for the African continent”.
IFLA Africa made its presence felt at the 2018 American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Conference in Philadelphia, USA through a Panel presentation on African landscape architecture. Organized by Hitesh Mehta (also an ASLA member), presenters included Carolyne Wanza, Kenya, Chair of the IFLA Africa EAA Committee, and Anthony Wain of South Africa. The presentation was awarded the highest marks by the audience in over 200 presentations delivered at the conference. Also, in 2018, the largest participation by Africans at an IFLA World Congress (Singapore), marked a milestone in the evolution of the profession’s recognition and visibility at a global level. Later that year Carey Duncan and Graham Young gave presentations at the ILASA conference held in the central Drakensberg Mountains, KwaZulu Natal. The conference theme, ‘Landscape – medium for connectivity’, was appropriate considering IFLA Africa’s mandate to connect professionals across the continent.
Soon after the new Executive took over in Rabat, Morocco, it adopted an Action Plan for their term ending in October 2019. The focus of the plan was:
Supporting these objectives was the need to finalize the ALC and to establish a Constitution and By-Laws for IFLA Africa. During this term, the executive, encouraged by Carey Duncan, worked hard to meet these objectives. When the 6th IFLA Africa Symposium, entitled: “Landscape, Landscape Architects and Sustainable cities” was held in Tunis, Tunisia on 11-12 October 2019, the following had been achieved.
The symposium, organized by TALAE (Tunisian Association of Institute of Landscape Architects and Engineers) and led by Sondes Zaeir, was carried out under the patronage of the Minister of Local Affairs and the Environment. It was a milestone for the profession in Tunisia as it brought with it important exposure to the profession and its capabilities, particularly with regards to the role landscape architects play in advancing heritage projects.
The IFLA Africa Regional Council endorsed the continuation of the existing executive with one change. The incumbent Treasurer, Sondes Zaier was replaced with Dr Ikram Saidane-Hamdi, also from Tunisia. Hitesh Mehta represented the Advisory Committee at this meeting, also approved this decision.
The meeting concluded with it being unanimously agreed that the 7th IFLA Africa Symposium would be held in Nairobi, Kenya, in conjunction with the joint Sweden-Kenya IFLA World Congress planned for 2021. With the executive in place, it was again time to reset objectives for the coming two years and an Action Plan for 2019 – 2021 was established. In her President’s report to the IFLA Regional Council, Carey Duncan laid out the way forward, suggesting that IFLA Africa follow IFLA World’s lead.
'It seems to me that placing a strong priority for the next two years on the African Landscape Network will enable us to provide a service to our members and a platform to share landscape architecture programmes, experience of projects dealing with each of the 5 areas central to our profession (climate change, food security and agriculture, community participation in design, health and wellbeing and indigenous cultures), share information on climate-positive design and will pool resources by making access to information easier'.
"Secondly, we must work on the adoption of the Landscape Convention by national governments which will give us the “teeth” to make better decisions. Clients are often the ones who block better decisions, but if confronted with frameworks to help make better decisions, our jobs can be made easier. Actively pushing this Convention and using it to encourage “climate-positive design” is a way of addressing the Climate Change challenge".
"Of course, Education remains central to what we do, and ideally, we should try and evaluate at least one programme during this period, but this depends on the programmes requesting our assistance. We also need to focus on capacity building through student and professor exchanges, mentorships, continued professional development and other ways to continually improve the quality of our professionals. Communication remains the number one tool for achieving many of these objectives".
"It is essential for the future of IFLA Africa that we grow in numbers, and that more people become involved. This does not necessarily mean extra work for people, but it does mean sharing work and research that is underway with colleagues on the continent. We do need active committee members in each country to work with the PPP, CER and EAA chairs to find a replacement for the next term of office. We need to prepare the way from now".
Although 2020 was an exceedingly difficult year for everyone due to the COVID-19 pandemic, IFLA Africa, forged ahead with two exciting projects.
The IFLA-ICOMOS African Landscape Network (ALN) and the establishment of an e-Journal, the African Journal of Landscape Architecture (AJLA). The AJLA website was launched in March 2021, with its first issue being published in April 2021, and December 2021 should see the UNESCO-sponsored ALN seed project completed.
IFLA Africa, guided by Marike Franklin and Liana Jansen of South Africa, submitted the ALN project through IFLA to UNESCO’s Participation Programme for 2020 – 2021. The UNESCO call for proposals stated that “projects presented should relate to the two global priorities of the Organization - Africa and Gender Equality - as well as to UNESCO’s Major Programmes and interdisciplinary projects in favour of Least Developed Countries (LDCs), developing countries, Post-Conflict and Post-Disaster Countries (PCPD), Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and middle-income countries. These criteria were met and IFLA was awarded the project.
Spearheaded by IFLA Africa, The ALN aims to create a comprehensive database linked to an interactive web-based mapping system. The project is envisaged as part of the ICOMOS-IFLA International Scientific Committee on Cultural Landscapes (ISCCL) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) working group of ICOMOS. The collaboration aims to develop an online map-based network of organizations, individuals and professionals working on landscape-based projects and issues in Africa.
Championed by Bernard Oberholzer (South Africa) and Graham Young and with the support of IFLA Africa, the AJLA was conceived because of a perceived need for an authoritative African journal on landscape architecture that can serve the profession as well as the needs of academia. AJLA is the official journal of IFLA Africa and is committed to providing stimulating content that promotes an extensive understanding of the field of landscape architecture across the African continent. Content will be guided by an Editorial Panel made up of academics and professionals from across Africa. Its first panel comprises:
The planned joint Sweden-Kenya IFLA World Congress planned for 2021 has been postponed until 2023, again due to the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. IFLA Africa will, however, proceed with its mandated 2021 Regional Council meeting, scheduled for 15 and 16 October 2021. ILASA has offered to host a combined ‘virtual’ conference with IFLA Africa and the Urban Design Institute of South Africa (UDISA), which will coincide with the IFLA Africa Regional Council meeting. The theme for the symposium will focus on the theme: Health and vitality - Creating appropriate cities and towns in Africa.
IFLA Africa has become established over the past decade with dedicated individuals putting in much ‘free time’ to ensure its significance and role in Africa is profiled and maintained.
IFLA Africa will continue to strive to connect landscape architects and allied professions across the continent and provide a service in terms of the IFLA Africa’s four standing committees, The Education and Academic Affairs Committee (EAA); The Professional Practice and Policy Committee (PPP); The Communications and External Relations Committee (CER); and the Financial and Business Planning Committee (FBP).
The core objectives, supported by IFLA and which will continue to guide IFLA Africa activities are:
The writing of this article is based on notes kindly supplied by Hitesh Mehta and editorial comments from Carey Duncan, James Taylor and Tunji Adejumo.
Young, G.A. 1990. ‘An Overview of Landscape Architecture in South Africa’, Aesthetic and Functional Values in Landscape Design Symposium, Athens, Greece, 23-26 September 1988. Panhellenic Association of Landscape Architects and Hellenic Society for Aesthetics. Pp 119 - 130.
Khonje, A. 2008. The Africa Forum meeting, Dubai, UAE. Taylor, J. (2008). The IFLA Africa Forum, Summary Report, Unpublished Report, The Africa Forum (22 January).