The PIP approach: fostering resilience-based stewardship

The PIP approach: building a foundation for sustainable change

The PIP approach is an inclusive bottom-up approach that engages people in environmental stewardship and sustainable change. In East Africa, it has motivated thousands of farmers to tackle land degradation and invest in their land. Based on their PIP, the households’ Participatory Integrated Plan, these farmer families become actors of change, determent to make their vision become reality: a more resilient farm as the foundation for a more sustainable future.

What PIP does

The PIP, the Participatory Integrated Plan (in French Plan Intégré Participatif) is a drawing or vision of a better future, which together with an action plan motivates people to act and transform their reality. Creating a PIP changes mindsets: from short- to long-term visions, from passive to engaged, from seeing problems to seeing opportunities.

The PIP approach aims at building a foundation for sustainable change at different levels: within people, households, farms, communities, and institutions. As such, PIP works towards resilience-based stewardship: motivated stakeholders who feel responsible to be good stewards of the land and its natural resources, and invest in the resilience of their landscape.

Where we implement PIP

Wageningen Environmental Research started developing the PIP approach in 2014 in Burundi in the project Fanning the Spark, and further enriched and validated it during the PAPAB project, with local partners and supported by impact assessment studies and PhD research of Wageningen University students.

In Burundi several projects and local organisations currently work with the PIP approach, reaching more than 100,000 farmers. WENR is currently involved in the PAGRIS project, which further develops the PIP approach focusing on strengthening land stewardship.

In East Uganda (Elgon region) WENR started in 2019 with the MWARES project , a bottom-up land stewardship and restoration project in which the PIP approach was central. In 2022 we expanded our work with the PIP to West Uganda in the CommonGround project . We are also involved in projects that implement the PIP approach in Ethiopia and the DRC.

What PIP is

Creating a PIP at farm household level is key in the PIP approach. PIP experts trained by WENR facilitate families to develop a vision and an action plan together (see figure below), with a drawing of the current and desired future farm in 3-5 years, including better crop and land management practices.

By creating their Participatory Integrated Plan, awareness grows within families about how to improve together and work towards attainable common objectives. What follows is motivated action, because a PIP is based on households’ own capabilities and knowledge: ownership is key! These PIPs at household level are the first steps towards sustainable change, with further upscaling of PIP creation at group, village, watershed and institutional levels being essential to foster the scaling-up of land stewardship and restoration in a collaborative way.

A PIP drawn by a Burundian family: left the current farm situation, right the desired future farm
A PIP drawn by a Burundian family: left the current farm situation, right the desired future farm

PIP principles

Just like a tree that needs fertile soil to grow strong, the PIP approach builds a foundation for sustainable change based on three foundation principles: motivation, stewardship and resilience (visible in the figure below in the roots of the tree). This foundation of resilient and motivated stewards of the land and its natural resources, is essential for the sustainability of any intervention or action to be implemented: livestock improvement, reforestation, value chain development, water projects or micro-credit schemes (visible in the stem of the tree).
Visualisation of the PIP approach and its principles
Visualisation of the PIP approach and its principles

Furthermore, the blue outer circle presents the three guiding principles of the PIP approach: empowerment, integration and collaboration. These principles guide the implementation of all PIP activities. As such, rather than extension agents transferring knowledge, PIP staff become facilitators of change, while farmers, rather than beneficiaries of a project, become agents of change. More information on how these principles work can be found in this paper.

PIP in practice

In farmer communities PIP creation starts at household level, and is then scaled-up through farmer-to-farmer training to all other households in a village. This process is strengthened by exchange visits and PIP creation at village level: village visions and concrete plans for diverse collective activities and landscape restoration. Local institutions and extension workers are closely involved, given that their motivation and genuine engagement are considered essential for local ownership and the sustainability of all actions.

The real power of the PIP approach therefore lies in its potential to engage and motivate all actors in a watershed or district, even the higher institutional levels. Creating Participatory Integrated Plans with all of them, fostering wide-scale collaboration for better land stewardship and restoration, that’s the only option toi tackle land degradation at scale.

A field with trenches, grass strips and a mixed cropping system to keep the soil healthy.
A field with trenches, grass strips and a mixed cropping system to keep the soil healthy.

PIP key lessons

  1. Empowering people is essential: facilitate people to become actors of change, by enhancing their intrinsic motivation, building on local capacities, and by not using incentives.
  2. Development starts at household level: facilitate households to visualise their vision in a plan, and foster concrete joint action by capacity building and gender equality.
  3. Tangible improvements are key: focus on achievable goals that generate short-term visible impact, based on better planning, integration of practices, and good land stewardship.
  4. Mobilising people creates impetus: stimulate farmer-to-farmer exchanges to mobilise whole villages, and enhance collaboration, social cohesion and trust.
  5. Impact requires institutional engagement: train staff of (implementing) organisations and (local) authorities in PIP principles, to provide enabling conditions for scaling and impact.

Get involved in PIP

Wageningen Environmental Research is the founder of the PIP approach and has over the past years developed it into a practical and widely applicable tool. We are currently developing Modules for all the different phases and institutional levels of the PIP approach, which will replace the PIP Manual (a step-by-step guide lastly updated in 2020). Furthermore, PIP videos, farmer testimonies & best practices videos, and publications & studies are publicly available to learn more about the PIP approach.

We also offer diverse PIP training courses, both online and in Burundi or Uganda, ranging from a quick introduction course to 4-day courses, which can all be tailored to your wishes. The PIP trainings all conclude with the formulation of a PIP action plan for your project or organization, and M&E after the training by our PIP experts can be included.

So get involved in PIP, because the PIP approach can be used in any intervention, and makes the impact of your programme more sustainable by creating local ownership and motivated engagement of stakeholders.


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A proud motivated farmer showing his recent investment: a young improved banana tree
A proud motivated farmer showing his recent investment: a young improved banana tree