Participatory evaluation of monitoring and modelling of sustainable land management technologies in areas prone to land degradation

Stringer, L.C.; Fleskens, L.; Reed, M.S.; Vente, J. de; Zengin, M.


Examples of sustainable land management (SLM) exist throughout the world. In many cases, SLM has largely evolved through local traditional practices and incremental experimentation rather than being adopted on the basis of scientific evidence. This means that SLM technologies are often only adopted across small areas. The DESIRE (DESertIfication mitigation and REmediation of degraded land) project combined local traditional knowledge on SLM with empirical evaluation of SLM technologies. The purpose of this was to evaluate and select options for dissemination in 16 sites across 12 countries. It involved (i) an initial workshop to evaluate stakeholder priorities (reported elsewhere), (ii) field trials/empirical modeling, and then, (iii) further stakeholder evaluation workshops. This paper focuses on workshops in which stakeholders evaluated the performance of SLM technologies based on the scientific monitoring and modeling results from 15 study sites. It analyses workshop outcomes to evaluate how scientific results affected stakeholders’ perceptions of local SLM technologies. It also assessed the potential of this participatory approach in facilitating wider acceptance and implementation of SLM. In several sites, stakeholder preferences for SLM technologies changed as a consequence of empirical measurements and modeling assessments of each technology. Two workshop examples are presented in depth to: (a) explore the scientific results that triggered stakeholders to change their views; and (b) discuss stakeholders’ suggestions on how the adoption of SLM technologies could be up-scaled. The overall multi-stakeholder participatory approach taken is then evaluated. It is concluded that to facilitate broad-scale adoption of SLM technologies, de-contextualized, scientific generalisations must be given local context; scientific findings must be viewed alongside traditional beliefs and both scrutinized with equal rigor; and the knowledge of all kinds of experts must be recognised and considered in decision-making about SLM, whether it has been formally codified or not. The approach presented in this paper provided this opportunity and received positive feedback from stakeholders.