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’ Integrated Farm 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

PIP is an acronym for the French Plan Intégré du Paysan or Integrated Farm Plan. Envisioning a better future and planning how to get there are at the core of the PIP approach, and motivate people to act and transform their reality. PIP changes mindsets: from short- to long-term visions, from passive to engaged, from problems to opportunities.

PIP 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 (WENR) started developing the PIP approach in 2014 in Burundi in the Fanning the Spark project, 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 PIP, reaching more than 100,000 farmers. WENR is currently involved in the PAGRIS project, giving follow-up to PIP and focusing on land stewardship.

In Uganda, WENR started in 2019 with a 'research for development' PIP project in the Manafwa watershed, and we are also involved in projects that implement the PIP approach in Rwanda and the DRC.

What PIP is

Creating a PIP, the Integrated Farm Plan at household level, is a key tool 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 a PIP, 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 being essential to foster land stewardship at village level and beyond.

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 (see figure below). 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.

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

PIP starts at household level, but the real power of PIP lies in its potential to engage people village-wide. Upscaling PIP creation in a village takes about 2 years, with a key role for the PIs (Paysans Innovateurs, or Farmer Innovators). PIs are the first to create a PIP, but they also train other households – from farmer-to-farmer – in integrated farm planning and better land stewardship.

This process is strengthened by exchange visits and Village Visions, which are 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.

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. Materials like the PIP Manual (a step-by-step guide), PIP videos, farmer testimonies & best practices videos, and publications & studies are publicly available to learn more about PIP.

We also offer diverse training courses, both online and in Burundi, 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 organisation, and M&E after the training by our PIP experts can be included.

So get involved in PIP now! PIP can be used in any intervention, and makes the impact of your pogramme more sustainable by creating local ownership and motivated engagement of stakeholders. Next to the original “PIP-for-farmers” developed for smallholder agriculture settings, WENR is also developing a PIP-Module for institutions, agricultural schools and secondary schools.

Please contact us for more information and to get inspired! Mail to:

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