Table Of ContentsNext Page


Continuing land degradation and increasing numbers of people living in poverty are among the symptoms of the current pressure on land resources. To date, the world's response to the two challenges of satisfying human needs and maintaining the integrity of global ecosystems has been less than successful. The lack of an integrated planning framework for land has historically been compounded by poor management strategies, failure to identify stakeholders1 and involve and empower them in the planning and management process, and weak institutional structures.

These problems were clearly recognized during the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) which called for an integrated approach to the planning and management of land resources. In Agenda 21, the document of the Earth Summit, UNCED proposed a number of policy and strategy measures, which include integration of biophysical, social and economic issues, the active participation of local communities and the strengthening of institutions in order to achieve the objectives of sustainable development.

In collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other national and international institutions, FAO has developed an improved framework for land resources development and management that addresses the evolving nature of integrated land management. The new concepts have been introduced through a series of three publications, starting with Our Land, Our Future (1995), which gives a brief introduction to the new planning approach, followed by Negotiating a Sustainable Future for Land (1997), which provided structural and institutional guidelines for policy and decision-makers at the national level.

This document, "The Future of Our Land - Facing the Challenge" is the third in the series and proposes an integrated planning approach for sustainable management of land resources based on an interactive partnership between governments and people. It is the result of a participatory process to highlight issues, experiences and challenges related to integrated land resources planning and management for the 8th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD 8) which will examine, among others, the progress in the implementation of chapter 10 of Agenda 21. The approach is centred on the concept of stakeholders and their objectives, and the role of the government in creating the conditions within which rural people can use their land resources productively and sustainably. Integration of grass-roots participation with systematic procedures for evaluation of resources and planning is the key to this approach, and a necessary factor for its success.

This document is targeted primarily at professional and technical practitioners of land-use planning and land resource management at the national, sub-national and community level who want to implement an integrated approach to land resources management. Based on experience using these guidelines, practical manuals on integrated land resources management (ILRM) should be prepared for regions or individual countries.

The present document adopts the premise that integrated land-use planning is:

Successful integrated planning of land resources includes seven key elements:

  • a clearly formulated objective and/or problem to be solved
  • an enabling policy and regulatory environment
  • effective institutions at local, sub-national, and national level
  • an accessible knowledge base of the physical conditions including alternative land use,
    the socio-economic conditions and legal framework
  • a recognition of stakeholders and their often differing objectives
  • a platform for negotiation
  • a set of planning procedures

The enabling environment comprises policy, regulatory and institutional aspects. A national land-use policy is the first and most important instrument; it controls land tenure and land use to provide an environment which is conducive to the implementation of sustainable and productive land-use practices, and to the realization of fora for free and effective negotiation among stakeholders. Planning that comes from the local or district level should provide the basis for national policy, which in turn would facilitate local initiatives.

Legislation translates policy into a framework for decision making, and creates institutions to administer the decisions. There is a need for institutions at the local, sub-national and national level, which facilitate the integration of disciplines and the access to information required for land-use planning. The national institutions - usually ministries - must have clear mandates to solve conflicts. At national level a task force should be created as a "neutral" institution (a committee or board) composed of the relevant land-related ministries and representatives of other institutions from civil society. It should have facilitating, monitoring and conflict-resolving functions, based on technical advice. At the village or community level, local resource management groups (LRMGs), representing all local stakeholders, should be established.

Knowledge provides the basis on which to plan and negotiate. It is also the key to the empowerment of local stakeholders, particularly those disadvantaged groups which may otherwise be excluded from the negotiating process. There should be an adequate flow of information on resources, technologies, rights and regulations to the village level, but also local and traditional information and knowledge on land and land use need to be mobilized. Participatory land-use planning then becomes a mutual learning process, based on a fusion of technical knowledge from government or other agents of change and the experience and indigenous knowledge of local land users. There should also be a flow of information from the local level to the national level to ensure that any land programme or decision is formulated to reflect the needs and demands of the land users at the bottom.

The principle platform for negotiation will be the LRMGs operating at the village or community level. Decision making will be devolved as far as possible to this level, partly as a means of engendering responsibility among the villagers for the resources under their control, and partly to reduce the burden on government by mobilizing the people and their energy and enthusiasm. It is a government responsibility, however, to ensure that all stakeholder groups, including the disadvantaged, are fairly represented in the negotiating process.

The procedures used in integrated land-use planning and management comprise the identification of the problems, the stakeholders involved and their objectives, the collection of data necessary for planning, the evaluation of land resources in relation to the requirements of land use, and the ranking of options in terms of economic, social and environmental impacts through a participatory approach involving all stakeholders. These procedures should be applied by the stakeholder representatives, adapting, as far as possible, the technical procedures to a level at which they can be carried out by trained technicians at the village level. More sophisticated procedures may be appropriate at the national and sub-national level.

The approach presented here should be tried, tested and validated in several pilot areas, and the lessons learned from these studies should be used to adapt integrated land-use planning to the particular conditions of the country, and to promote and guide its widespread adoption. Sustainable management of land resources is in the interests of both the government and the people, and policies which devolve decision making and empower land users should enjoy popular support. At the same time, the interactive character of land-use planning will support the commitments made by governments to the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, and to the post-summit conventions to combat desertification (UNCCD), climate change (UNFCCC) and preservation of biodiversity (UNCBD).

The attached CD-ROM is the result of a joint effort by FAO and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) and contains a list of complementary documents related to land-use planning and land resources management. It comprises guiding documents, case studies, working papers, workshop proceedings and other publications, mainly published by FAO and GTZ.

1 In the context of land resource management, a stakeholder is any individual or group with a legitimate interest in the land resource, or liable to be affected by changes in the way the resource is managed.

Top Of PageNext Page