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This chapter provides an overview of the framework and key factors associated with carrying out the integrated approach to planning for sustainable management of land resources.

The Framework for an Integrated Approach

Planning of land use is an essential step along the road to sustainable resource use. Planning of land use should not be a top-down procedure, but a decision support mechanism, intended to guide the land user or decision-maker through the process of choosing the best land-use option, or range of options, consistent with his or her objectives. Often, the process of planning which promotes interaction among land users, decision-makers and professional and technical staff, is more important than the documentation of the plan which results from this exercise.


  • framework and key factors
  • objectives
  • stakeholders
  • enabling environment
  • effective institutions
  • negotiation platform
  • knowledge base
  • planning procedure

The improved approach to planning for sustainable management of land resources that is described in the present chapter is both integrated and interactive.

Integrated as

Interactive as

  • it combines elements of both the bottom-up approach, based on grass-roots participation, and traditionally top-down aspects of land resource assessment and evaluation of options
  • it takes into account the complex biophysical and socio-economic variables which determine the land-use system
  • it considers legal and institutional aspects which facilitate the implementation of the plan
  • it is a negotiation process, in which land users interact among themselves and with specialists
  • different levels (national, sub-national and local level) interact in the planning process

Essentially, the approach embodies an interactive partnership, between government and civil society, to address their common concerns to manage land resources sustainably for their mutual benefit. Commitment is therefore required on the part of both the government and the people. This is consistent with emerging principles of good governance now viewed as a prerequisite to sustainable development.

Integrated planning for sustainable management of land resources (IPSMLR) is always demand-driven, although the demand may result from a problem or development opportunity either perceived at village or sub-national level, or a concern of the national government. This marks a welcome departure from previous top-down planning procedures in which plans were often prepared as routine instruments of development.

Figure 5 illustrates the exchanges and flows of knowledge, links and actions in interactive development. This four-level structure strives towards an optimization of the bottom-up and top-down approaches to development, both by encouraging self-reliance and by strengthening linkages between government institutions and the people, and embodies the following:

  • A strong and dynamic action programme driven by stakeholders at the grass-roots level, which an act as an engine for development and conservation and effectively respond to many local problems and resolve them more effectively and at a lower cost than central government.
  • An efficient mechanism to inform government of felt needs and priorities, to drive the allocation of resources, and to influence the evolution of institutional structures and programmes towards more efficient and task-oriented forms.

At the village or community level, local resource management groups elucidate their needs and objectives through negotiation. Needs and information are transmitted to the sub-national level and eventually to the national level, which responds with information and appropriate technical assistance. It is also becoming clear that the national and sub-national levels need information that only the local level can provide. The flows and interactions are no longer unidirectional.



The seven key factors associated with successful integrated planning for sustainable management of land resources are depicted in Figure 6.



These are briefly described in the following sections. Detailed information regarding the key factors can be found in Chapter 4.

A Clearly Formulated Objective

In order to plan for sustainable management of land resources, a clearly formulated objective is necessary. The objective may be based on a common vision for the land resources and their associated society or on attempts to solve an immediate problem. In either case, once the objective is clear, details of the plan elements will begin to fall into place. Objectives are typically scale-dependent and will be different at the national, sub-national, and local level, but they should still be complementary and not contradictory. Stakeholders within a given level will be responsible for formulating the objective to meet their needs.

Recognition of Stakeholders and Their Differing Objectives


A stakeholder is anyone or any institution who has interests in, or is affected by, an issue or activity or transaction, and therefore has a natural right to participate in decisions relating to it.

There may be more than one stakeholder, or stakeholder group, claiming an interest in the land use on a particular area of land.

As examples, a farmer is a stakeholder in relation to the distribution or management of irrigation water from a common source, or as regards decisions on grazing rights on communal land. The term can also be applied to groups, as when several groups have an interest in, or are affected by, the exploitation of the water from a reservoir or products extracted from a forest. Stakeholders include those individuals or groups, such as women or indigenous communities, who have genuine and legitimate claims on use, but whose opinion may not be valued in current negotiations for cultural or religious reasons. Groups resident outside the area, such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and research institutions, can also be stakeholders. Also the government of a country may have ministries with the position of stakeholders. The concept can be extended to include unborn generations who have a future interest in the resource.

The extent of a stakeholder's interest in an issue is governed by the size of the "stake" which the stakeholder has in it; in other words the extent to which the stakeholder's feeling of ownership will be affected by any decision. Those most directly affected are the people whose livelihoods depend directly on the resource in question. Then there are those whose lives or whose health may be affected through use of the resource by others, and finally those who, for various reasons, have a strong interest in the subject or area (Box 3).

BOX 3: Characteristics of Stakeholders

  • Those having, needing or seeking control of or access to a resource.
  • Those who are affected by the use of resources by others.
  • Those wishing to influence the decisions of others on the use of resources, for scientific, ethical or conservationist reasons

Source: "Negotiating a Sustainable Future for Land". FAO/UNEP, 1997.

Differing stakeholders may have multiple objectives, but conflict arises most commonly between those with objectives related to production and those whose objectives are mainly concerned with conservation. Reconciling the two groups is a key to sustainable land use.

The importance of involving all stakeholders has been recognized in theory and practice for many years and stems from the rural development industry (Chambers, 1993). Through the years, the term participation, as associated with stakeholders, has come to have very different meanings to different people and groups. The multiple meanings are shown in Box 4.

BOX 4: Typologies of Participation

Passive Participation - people are told what is going to happen or what has already happened.
Participation by Information Giving - people participate by answering the questions of external agents.
Participation by Consultation - people participate by being consulted, and external agents listen to views.
Participation for Material Incentives - people participate by providing resources in return for material incentives.
Functional Participation - people participate by forming groups to meet predetermined objectives related to a project but are still dependent on external initiators.
Interactive Participation - people participate in joint analysis, which leads to action plans and formation of new local institutions or strengthening existing ones.
Self-mobilization - people participate by taking initiatives to change systems independent of external influences.

Source: "A Trainers Guide for Participatory Learning and Action", IIED, 1995

The integrated planning and management of land resources approach recognizes that different degrees of participation are dependent on context; however, participation should be interactive to be successful.

An Enabling Environment and Regulatory Policy

An enabling environment is the shorthand term for conditions in which decisions can be made, and proposed objectives achieved, at all levels of action. Village development objectives should be formulated in a village land-use plan or village development plan. Such plans should be supported by the objectives of the district land-use plan. Then the government land-use policy establishes the general framework for land use in the country and the government takes decisions and makes regulations accordingly. Local and sub-national land-use plans and policies (whether by public or private bodies) should always be developed in conjunction with the national land-use policy to ensure that they will be favourably treated by government.

Land-use Policy

To achieve sustainable development, governments should have a national policy on land use.


A Land-use Policy is essentially an expression of the government's perception of the direction to be taken on major issues related to land use and the proposed allocation of the national land resources over a fixed period of time. It has a production and a conservation component.

A sound national land-use policy is effectively part of the enabling environment for IPSMLR and should cover all uses of land. To achieve the policy objective of sustainable production and conservation of natural resources, governments should pursue strategies which actively promote forms of land use which are both attractive to the people and sustainable in terms of their impacts on land resources. By developing the national land-use policies through a participatory, integrated and iterative process, there is a much greater likelihood of achieving this. Additionally, strategies may involve the use of incentives, regulations or, more commonly, a combination of these. Incentives may be social, economic or related to structure or knowledge. The formulation process of a land-use policy should be based on a "top-bottom-interaction" which leads to the formulation of policy objectives according to the demand of the people (Box 5).

BOX 5: National Goal of Land-use Policy

The utilization of a sustainable basis of the land resources of Sri Lanka in order to:

  • meet the demands of the country and its people for goods, services and recreation
  • maintain a high quality of life without adversely affecting the quality of the land resources
  • ensure that similar opportunities are not denied to future generations

Source: "Planning the sustainable management of land resources: the Sri Lanka example". FAO, 1999

Introduction of an integrated and interactive approach to land-use planning may provide a convenient opportunity for government to review its existing policies and strategies for sustainable development and natural resource conservation.

Striking the right balance between incentives and regulation is essential if sustainable land management is to be achieved. It is important that incentives and regulations are complementary, rather than antagonistic in their effects. Policy contradictions, expressed by antagonistic incentives and regulations, are not uncommon when aims of conservation and production are being addressed. Examples are subsidies allocated for land clearing, commonly leading to accelerated soil erosion, not matched by incentives for adoption of sustainable cropping practices on cleared land, although legislation exists requiring land users to protect land from erosion. It is important to ensure that individual incentives are mutually complementary and there have been some successful cases in which society as a whole bears the cost of providing incentives for land users to conserve natural resources.

Regulation of Land Use and Land Tenure

Perhaps the most effective incentive to production and conservation is the right of secure tenure to land and other natural resources.


Land tenure is a way of regulating rights, access and control of land for the mutual benefit of the land user and the government.

Rights of usufruct and, where applicable, rights of ownership may be defined by an umbrella law, or Land Code, which is later followed by more detailed regulations dealing with different types of usufruct or different aspects of its implementation. Any land- use policy should be linked to this umbrella law.

An example is the 1994 Land Proclamation of the State of Eritrea (Box 6), which was followed in 1997 by regulations on the procedures for land allocation as well as on the registration of allocated land rights. Security of tenure is a major concern of the land user in deciding whether or not to invest in measures to promote conservation or sustainable production on a long-term basis. Land rights must be robust, allowing the user effective control over the resource, and the right to exclude others who might adversely affect its management. They must also be of sufficient duration to enable the realization of any benefits accrued as a result of the investment. The land user must also have confidence in the legal provisions and enforcement mechanisms to guarantee his or her right to the resource. None of these provisions requires actual land ownership, which is vested in the state in many countries, but it does imply a reasonably long-term control on a leasehold or similar basis.

BOX 6: The Eritrean Land Proclamation

The Land Proclamation of 1994 establishes the future basis for land ownership and right of usufruct in Eritrea. Under the Proclamation, land ownership is vested solely in the State, which allocates rights of usufruct under the authority of the Land Commission. Every Eritrean citizen has a right to a residential plot in his or her village of origin. Village residents, who are economically dependent on agriculture, also have the right to an agricultural plot. Land is allocated in relation to these rights on a lifetime usufructuary basis, and the allocation is non-discriminatory with respect to gender, marital status, religion or origin.

Effective Institutions

One of the principle strategies of IPSMLR is to devolve decision making to the lowest possible level that is consistent with the ability for implementation. In this approach, land resource management groups (LRMGs), which either already exist or are newly established, take responsibility for decisions on land use and management at the appropriate level in the political hierarchy. This strategy has the dual advantages of mobilizing resources and knowledge at the grass-roots level by promoting participation of the people concerned and of reducing the burden on the government.

The framework within which the LRMG operates is shown in Figure 7. At grass-roots level the group itself would collect the necessary information for decision making and agree on its own rules and management plan. At the same time, the LRMG would be able to pass information and requests upwards, either to the appropriate institution in a district or similar administrative planning unit, or to the next higher institution. A LRMG may require technical information, legal advice or support on conflict resolution that is only available at a higher level of government.


Institutional Framework of Local Management Groups

For LRMGs to be fully effective, they should also be legal entities with a recognized mandate. Typical responsibilities would include formulation of a land-use plan covering the lands under the jurisdiction of the village, and the monitoring of any changes in land use or management resulting from the plan.

In the right environment, many groups may already exist, or may form spontaneously in response to local needs. It should be possible to build on or adapt existing local institutions. In other cases the initiative may come from government. Such groups should be established slowly and with care over a period of time, developing the model and the methodology which best suits local conditions.

The level of power, resources and necessary expertise needed should be commensurate with the size and importance of the area and population. The necessary resources and expertise are usually provided partly by the community and partly by the government on an ad hoc basis. In some areas, NGOs may play an important role in mobilizing groups and supporting their activities (Box 7).

BOX 7: Civic Action Groups: Armenia

Through the Caucasus Emergency Humanitarian Programme, the NGO Save the Children (USA), has established Civic Action Groups (CAGs) to promote democratization and self-reliance in communities which had previously been governed under a top-down centrally planned system. Communities are requested to form CAGs of 9-12 elected individuals, who will initially supervise a micro-project funded by Save the Children (with community contribution averaging 20 percent), but who are then expected to become dynamic agents of change in the long term. In two years of programme implementation, seven CAGs have registered as local NGOs and a further 12 have organized as cooperative or collective enterprises.

Source: SC Community Development Program in Armenia. Save the Children, Yerevan, 1st October 1997.

Platform For Negotiation

The essence of negotiation among stakeholders is that all the people affected are fairly represented in the discussions. This implies firstly that each of them has been identified, secondly that arrangements are made for them to participate effectively, and thirdly that they are all fully informed on the issues at stake. To ensure that this happens it is necessary for the group to establish and adhere to agreed rules.

  • The institutions proposed at local, sub-national and national level (the LRMG, the District (or Province) Land-use Planning Group, and the National Land-use Committee) are effectively platforms for negotiation as they represent the stakeholders.
  • Consistent with the policy of devolving responsibility to the lowest level, the LRMG will be the key institution for negotiation and settlement of disputes at the local level.
  • When conflicting objectives of different stakeholders or land disputes cannot be resolved at the lowest level, they can be referred to the sub-national body. The courts are a last resort if negotiation fails to resolve a dispute.

Clearly the negotiating functions described above can only be effective if all stakeholders accept them as legitimate or if the process, and the institutional structure which supports it, is legitimized by them collectively or by law or custom. This implies that management structures may either be established by the stakeholders themselves, or facilitated by the government if it is not a stakeholder.

Efficient and Accessible Knowledge Base

Effective negotiation and decision making on land use cannot take place without a knowledge base that is useful and accessible to all stakeholders. The knowledge base should have the information needed to meet users' needs and demands in order to reach their goal. Equally important is that the information should be accessible and users have the capability to use it.

The following types of information are needed by decision-makers:

  • Information on the resource. For any form of land-use planning, precise information is needed on each area, including climatic factors, topography, soil, present land use, and many other aspects.
  • Information on improved technology of resource management and the opportunities it provides for increased productivity and for conservation.
  • Information on the current living conditions (especially problems), the needs and objectives of all stakeholder groups and of the community.
  • Information on the institutional and legal framework, including rights of tenure to land, trees an wildlife. Stakeholders need to know their rights, what powers of decision they have, and where they can obtain further information and assistance.
  • Information on economic conditions such as prices and interest rates.

Information is not merely handed down to the land users from higher levels of government. In most cases, local and traditional knowledge forms an important component of the types of information listed in most of the categories above. Making this information available to a wider group of stakeholders than the land users is not always easy and professional planners may have difficulties in structuring informal knowledge for analysis and planning. Techniques of rapid rural appraisal and participatory rural appraisal (Box 10, chapter 4) provide means of mobilizing an enormous amount of information including indigenous knowledge.


Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA) can be defined as a systematic, semi-structured activity conducted on-site by a multidisciplinary team with the aim of quickly and efficiently acquiring new information and hypotheses about rural life and rural resources.

Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) places emphasis on empowering local people to assume an active role in analysing problems and drawing up plans, with outsiders acting mainly as facilitators.

Source: Schonhuth and Kievelitz, 1993

Local groups may be able to collect and analyse necessary information and make decisions without outside assistance. When there is a need for specific technical or other information which is not locally available, it is necessary to obtain expert advice. If such advice is only infrequently required it may be obtained informally, from an external specialist, or from a government agency or NGO. But in the case of some groups, for example at district planning level and above, there may be a need for specialist support to be available on a continuous basis to supply the required information on land resources and needs, and to help formulate options for consideration by the stakeholders. The function of such a specialist group or secretariat is to provide the necessary support for stakeholder negotiation. It is not to formulate decisions for stakeholders to accept. There needs to be a very clear distinction between the provision of information and advice, and the making of decisions.

Land-use Planning Procedures

Adoption of an integrated approach to planning for sustainable management of land resources calls for a critical look at planning procedures. Clearly, some of the technical methods used in conventional land-use planning remain valid components (e.g. land evaluation), but certain aspects, particularly those involving people's participation and the analysis of stakeholder objectives, require significant expansion and development. Land-use planning procedures may differ substantially when applied at the village, district and national level. Some elements have more importance at one level than at other levels.

One important component of the integrated approach is monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of the land-use plan. Although often thought of as something one does after the plan is being implemented, M&E should be an integral part of the planning process. Participatory M&E methods have proved to be very useful in the development arena (World Bank, FAO, Heifer Project International). Participatory M&E encourages stakeholders to design and implement a monitoring and evaluation plan for the work they are doing. As part of the land-use planning process, stakeholders identify the indicators or feedback mechanisms which will inform them if the land-use plan is taking them toward their original objectives. They should also monitor the indicators of the success of their plan.


Chambers, R. 1993. Participatory rural appraisal. In Working with Farmers for Better Land Husbandry. N. Hudson and R.J. Cheatle, eds. Intermediate Technology Publications/ World Association of Soil and Water Conservation, London.

FAO. 1999. Planning the sustainable management of land resources: the Sri Lankan example. AGL/Misc/22/99. Rome.

FAO/UNEP. 1997. Negotiating a Sustainable Future for Land. Structural and Institutional Guidelines for Land Resources Management in the 21st Century. FAO/UNEP, Rome.

IIED. 1995. A Trainers Guide for Participatory Learning and Action. IIED Participatory Methodology Series. London.

Land Proclamation of the State of Eritrea. 1994.

Schonhuth, M. and Kievelitz, U. 1993. Participatory Learning Approaches. Rapid Rural Appraisal, Participatory Appraisal. An introductory guide. GTZ, Wiesbaden.

SC Community Development Program in Armenia. Save the Children, Yerevan, 1st October 1997.

Further Recommended Literature

FAO. 1976. A Framework for Land Evaluation. FAO Soils Bulletin 32. Rome.

FAO. 1985. Monitoring and Evaluation of Participatory Forest Projects. FAO Forestry Paper 60. Rome.

FAO/UNEP. 1996. Our Land Our Future. A New Approach to Land Use Planning and Management. FAO/UNEP. Rome.

The Kingdom of Swaziland /FAO/UNEP. 1998. Proceedings of FAO/UNEP Workshop on Integrated Planning and Management of Land Resources. Mbabane-Rome.

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