Specials Environment
AGENDA 21 10 Land resources 11 Deforestation 12 Desertification 13 Mountains
14 SARD 15 Biodiversity Climate Energy

Progress Report
FAO, June 1997
Chapter 10:
Integrated approach
to the planning and management
of land resources

The challenge

Between now and 2050, the world's human population is expected to increase by almost 75 percent, to more than 9,800 million. In some developing countries, demographic and economic growth will be so rapid that food needs are expected to reach four or five times today's levels. But can present methods of land use and management provide the necessary increases in food production?

Current trends are not promising. Most land suited to cultivation is already in use, and per capita availability of arable land in developing countries is projected to fall from 0.65 hectares to about 0.4 hectares between the late 1990s and 2010. Meanwhile, overgrazing, erosion, soil salinity and waterlogging are damaging or destroying millions of hectares of productive farm land.

The best available studies indicate that some 16% of the total arable land area has been degraded by human activity during the past half century. In developing countries, erosion and overgrazing are major problems. Soil erosion is increasing in developed countries, which also suffer other forms of land degradation, such as pollution caused by industry and overuse of farm chemicals. In both the developing and developed worlds, the expansion of urban areas and infrastructure is encroaching on productive land and natural habitats. The environment, especially in urban areas, is so polluted that it often poses a danger to human health.

Resolving land use conflicts is essential to sustainable development. By matching land resources to human needs for land, it is possible to maximize sustainable production while reducing competition, making efficient trade-offs, and linking socio-economic development with environmental protection and rehabilitation.

An integrated approach requires improved coordination of sectoral planning and management of land and its resources. Agenda 21/ Chapter 10, calls for reorganizing and, where necessary, strengthening decision-making structures, including policies, planning and management procedures. This approach recognizes the need for participation of all stakeholders in land use decision making, and bridges the gap between the production and income objectives of land users and society's long-term objective of preserving natural resources.

Of crucial importance are economic and legal conditions which encourage and reward sustainable land use practices - inappropriate land tenure systems are one of the chief disincentives. Linkages are needed between, on the one hand, traditional land management systems and, on the other, the application of science and technology.

Progress since UNCED

Since UNCED, several developed countries have adopted comprehensive land use plans and programmes. Examples include Japan's Land Use Master Plans, Australia's Land Care programme and ecological infrastructure planning in the Netherlands. Others have created computerized land resources data bases, introduced ecological zoning and shown interest in land management planning tools.

In the developing world, planning and management are seriously constrained by a lack of training, basic information and funding. Nevertheless, an increasing number of countries are making notable progress, particularly within the framework of the national environmental action plans being supported by the World Bank.

Several Asian and Latin American countries have carried out national land resource and land use surveys, and are developing institutions to formulate integrated plans and policies in collaboration with land users. Bolivia recently completed a detailed zoning of its Amazon region, with the participation of stakeholders. In 1994, the nine member countries of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty initiated a major programme of ecological-economic zoning. There are encouraging trends towards greater consultation between government and land users in Tanzania, Kenya and several West African countries.

Land tenure reforms can have a very positive impact on land management. China and Vietnam, as well as several countries-in-transition, have begun allocating land to individuals and families. In several cases, production increases have been spectacular, and for the first time in a millennium, more trees are being planted than cut down.

FAO has supported new, participative land use planning programmes in a number of countries through its Technical Cooperation Programme and in collaboration with donors.

The past two years have also seen further development of computerized information systems, remote sensing and global positioning technology. But while these tools and technologies could support planning for more productive, sustainable land use, much less progress has been made in creating the capacity to apply them routinely in all countries.

In addition, many land use planning approaches have proven ineffective, often because they do not take into account the objectives of land users as well as those of governments. Their implementation is also severely hampered by the lack of inter-disciplinary planning and management bodies in all countries, at national and local levels.

Key issues

The following issues, identified after consultation with other organizations, require urgent consideration:

The role of FAO

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is Task Manager for Chapter 10. In collaboration with UNEP, the Organization has developed an improved framework for land resources development and management that addresses major weaknesses in present approaches. The new concepts are being introduced through a series of three publications - Our land, our future, which briefly introduces the new approach, Negotiating a future for the land, to be published in 1997, and a detailed implementation guide, now being prepared.

FAO has developed land use data bases, a methodology for classifying and mapping agro-ecological zones, a land evaluation framework, and methodologies for matching climate and crop environmental requirements. It also has special action programmes for water and sustainable agricultural development and for land conservation and rehabilitation, and is collaborating with UN agencies to develop land cover and land use classification systems. It is executing a major project to map land cover and land use on the African continent (see Environmental information/Resources: AFRICOVER).

FAO continues to promote integrated land use planning and management, although with increasingly limited resources. Given the critical importance of land and water issues, countries and institutions need to identify ways of providing such support and developing collaborative programmes.

FAO contacts

Robert Brinkman
Director, FAO Land and Water Development Division
Fax: (39-6) 5225-6275
e-mail: Robert.Brinkman@fao.org

Agenda 21 Progress: 10 Land | 11 Deforestation | 12 Desertification | 13 Mountains | 14 SARD | 15 Biodiversity | Climate change | Energy

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