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Level 3: Evaluation factors

Level 3: The aim, problems, procedure

Level 3: The aim, problems, procedure

AIM: To develop a comprehensive list of the factors that individually, or in combination, exert a significant influence on the sustainability of the defined land use in the local situation.

The environmental factors identified at Level 3 form the subject matter of the remainder of the analysis. The choice of these factors is critical to success, since, if one important factor and its influence are overlooked, the outcome of the evaluation may well be entirely wrong 4.

4 The terms 'factor', 'attribute' and 'characteristic' are regarded, in this text, as interchangeable and all are deliberately accepted to be vague. The intention is to allow their meaning to accommodate a very wide range of things (eg. pests), processes (eg. erosion), constraints (eg. moisture shortage) and concepts (eg. gross margin); which may be expressed as measurements (eg. maximum temperature) or not (eg. farmer apathy); but all having a possible bearing on sustainability. This, it is hoped, will allow the evaluator maximum imaginative freedom to identify 'factors'.

In contrast, the term "criteria' is used to describe mathematical functions and other understood rules and relationships, established by investigations of cause and effect, which link different factors and enable the direction and magnitude of change to be predicted when the interacting factors are placed under some form of environmental pressure.

PROBLEMS: At Level 3, the principal difficulties relate to the number and variety of factors that need to be screened. It is relatively easy to identify individual factors that, in a general context, are likely to affect sustainability. It is much more difficult to identify factors of only local significance; to determine their relative importance; and to ensure that the list of locally important factors is comprehensive.

Physical, biological, economic and social factors differ in kind. Methods and scales of data collection in these fields are correspondingly different. Common denominators have to be found so that interactions within this diverse data pool can be analysed in the lower levels of the FESLM.

PROCEDURE: It is planned that, eventually, the Master Framework will include a general list of factors relevant to sustainability, from which a choice of factors relevant to a particular study can be made. In the absence of such assistance, a choice will have to be made from a general list of local environmental factors drawn up from scratch; or, as suggested below, from lists drawn up locally in the context of 'suitability' evaluation.

There is need to eliminate insignificant factors prior to analysis to minimize the cost and effort of evaluation but the rigor of the selection process must be commensurate with ensuring that no important influence is overlooked.

In selecting factors for analysis, particular importance needs to be placed upon:

• Relevance; to the land use in question under present and changed conditions

• Stability; susceptibility to change in the face of other foreseen environmental changes

• Predictability; the possibility of predicting reliable values (preferably numerical values) of the quality or characteristic under foreseeable future conditions.

Guidance on the relevance of attributes will be obtained from a present suitability evaluation if, as is normally to be recommended, such a study (using the FAO Framework) precedes the sustainability evaluation. The process of 'suitability' evaluation includes identification of the environmental attributes relevant to that use at the particular site. One early FESLM task will be to examine a list of such attributes to determine which are likely to be most responsive to change with time and most relevant, therefore, to the evaluation of sustainability. It is possible that additional or different land characteristics will be important in the future. This too will need to be considered.

Environmental attributes which are judged to be reasonably stable can be assumed to have little effect on sustainability; after careful consideration, these can be disregarded in later stages of analysis. Those that are highly unpredictable can only be excluded from analysis; but their existence, as 'wild cards' in the game, must be noted and their change with time monitored-otherwise their unpredicted effects could invalidate the whole procedure.

Factors of the Physical Environment

Many factors of the physical environment pertaining to climate, topography, geology, soils, surface and ground waters, are well researched. Many lend themselves to precise measurement and much is known about their stability, and their influence on various forms of land use, especially in the agricultural sphere. A huge volume of data on spatial distribution of physical factors is available worldwide on maps, GIS etc., and gaps in this knowledge can usually be quickly filled using aerial and space imagery. Such maps, at appropriate scales, are likely to provide the spatial frame for any work on sustainability.

The concept of a 'land quality' may be helpful in identifying suitable attributes for sustainability analysis. Conceived by the late Professor J. Bennema within the methodology of the Framework for Land Evaluation, a 'land quality' has been defined as 'a complex attribute of land which acts in a manner distinct from other land qualities in its influence on the suitability of land for a specified kind of use' (FAO, 1976).

This independent action of the separate 'qualities' is crucial to the concept; in theory, the influence of each quality can be assessed without reference to the status of other qualities. Thus, 'moisture availability, 'oxygen availability', and 'nutrient availability' are identified as land qualities that jointly, but independently, influence plant productivity.

Table 2, borrowed from FAO's 'Guidelines: Land Evaluation for Rainfed Agriculture' provides, as additional examples, a list of 25 physical and biological land qualities that limit the production of rainfed crops.

The proposed use of 'land qualities' in the FESLM is confined to Level 3, where they would provide an initial grouping of factors - meaningful subdivisions of the total environment. Hopefully, their use will assist in ensuring that the range of attributes investigated is comprehensive-the 'qualities' identified at Level 3 need to embrace all the factors likely to influence the stability of the use being investigated.

The listed 'qualities' serve merely as indications of where potential instability must be sought. Some overlap between 'qualities' is inevitable-with individual attributes exerting an influence on more than one 'quality'. This is immaterial in sustainability evaluation for, inevitably, the bundles of attributes which constitute a 'quality' will be taken apart at Level 4, as the cause and effect of instabilities is examined, and at Level 5 where the stability of individual 'Indicator-factors' is examined. If some individual factors are involved in several 'qualities', this will be quickly exposed and accounted for.

TABLE 2: Some land qualities* influencing the productivity of rainfed crops (from FAO Soils Bulletin 52: Guidelines: Land Evaluation for Rainfed Agriculture, 1983)

Land Quality


Radiation Regime (sunshine)


Temperature regime


Moisture availability


Oxygen availability to roots (drainage)


Nutrient availability


Nutrient retention


Rooting conditions


Conditions affecting germination and establishment


Air humidity as affecting growth


Conditions for ripening


Flood hazard


Climatic hazards


Excess of Salts




Pests and diseases


Soil workability


Potential for mechanization


Land preparation and clearing requirement (vegetation/weeds)


Conditions for storage and processing


Conditions affecting timing of production


Access within the production unit


Size of the potential management units




Erosion hazard


Soil degradation hazard

*For a thorough discussion of the nature of these qualities, their evaluation factors, units of
measurement and use in assessing the suitability of land for rainfed crops, the reader is referred to FAO Soils Bulletin 52 (Rome, 1983).

Independent factors (i.e. individual environmental characteristics) may be identified which do not conveniently form part of any recognized 'land quality'. There is no reason why such factors, together with their interaction with other factors and qualities, should not form independent subjects in the subsequent levels of analysis.

Factors of the Biological Environment (by M.J. Swift)

The Check List of Biological Factors

The list of biological factors that influence sustainability is potentially extremely large. Some of the qualities listed in Table 2 are clearly biological in nature (i.e. pests and diseases; weeding; and storage problems). Table 3, with its annotations, provides a general, systematic check list of major categories of organisms and associated attributes which can be utilized by investigators to identify the dominant biological factors within a given land-use system. The check list is presented in the form of a matrix organized on the following basis:

• Functional Groups: Biological factors have been grouped in relation to functions or roles in biological productivity and sustainability:

• The productive biota: eg. crop plants, livestock, timber trees etc. producing food, fibre or other products for consumption, use or sale; this term is used in the broad sense of any product used outside the production system (eg. to include medicinal products, construction materials etc.). This component of the biota is deliberately chosen by the land user and may be the main determinant of the biological diversity and complexity of the land-use system.

• The beneficial biota: these are organisms which contribute positively to the productivity and sustainability of the system but do not generate a product directly utilized by the land-user; examples are many of the plant species of fallows or cover crops used to manage soil fertility, and similar species used in weed control; other examples are the soil flora and fauna which may benefit soil fertility; and the predators and parasitoids of pests and diseases.

• The destructive biota: weeds, animal pests and microbial pathogens. In the case of weeds, this would include intractable plant species dominating abandoned land.

Dependent on the Objective and Means of the land-use, this primary list can be made by general classification (eg. cereal crops; leaf borne diseases) plus some quantitative assessment score (see below), or preferably by listing species or at least dominant species in each category, again with a quantitative score.

• Attributes: secondary biological factors which are quantitative or qualitative attributes of organisms and which have some direct bearing on sustainability, eg. influence on yield, nutrient cycling etc.

TABLE 3: Check list of biological factors for sustainability evaluation*

Productive Biota







Beneficial Biota

natural vegetation



type:form:period clearing


type:form:inputs residues


key groups:

soil fauna

key groups:

micro biomass

Destructive Biota

pests, a/g


pests, b/g


pathogens, a/g


pathogens, b/g



*form = shape (physiognomy) which may influence ground cover, competition with other plants; ideally includes roots as well as above ground canopy, etc.
genome = genetic characteristics which influence sustainability, eg. resistance to diseases and pests.
residues & litter & excrete = use within or transport from system; ground cover, etc.
vegetation type = broad floristic grouping to avoid detailed species lists (form as above, i.e.
saplings, trees, herbaceous, etc.).
a/g = above ground
b/g = below ground
reservoir = source of pest/pathogen (eg. in soil, alternative host, etc.).

Measurement of Biological Factors

Quantitative measures will be needed for many biological factors to assess their role in sustainability. How many such measures are needed is best decided when the qualitative check list has been completed and a preliminary assessment made of dominant and indicative factors. Measurements that are likely to be useful are as follows:

• for crops and other significant plants, residues etc.: yield, biomass or abundance per unit area; area occupied (cover), site; quality (nutrient content etc); genetic diversity (variation)

• for pests, pathogens, predators, soil fauna etc.: intensity (damage to crops or prey, casting or burrowing activity etc.); number or biomass per unit area etc..

Spatial and Temporal Relationships of Biological Factors

Because of the strong microclimatic, competitive and other interactive influences that may be involved, description should also be made of the structure of the system in space (eg. for the plants, vertical profile and horizontal distribution in relation to the topography and other features of the physical environment); and in time (eg. within season phenology, annual trends and oscillations).

Off-site Effects of Biological Factors

Because of the highly interactive capabilities of many organisms across the landscape (eg. movements of pests and diseases; nutrient transfer by tree roots etc.), consideration should be given both to the actual site and to the surrounding areas with respect to possible off-site influences.

Diversity and Complexity of Biological Factors

Biodiversity and system complexity have been hypothesized to play an important role in sustainability. If the list of factors is constructed on the basis of individual species and with some quantitative measures of frequency and abundance, then it will be possible to calculate diversity indices (eg. Shannon-Weiner or Simpson). Similarly, the spatial and temporal descriptions enable some assessment to be made of the relative complexity of the ecosystem.

Factors of the Economic Environment (by P.K. Thornton)

Table 4 lists a selection of measures and attributes of the economic environment, each of which could be important, in appropriate circumstances, in evaluating sustainability. The separate 'factors' or 'qualities' listed may serve as criteria, indicators, or thresholds (or all three). The purpose of the list is to identify some system 'factors' that, having been recognized at Level 3, can be broken down and analysed in Levels 4 and 5 of the framework, to give an indication of where potential or actual unsustainability may exist in a system.

To an extent perhaps greater than with factors of the physical environment, there will often be overlap between these measures; and many of them will be highly correlated. This is unavoidable, for most economic factors are composites, that is to say they are functions of many variables. Measures such as "net farm income" and ''enterprise gross margin per hectare", for example, both depend on variables not only of the economic environment (eg. costs and prices, competing uses of resources) but also of other environmental aspects - the physical (eg. soil conditions), the biological (eg. weed density), and the social (eg. effects of customs, religion, seasonal migration on labour resources).

In practice, some of these 'measures' are difficult to estimate precisely, and others may be difficult or impossible to quantify. As with other factors used for determining sustainability, the time component should be understood as being a key element in the analysis; the trend of a particular quality in the past, and its likely trend in the future, are considerations of the first importance.

The factors listed in Table 4 are divided into four 'functional groups' as follows:

• Resources: these relate to what the household or farm has on hand to carry out agricultural activity, such as land, labour and capital. The most significant facts relating to the resource base should be stipulated in the Means statement (Level 2), but the economic consequences of these factors, particularly of interactions between resources, need to be evaluated. There is need also to consider how, and to what extent, farmers can change their resource base, as well as the things that affect access to resources. Also of special economic importance are measures of efficiency of resource use for particular management purposes.

• The Economic Environment: this grouping refers to factors that are usually considered exogenous to the farming system but have implications for the farm household, such as costs, prices and credit. In other words, these are generally 'given' for a particular parcel of land or household. An understanding of how these factors change over time (such as seasonal variations in costs and prices) is also required.

• Attitudes: this grouping includes factors associated with the farmer or household members that bear on farm decision making. Clearly these factors have sociological overtones, but it is the economic consequences of the attitudes that are examined here. Again, the influences that bear on these factors are often considered "exogenous" to the system itself-in that, if change in farming practice is thought to be desirable, it is generally more realistic to seek new practices that fit with existing attitudes than to attempt to change attitudes themselves. Objectives, attitudes and expectations are often difficult to measure, but may be of crucial importance in determining future developments in land use.

• Complex Qualities: this is a somewhat loose grouping of summary, composite factors defining various aspects of system performance that may be of use in determining sustainability. These 'factors' can normally be broken down into other, less complex qualities at later stages in the analysis. Some of these complex factors are comparatively straightforward to measure, however, and could well be amongst the first economic factors to be quantified in an analysis using the framework.

TABLE 4: Factors of the economic environment that may influence sustainability of farming systems





farm size; fragmentation (1. Simpson index of diversity); type of tenurial system


family labour availability; hired labour availability; seasonality of labour profiles


returns to capital; gearing ratio; options for surplus disposal and deficit reduction


literacy rates; education levels, access to extension advice

draft power

type; use


land/labour, capital/labour use ratios; returns to input use

Economic Environment

production costs

levels; seasonal and yearly variation; associated uncertainty

product prices

levels; seasonal and yearly variation; associated uncertainty


availability, types and use; interest rates


infrastructure; access, distance to input and output markets


level; rate of change: seasonal migration patterns



objective function involving profit or utility maximization, risk reduction, safety first, etc. planning horizon; time preference

risk aversion

coefficients of absolute, relative, partial risk aversion


yield and price expectations

Complex Qualities


household income; income per head: proportion of household income from off-farm activity, net farm income


gross margins/ha; net returns/ha


total consumption; proportion spent on food

poverty indices

percentage of total consumption expenditures on food and standard of nutritional adequacy

Suggestions regarding the measurement of some factors are made in Table 4. Some of the methods suggested are well known, others less so, such as measures of land fragmentation and Lipton's absolute poverty criterion. Many of the factors listed have the potential to be useful indicators of sustainability for, although the data requirements for their quantification may be substantial, they can be fairly well-defined and are likely to prove reasonably consistent from one situation to another; comparatively straightforward to collect; and sensitive to changes in the system over time.

Because the present emphasis of the FESLM is on analysis of sustainability on a particular site, Table 4 does not give explicit consideration to environmental accounting or to factors that relate to an extended population (such as equitability-which might be measured in terms of landless households, women land owners, or income inequality, for example).

As discussed in Chapter 6, the off-site or secondary effects of particular land use practices may be of immense importance, and the economic consequences of such effects will sometimes have to be addressed. There are ways of incorporating environmental costs into analyses at enterprise or farm level. For example, costs of production may be modified in the light of tangible or intangible costs to the environment (such as a recalculation of gross margin in terms of a polluter tax on a farm chemical, a government subsidy, or a value to take account of "loss of amenity value "). The intangible costs are very difficult to quantify, but may be an integral part of an analysis at higher levels of aggregation-such as the watershed or regional level.

Once indicators have been assembled, subsequent stages of the FESLM will generally require further analysis of the economic environment. The long-term economic health and sustainability of a household may not be immediately obvious - even if measures for appropriate factors are quantified; our knowledge of the underlying processes is, in general, much less extensive, than comparable knowledge of physical or biological processes. Nevertheless, a great variety of economic tools (procedures) has been developed that can be used in attempting to establish cause and effect in the economic environment. Each tool has advantages and disadvantages (both methodological and practical) and is only appropriate for particular classes and levels of problem. Once the appropriate level of analysis has been decided upon (parcel, enterprise, farm, household, village, watershed, or region), the capabilities of the various analytical techniques can be compared and considered. However, special regard should be paid to the following:

• Can the technique handle secondary effects, such as the off-farm impacts of chemical use on a particular farm?

• Is production risk of importance, and can it be incorporated into the analysis?

• Is the analysis capable of handling multiple periods of time?

• Is the analysis capable of handling multiple, competing objectives, such as those that may exist at the household level and between producer and consumer?

• Are resource allocation issues handled explicitly?

Examination of some of the indicators listed in Table 4 will help to determine the need, and guide the choice of further analyses designed to recognize and establish root causes of any unsustainability in the economic environment of particular land management practices.

Factors of the Social Environment (by G. Spendjian)

The question "acceptable to whom?" provides a starting point in attempting to define the scope of an evaluation of the "social acceptability" of a particular land management practice. All of the various stakeholders interested in the use or management of a particular resource need to be identified.

Those extracting 'rent' from a particular resource and exerting pressures on it may be either directly occupying the area in question, or be removed from it but exerting no less an influence as a result of their need to derive surpluses from the land use system. Forward and backward linkages from the actual production system (eg. value adding post production employment, employment in provision of services to the productive process) tie in a further set of individuals all of whom have a stake in, and therefore influence, land management. Not just the benefits of land use, but also its costs, frequently occur off-site.

The reasons for the concern outside the immediate area can vary. For example, land management practices can have an immediate practical impact on the livelihood of those living in contiguous areas. Or they can be unacceptable to certain groups far removed from the area in question, and this for purely aesthetic or ethical purposes, such as consumers in Europe boycotting wood products cut from primeval forests. In other circumstances governments may be the determinants of 'acceptability' by the demands they make on the land in question or the policies they put in place.

Social acceptability can be seen, therefore, as an aggregate of the views of various individuals and groups which in turn are a reflection of their attitudes, knowledge, beliefs, and norms, and on their relationship to the specific land management approach in question. The different views will influence overall social acceptability-usually in proportion to the strength of these views and to the relative power and authority of the players. Factors which are largely within the control of individuals, and others which for the most part lie outside their control but which exert a strong influence, will together determine overall social acceptability.

Thus, the principal "social" factors to be considered within the FESLM involve:

• the identification of 'Who?' - dependent directly and indirectly on the outputs from the production system in question,

• determining if those concerned can derive an acceptable standard of 'sustainable livelihood' from the land management option in question, into the foreseeable future, and

• identifying what other interests exist in the use of the resource in question (for economic or non-economic purposes).

The 'rent' derived from a specific land use practice is determined in large part by factors exogenous to the area under investigation, to availability of markets, to the existence of infrastructure, to a complex system of private and public entities which determine prices of inputs and outputs. This is to underscore the fact that factors such as the cost of living greatly influence whether a 'sustainable livelihood' is derived from a certain land management practice.

Some Social Issues

Understanding and characterizing social formations: The social context which constitutes the subject of investigation within the evaluation framework must therefore be seen in its full complexity-as a nested set of individuals and social units; within and between which exist interactions, relationships and links of various sorts. To understand such social formations associated with a particular land management or production system, several fundamental questions need to be answered:

• What are the major social units in the system (eg. families, kinship groups, communities, cooperative institutions, political groupings)?

• What are the power relationships, hierarchies, links, and organizing principles in general, within and between those units?

• What are the social rules or conventions which govern the division of labour, access to resources, access to the outputs of production systems, and the distribution of wealth?

• What are the social processes governing decision-making, especially those associated with production systems?

Looking at the social context with this schema in mind will facilitate the exploration of the factors outlined in Table 5 and elaborated upon further.

Assessment of the macro-social political and economic climate vis-a-vis social justice, equity and participation: Identification of social factors in evaluating the sustainability of land use and management must begin with the premise that sustainability is difficult, if not impossible, to attain in a context not characterized by social justice, equity, participation, and the existence of demographic institutions. While it is possible to conceive of maintaining for a while the productivity-or the sustainability-of the resource base in a specific location where there is extreme poverty and social deprivation, this is very unlikely to happen without highly oppressive and autocratic control systems being in place. The evaluation should, therefore, make a qualitative assessment of whether these macro-social, political, and economic conditions exist in the particular social context framing the land use in question. This, in part, involves making an assessment as to whether there exists a generalized appreciation (within the society in question) that the function of the socio-economic system is to provide 'sustainable livelihoods' for all, and a consensus as to what that implies.

The policy environment and legal, fiscal and regulatory frameworks: These are all parts of the overall social framework. All need to be considered in evaluating the sustainability of land management. Input subsidies, prices, taxes, credit mechanisms, punitive measures, laws regarding resource use, are parts of the structure of incentives which, undoubtedly, have an enormous impact on the behaviour of economic agents (and on the livelihood which can be generated from resource utilization). They strongly influence sustainability, therefore, and the rate of environmental degradation.

TABLE 5: Factors of the social environment to consider in evaluating sustainable land management



Macro-social, economic, and political

Overall commitment to social justice, equity, participation, and democratic institutions

Legal, fiscal, and regulatory frame work overall policy environment

Existence of appropriate incentive and control structures promoting sustainability

Meeting physical and strategic needs

Existence of opportunities within and outside the resource utilization system, distribution of wealth within and between social units

Ratio of resource availability to population's overall needs

Existence of mechanisms to reduce pressure on land use system

Conflicts over resource use

Extent of conflict, and existence of accepted conflict-resolution mechanisms, social participation in decision-making

Access to resources and to outputs

Equity of land tenure system, extent of access to credit and other resources, gender equity as related to access

Meeting individual costs of sustainable behaviour through social investment

Existence of transfer and compensatory mechanisms

Local "affordability" of sustainable behaviour

Labour requirements and material and other costs are within capabilities of those immediately affected

Security and the level of risk

Risk reduction in the short and medium term, increase of

Attitude changes, knowledge, beliefs, values

Investment in environmental education, communication

Working with the socio-cultural grain

Responsiveness to felt needs, local participation, "fit" with local systems of knowledge, beliefs, and values

The evaluation needs to establish whether the components of the overall policy environment and the resulting legal, fiscal and regulatory frameworks work for or against sustainable resource utilization. Do they give the 'wrong' or 'right' signals with regard to promoting the long-term view over the natural tendency to further short-term interests? The answers are not always intuitively obvious, and care must be taken in making these judgements.

Needs, and the opportunities to meet them: On a more micro level, the most important social factors to consider are the opportunities which exist in the area under investigation (both within and outside the immediate social setting) for individuals, families, and communities to meet their overall needs. These needs range from absolute or basic needs of food, shelter and clothing to no less important strategic and socio-culturally determined needs, be they material, cultural, aesthetic or spiritual. It must be emphasized that many of the latter are extremely elastic in modern market-oriented societies. There is a qualitative as well as a quantitative shift which occurs when those occupying a certain land area move from subsistence agriculture or land use, to being intimately connected to the demands of a modern consumer society. This must be kept in mind in the investigation of whether a particular land management option does or does not meet people's 'needs'.

Population pressures: The environmental pressure on a particular unit of land under evaluation depends on how much must be extracted from it in terms of 'rent' to satisfy the 'needs'. This in turn is a function of the population dependent on it and the nature and extent of its 'needs' (as well as of the particular production 'technologies' used). In turn such population pressures on the resource base depend very much on the availability of economic options outside the natural resource utilization sector.

Conflict and systems of conflict resolution: When different groups occupy the same contextual environment from which they derive their needs, the potential for conflict increases dramatically as pressure on the resource base increases. This underscores the next social factor which needs to be considered in evaluating land management practices, viz. the potential for conflict as a result of different stakeholders different objectives for a particular resource, and whether there are in place systems of conflict resolution, characterized by equity, justice, and participation, to deal with such conflict?

Participation and involvement in decision making: The involvement of local populations in decision making associated with particular land use practices can be an important factor in resolving conflict. Participatory approaches, in general, are more likely to generate behavioral changes which promote sustainability. The extent of local involvement in decision making should be examined therefore within the FESLM.

Land tenure, access to resources and to outputs of production: Land tenure and the existence of property rights, as well as the more generalized access to resources and to the outputs of production systems, frequently have an impact on whether or not necessary investments are made to promote sustainable land use. The evaluation framework should look, therefore, at what conditions exist in the particular social context under investigation.

The issues of access to productive resources and land tenure are also very much linked to questions of equity. Frequently, the concentration of the most productive resources in the hands of a few who do not utilize them for the benefit of large numbers, leads directly to severe population (and therefore environmental) pressure on more marginal resources. The FESLM needs to consider, therefore, what options, if any, exist for relieving pressures on unsustainable managed or inappropriately used lands.

Identifying 'costs; and 'benefits' for different stakeholders: The goal of long-term sustainability frequently implies certain 'costs', or the foregoing of certain 'benefits', for specific groups of people. Frequently those who are asked to bear the cost and those who benefit from 'sustainable' land use practices are not the same set of individuals. Instituting sustainable hillside farming practices may involve an immediate cost in materials and labour to those involved, while benefits are derived at least in part by downstream dwellers. Equally, the conservation of certain areas for either leisure-related practices or for the maintenance of biodiversity may entail immediate costs to those seeking to derive their immediate existence from the use of the particular resource.

Social of sustainability and the need for transfer mechanisms: It is unreasonable to expect individuals or communities to bear the costs of modifying their practices or production systems if they (or at least their progeny) are not to be the ones reaping the rewards. The evaluation should look therefore at the fundamental question of whether there exists the political will and the institutional mechanisms for the wider social system to bear, or at least share, the costs associated with maintaining or promoting sustainability. This implies a transfer to, or compensation of, those who are foregoing benefits. This may range from compensation for leaving land unused (eg. debt for nature swaps), to provision of grants to cover the cost of actions and behaviour which promotes sustainability (eg. for labour or material inputs, or against foregone income).

Acceptability vis-a-vis requirements for labour, material end financial inputs: In the simpler scenario where those bearing the costs in the present are also the ones benefitting from the investment in the future, the evaluation should ask if the land management option being evaluated is in fact 'affordable' to those directly involved. Additional labour requirements, the investment of financial resources, and the foregoing of present income should all be looked at in this light.

Security of income streams: Apart from profitability in the short-term, security in both the short and the medium-term is of importance to those highly dependent on the outputs of the resource base. The evaluation should assess whether recommended practices increase or decrease risk in the short-term and determine how acceptable this is to the individuals and groups in question. Given that promotion of sustainability frequently involves immediate costs but longer term benefits, it is important that sustainable land management systems involve mechanisms which can generate income in the short-term as well. Making an income stream more continuous over time may in turn necessitate the existence or establishment of institutional structures, such as cooperatives, for sharing costs and benefits over time, or the development of alternative employment in, for example, small scale industries.

Attitudes, knowledge, beliefs and values: Sustainable land management implies sustainable behaviour on behalf of social, economic, and political agents. Besides the requirements for meeting these agents' practical and strategic needs, such behaviour is, in turn, governed by their knowledge and their systems of beliefs and values. The level of understanding and awareness of short- and long-term impacts on the resource base of production practices needs to be ascertained; as should the value placed on long-term resource conservation. Again it should be stressed that such assessment may need to be made for the variety of social actors involved, from farmers themselves to policy makers-depending on the links identified. Also, the evaluation should assess whether there exists an institutional base for human resource development and training adequate to promote the attitudinal changes which underpin changes in individual and group behaviour.

Working with the grain: The poorest populations may be highly risk-averse but, frequently, they are also desperate for information and knowledge of alternative land use techniques and approaches suited to their circumstances which will increase their economic returns without degrading their productive resource base. Possible recommendations should be tested to ensure that they respond to local needs and fit into local systems of knowledge and belief. Again, participatory approaches will ensure "working with the grain" and greatly enhance the probability of a socio-cultural and economic 'fit'.

Health-related issues: Health is one of the principal social indicators. The evaluation should ascertain whether the land management practices under investigation have negative or positive health impacts. These may relate to the impacts of production processes (eg. from the misuse of pesticides), or to those of production outputs (eg. on nutrition).

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