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Chapter 7: Validating, reporting and monitoring

Validating the analysis

Validating the analysis

The reader will recall that by definition (Chapter 1) sustainable land management is required simultaneously to:

• maintain or enhance production/services (Productivity)

• reduce the level of production risk (Security)

• protect the potential of natural resources and prevent degradation of soil and water quality (Protection)

• be economically viable (Viability)

• be socially acceptable (Acceptability).

These "pillars" of sustainability support all the activities of the FESLM. As the evaluation proceeds, each step should itself be measured against each and all of these required achievements. In particular, each threshold of each indicator attribute must be established with these five aims in mind.

In practice, some flexibility in the interpretation of these aims will be unavoidable. They represent an ideal goal which, in local circumstances, may be impossible to achieve. For example, where soils are to be cultivated, it may be impossible to entirely eliminate soil erosion, rendering impossible the achievement of environmental stability.

In determining thresholds it will be necessary in some instances to recognize an acceptable, rather than absolute, level of achievement of one or more of these aims. In part, this is foreseen in the FESLM, which requires that the time period over which sustainability is evaluated be stipulated. What is important is that any departure from the ideal towards lesser, 'acceptable', standards should be fully reported in the evaluation.

During the course of the evaluation, especially in the later stages when the findings in different environmental disciplines are brought together, it will be important to check the interactive implications of predicted change on the other aspects of environment. The effect of foreseen change in one aspect may be to create, amplify, or diminish, expected change in another. The possibility of such interaction has to be checked, its magnitude assessed, and the combined effects introduced into the analysis.

Validation activities are periods of maximum inter-disciplinary activity in the FESLM. Representatives of each discipline need to check their colleagues' work and conclusions across all the 'levels' of the Analysis matrix.

If a change with time is anticipated in the 'physical environment', for example, specialists working on the 'biological', 'economic', and 'social' environments will need to examine whether the foreseen change will influence the changes they had anticipated in their own specialist environments. It will be seen that this procedure calls for an iterative approach - forward and backward between disciplines - and the closest possible cooperation.

To avoid the need for dramatic revisions in the final stages, it is clearly desirable to maintain as active a measure of inter-disciplinary validation as possible throughout the evaluation process.

Interaction between different environmental aspects needs to be checked with special care if a change in management practice is proposed to meet foreseen future circumstances. For example, an increased use of fertilizer might be recommended to maintain soil fertility, but such a change could be unacceptable in relation to foreseen trends in market prices for the crop or for the fertilizer, or transport difficulties, or a host of other reasons.


Of course, an FESLM report must supply verdicts on sustainability for each of the evaluated uses, but, if the report is to be of lasting value, it must also explain the assumptions on which these verdicts have been reached in sufficient detail to permit subsequent monitoring.

Thus an FESLM report needs to include:

[Summary statement of findings] - optional

The Purpose

• A comprehensive description of the 'Objective' and 'Means' of each use evaluated

• A precise description of the location of the site evaluated. Usually a large scale map showing the boundaries of the site and a small scale map showing location within surrounding areas will be necessary.

Background Data

• A brief, but reasonably complete, description of the site (physical, biological, economic and social characteristics)

• A list of reference sources; scales and subject matter of maps and imagery; GIS, data banks, census and other sources of information on site characteristics, suitability evaluation data, population etc.


• A listing of land qualities, component characteristics, indicators and thresholds identified as bearing upon the stability of each use (a tabular presentation similar to Table 3 in this document may be appropriate).

• A listing and justification of criteria developed to analyse cause and effect, and to identify and assess component characteristics, indicators, thresholds and sustainability

• An analysis of evidence (Observational; Historic; Geographic; Theoretical)

• An assessment of possible active and passive off-site effects relevant to each use and their bearing on sustainability.


• A projection of future events anticipated on the site arising from this analysis.

• Final verdicts on sustainability of each use, together with any qualifications, limitations, restrictions etc. of each verdict.

• Recommendations for monitoring future environmental development.


A particular strength of the methodology proposed for the FESLM lies in the foundation it provides for subsequent monitoring.

The method calls for identification and, where possible, quantification of all factors that bear upon the continuing stability of the defined use at the defined location. All that is required for monitoring is periodic observation and remeasurement of these factors to ensure that they are not changing in ways that were not foreseen in the evaluation.

As suggested in the previous section (on reporting), analysis of site indicators should provide a projection, or forecast, of the direction and anticipated magnitude of environmental change on the site with time. Real change with time should be monitored periodically to ensure that the pattern of change follows the forecast.

Inevitably, departures from the forecast change will occur, and completely unforeseen events may intervene. It will then be necessary to decide whether these departures from the expected course invalidate the original evaluation, taking care to assess the effect such change may have on other environmental aspects (i.e. cross checking the horizontal levels of the environmental matrices of the FESLM).

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