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Chapter 5: Objectives and execution of the integrated approach

Development of a framework for decision making
Development of statistical and georeferenced databases on all land resources, on actual land uses and functions and on socio-economic conditions
Development of tools for uniting the databases in a unified system and for incorporating temporal and spatial changes
Multiple goal analysis and optimization techniques of the harnessed data
Social, economic and political tools for decision making on land use
Implementation of the agreed land resources development plan


These are clearly described in paragraph 10.5 of Chapter 10 of Agenda 21:

To review and develop policies to support the best possible use of the land and the sustainable management of land resources. As stated earlier, land use decisions are made on the basis of perceptions relating to the maximization of benefits, to the immediate land user, and to the community. Those perceptions are related to the social, economic and legal environment. The policies and programmes of governments influence that environment.

To improve and strengthen planning, management and evaluation systems for land and land resources. These systems relate to the collection and evaluation of relevant information to permit the decision-maker, whether it be a farmer or a government, to optimize the achievement of objectives.

To strengthen institutions and coordinating mechanisms for land and land resources, so that they are fully able to implement policies and systems. The interaction with land users at all levels is essential, to produce necessary quantities of food, raise living standards to acceptable levels, manage ecosystems in a sustainable manner and preserve biodiversity.

To create mechanisms which will ensure the active involvement and participation of all concerned (the stakeholders), particularly communities and people at the local level, in decisions on land use and management.

To be successful such a programme requires two major components. One is a methodology consisting of a set of reproducible procedures undertaken in sequence, which results in the transformation of information on physical, economic, and social factors into higher incomes based on sustainable land use.

The second component is an institutional framework which is structured and staffed in such a way that it is able to implement these procedures successfully. The world's problems in relation to food requirements for a population expected to double in the next half century, and the impact which intensified use of land resources is already having on the environment, are so serious that, though no two countries are exactly alike, the only possibility for their solution is a generic approach which is simple in outline, so that the main principles can be easily understood and applied worldwide.

Box 8. Decision support system for land use planning

In the past, the application of such a integrated holistic approach to negotiating sustainable land uses was laborious and time-consuming. In recent years a number of technical and socioeconomic tools have become available in support of the system. They are described in the following sections.

Development of a framework for decision making

In operational terms a basic decision support system could take the form shown in Box 8. The diagram shows four databases (sub-boxes 1-4), and an evaluation procedure that produces information under six headings for each land use option (sub-box 6), and a final exercise to select the best options for each land unit (sub-box 8).

After definition of the land mapping/land management units (sub-box 5) that are to be evaluated, each is compared in turn with the environmental requirements of the possible crops, products, or benefits that could be produced from it. A "crop" is anything that can be consumed or sold, and includes not only plant and animal products, but also the benefits from uses such as tourism or nature conservation, which have a financial or social value.

The production systems, land utilization types, or land management units are next defined, as these affect and control the outputs and yields of the "crops". Far example, higher yields will be anticipated from production systems that include applications of fertilizer or irrigation water. For those "crops" which can be produced on the land unit being evaluated, potential outputs or yields are then calculated. The result of the exercise is a list (sub-box 6), which contains the land use options or choices for any particular land management unit.

To compare potential benefits from each option it is necessary to calculate production costs. Information on labour requirements and management levels will also be needed, which is derived from the necessary basic data that are contained in the production systems and costs of inputs databases. It is also necessary to assess what impacts each of the land uses is likely to have on the environment. Effects on the physical environment could include erosion and pollution, but economic or social effects could also be important.

Thus at the end of the evaluation process the output would include, for each possible product or land use and depending on the scale at which the exercise is being carried out, information on product, production system, yield, risk, financial profit and environmental impact.

The final stage is to select the best combination of land uses in the light of the agreed objectives. Note that "best" is a subjective term and can only be defined to the extent that objectives have been correctly identified.

Operationally, as can be seen from the diagram, the decision support system for land use planning is a two-stage approach, with the output from the physical scientists as the land use options becoming an input to the socio-economic appraisal.

It needs to be emphasized that the conceptual or organizational approach illustrated in Box 8 does not imply that there must be only one design of database or only one method of calculating yields, or carrying out an economic analysis, economic impact study or multiple goal optimization exercise. On the contrary, different methods will be appropriate depending on the scale of the exercise, the amount of accuracy required, and the type of data and level of expertise available.

Thus the basic framework is scale-independent, and can be used at national or farm level, or any in between. This is possible, first because it reflects the natural decision-making process, and secondly because the objective of the exercise is not built into the model, but is independently defined. The model itself is neutral.

Development of statistical and georeferenced databases on all land resources, on actual land uses and functions and on socio-economic conditions

FAO (1993b) and Dalal-Clayton and Dent (1993) provide extensive introductions to databases relevant to the management of land resources and to land use planning.

(i) Climate databases

All countries have a network of meteorological stations, to observe and document climate and weather conditions. In areas of difficult access, such as tropical forest, mountain or desert ecosystems, these stations may be wide apart, with a limited number of recording years or time gaps in the recording, or incompleteness in the range of attributes needed. Much interpolation is then needed and specialized UN Agencies such as WMO and FAO can assist in addressing the limitations.

One of many climate databases is METED, which FAO has developed with software available in English. It is designed either for direct typed input of agroclimatic data or the acceptance of digitized input from, for example, CLICOM. This is the WMO database that is now used by the meteorological services in many countries. METEO also includes some utilities which, for example, calculate potential and actual evapotranspiration rates.

(ii) Databases on soil and terrain conditions

Nearly every country has made an inventory of its soil resources, but the level of detail, the classification criteria and the naming of soils has varied, making correlations between classifications and countries difficult. Often, there was no link between soil and terrain conditions within a overall landscape-ecological framework, which is a prerequisite for a holistic approach to land use planning.

To remedy this, FAO and UNESCO undertook the preparation of a Soil Map of the World in the 1960s and 1970s. FAO is now in the process of updating this global information using the soil databases developed since then by national institutions. In support of its field programme, in 1989 FAO developed the FAO/ISRIC Soil (profile)

Database. Its function is to store, classify and output standard soil survey data covering site and profile descriptions and analytical data.

FAO, UNEP, ISSS and ISRIC are cooperating in developing the World Soils and Terrain Digital Database (SOTER) (FAO, 1993c). This provides a methodology for describing land and soil components of the landscape, which has been applied on pilot areas covering parts of several countries in Latin America, North America and West Africa. A detailed manual and software are available for users of SOTER. A soil and terrain database should also include information on geological hazards of land (flooding, landslides, ashfalls) as well as geochemical hazards (toxic substances, radiological properties). The surficial occurrences of minerals or construction materials should be inventoried, evaluated and stored, either in the soil and terrain database or in a separate georeferenced database.

In general, the establishment of soil and terrain databases is nowadays facilitated by remote sensing and global positioning system technology. Supported by this, a number of countries have started national assessments of the various forms of land and soil degradation, building on the methodology developed for the UNEP/ISRIC Global Assessment of Soil Degradation (GLASOD) (ISRIC, 1990).

(iii) Water resources databases

With the exception of developed countries and those in dryland environments, the development of databases on water resources and their use has lagged behind those on soils and terrain. It requires analysis of the relevant data of meteorological stations, the repeated measurement of stream flows, the assessment of groundwater reserves through borehole analysis, and the amount and types of actual uses being made of the water resources. WMO, UNESCO, FAO and UNEP are active in supporting data collation at national, regional and global levels. In the case of FAO the data is used in the AQUASTAT program and in the inland fisheries documentation programme.

(iv) Land cover and biodiversity databases

All countries have maps of the various forms of land cover, including forests, savannahs and wetland vegetation, but georeferenced information on the floral and faunal diversity and its value is often sparse within countries. UNESCO, FAO and a host of international specialized centres are striving to remedy this in support of national and regional entities such as the Amazon Countries Cooperation Treaty. In the case of forests, FAO has carried out global forest resources inventories in 1980 and 1990 respectively, and is supporting national Tropical Forestry Action Programmes. It has also commenced a systematic inventory of all land cover types, in close cooperation with national centres, starting with those in Africa through the AFRICOVER project.

Areas of known or inferred archaeological value, or reflecting typical past land use systems, can be included in the land cover database or be treated separately.

(v) Databases on land uses, crop and production systems

All countries compile information on actual land uses, but this is often only statistical and consolidated at district level rather than being fully georeferenced. The lack of some practical, simple and widely accepted method of describing land uses and production systems is a serious constraint to the effective management of land resources. FAO has proposed a terminology for the components of land use types and production systems. It has now embarked on supporting national institutions in improving their georeferenced databases on actual land uses. Each identified land use should also be assessed on its inherent sustainability, on the basis of a set of sustainability indicators as noted in Chapter 3.

Many countries have basic information on the environmental requirements - climatic conditions, soil and terrain conditions, water quality - of their traditional food crops, their export crops, plantation of trees, domestic animals and consumable fish spheres. Many new cultivars or races are becoming available through biotechnological breeding or horizontal selection and much information on their requirements has already been collected by the CGIAR system of international agricultural research.

FAO uses such information for the development of a two-level general database on crop-environmental requirements. The first level, ECOCROP 1, currently covers 1200 species and will output information on candidate crops for defined environments and uses, and on the soil and climatic limits within which these crops can be successfully grown. ECOCROP 2, as the second level database, is under development to model data on crop processes by different growth stages.

(vi) Databases on social and related conditions

The database containing information on social factors must identify the objectives, resources and constraints of each community, class or group in the area being developed. This may be obtained through a farming systems approach. An essential element of the social database is information on current systems of land tenure and registration, land rights, land markets and forms of incentive and taxation in the area under consideration, as detailed in Chapter 3, as well as an assessment of their fairness and adequacy for sustainable development (Bruce, 1994).

The database should also contain information on the aspirations and felt needs of the different groups of land users, the expected increase in local populations, the trends of inward or outward migration, permanently or seasonally, and off-farm or off-region labour income. Information on the level of capacity building, the degree of extension services, and the availability of credit for farmers activities and other local enterprises should also be included in the database. Finally, rural health conditions should be inventoried, including the occurrence of vector-borne diseases and pests on the various land units under consideration.

(vii) Databases on economic aspects

Costs of inputs and current sale prices for outputs are required to define options and to select the best mix of options to achieve objectives. The information may be obtainable from published information, and the design of the database is straightforward.

It should however be noted that the economy of inputs and outputs is liable to strong variability, in relation to the priorities of the central government, the occurrence of major droughts, floods or other natural hazards, and the emergence of civil strife. International developments in the sphere of trade, employment opportunities, tourism, the flow of credits or aid arrangements in relation to structural adjustment programmes, and the changes in power block composition, all reflect on economies and social conditions, from the level of central government institutions down to village community level.

Whilst biophysical databases may have a usable lifetime of 20 to 30 years, economic and social databases will normally have to be revised every 5 to 10 years.

Development of tools for uniting the databases in a unified system and for incorporating temporal and spatial changes

The delineation of an area to be covered by a land use plan can be made either on the basis of administrative boundaries - provinces, districts, municipalities, etc., or of natural land unit boundaries - whole river catchments, phytogeographic units, sub-catchments, landscape ecological units etc., or on the basis of combinations of these.

The data to be incorporated into the databases are available in the form of maps, statistics and tables, though these have often been compiled at different formats and scales. Such spatial inconsistencies have made their integration for the decision-making process of resource management difficult and time-consuming, especially if the basic landscape-ecological units were not taken as a starting point.

With the continuous developments of computer hardware and software, and their availability at fair prices by national, district or municipal planning entities, this condition is improving dramatically. In particular, the development of Land Information Systems (LIS) (Meyerinck et al., 1988) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software has enabled the available georeferenced databases to be harnessed with relative ease into multiple-layer digital form. Each thematic layer is analogous to a map, but it can be both displayed and printed separately, and overlaid to produce a multi-theme map at any scale or orientation.

This construction of a GIS/LIS database is illustrated in Box 9. Multidisciplinary natural resources teams are required to make GIS/LIS systems an effective tool in support of land use planning. They will include physical geographers, agronomists and climate-soil-crop modellers, geostatisticians, computer programmers, economists and social scientists, and also data extensionists to ensure that the system and its products are transparent to the occasional users such as policy-makers and stakeholders at every level.

There remain a number of technical and organizational limitations to the effective utilization of GIS technology, especially in the smaller developing countries (Sombroek and Antoine, 1994). Four important constraints are: (i) the inadequate analysis of real-life problems as they occur in complex land management and sustainability issues at the household level, and as they involve the integration of biophysical, socio-economic and political considerations in a truly holistic manner; (ii) the limitation in data availability and data quality at all scales, especially those that require substantial ground truthing; (iii) the lack of common data exchange formats and protocol; and (iv) the inadequate communication means between computer systems, data suppliers and users due, for instance, to poor local telephone networks.

Box 9. Digitized Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

In a modern computerized GIS each separate piece of data or information stored in a database is georeferenced. This means that its exact geographical location is also entered into the database, either as a point reference or as a polygon or mapping unit. The GIS system has the capability to retrieve all the information and a given subject or theme and display it, or hold it as a separate thematic layer. A thematic layer can be overlaid, and either viewed or printed out as paper maps.

In general, the current situation is that digital information technology is developing at a rate faster than the speed of production of information by natural resources institutions in developing countries.

Multiple goal analysis and optimization techniques of the harnessed data

There is usually more than one objective when negotiations are underway for land resources management. They may be to a greater or lesser extent incompatible, but they can often be ranked in order of priority. Objectives must be identified before "best" or "optimum" can be defined in relation to land use. Objectives and their relative importance can alter over time. This reduces the value of printed suitability maps as interim outputs, and enhances the value of a computerized system which can rapidly access, combine, and reclassify the basic data as required.

It is possible to conduct local level land use or farm planning by ranking objectives in order of priority, but true multiple objective maximization can only be done subjectively or through linear programming or other mathematical methods. Some software programs have been developed for the purpose.

Once a first estimate of the goals and objectives of the government and the land users is available, the land productivity database together with other results of agro-ecological zoning can be used to estimate what land use distribution would meet or optimally approach those goals. Linear programming methods have been used to provide a land use optimization procedure on the basis of AEZ information for Kenya (FAO/IIASA, 1994). This program, or related non-linear programming or multi-objective methods, can be used to support government planners, land users and other stakeholders in the land use negotiation and decision-making processes. It will provide successive land use distributions in response to successively discussed sets of objectives and constraints, until a decision can be taken on the selection of ones that will most nearly meet the objectives.

The calculation of land productivity for the full range of current and envisaged uses provides quantitative support, to be estimated by land users and other experts, on the possible viability of new land uses on specific kinds of land, in comparison with the existing uses.

Social, economic and political tools for decision making on land use

Land use decisions are rarely made by an individual or authority in isolation. In almost all cases, land use negotiations precede, and lead to, decisions. Consensus may be achieved, or compromise reached, or decisions may be imposed to a greater or lesser extent.

In a properly integrated approach, the partners or stakeholders in the land use negotiations have available technical support provided by three legs:

• a common technical language, the terms of which are understood by all partners in a similar way,

• a common information knowledge base, including land and water resources, vegetation and crop resources, infrastructure (roads, markets of produce and inputs, etc.) and initial indications of the main objectives of the different partners;

• a "what-if engine", a land use scenario programme, which will provide a succession of maps of land use distribution and other interpreted information on the basis of objectives and specifications stipulated by participants at various points during the negotiations.

The collection of biophysical and socio-economic databases, their storage in GIS/LIS systems and their multiple goal analysis, and the resulting optimization of land use utilization type per (agro-)ecological subzone, socio-economic resource management domain or natural land unit, will remain a theoretical exercise if the stakeholders are not fully involved. Their first participation is in the decision, by the relevant governmental bodies, to start integrated land resources planning for a defined area (country, province, district, municipality or village). A second phase of contact between planners and stakeholders is during the characterization of present forms of land cover or land use and the identification of desired and viable future land utilization types. This is conducted by means of surveys, interviews and public hearings, as itemized in the steps given in the section beginning on page 19.

The most intensive participation of all stakeholders is to take place in the step numbered (ix). Here the recommended land uses per land unit, as the result of optimization techniques applied to the data sets of the biophysical and socio-economic GIS, are to be compared with the claims, needs, concerns and aspirations of the various stakeholders. These are often conflicting and require appropriate platforms for negotiation (Röling, 1994) and decision taking, at the level concerned. There are many forms of platforms at village level, from informal consultations between village elders, through elected village land use committees, to district planning committees and national development and conservation planning fore.

For a specific land use planning activity at district, or provincial ("meso") level, an ad hoc Planning Group of stakeholder and planning specialists can be established, with an independent chairman and a well-equipped secretariat. For details on the functioning of such an ad hoc Planning Group see the Issues Paper of the International Workshop on Chapter 10, Wageningen, 20-22 February, 1995.

The people's participation in the land use planning process has two complementary forms. First, at the institutional level, technical support can be provided to the people to assist them in refining a need that they have already declared. Secondly, land use plans devised externally from the people can be adapted and refined by them, in the light of their own knowledge and the technical support provided.

The negotiation and decision-making process is often long drawn-out; in part because of conflicting needs and demands for land and in part because, through the process itself, land use options and opportunities, as well as constraints, become clearer to participants. To strengthen and speed up common understanding, the result of each successive optimization run should be available to planners and land users in response to the successive sets of objectives and constraints which they wish to explore, until a consensus or compromise plan is achieved.

This network system approach to planning, rather than a hierarchical procedure, is the only means of devising a land use plan that will have the fullest cooperation of all sectors of the society in its implementation and hence has the best chance of being successful.

In a number of countries land tenure reform, including access for women to land registration projects and land privatization, is a national priority. In such situations the establishment of a "Land Regularization Task Force" (LRTF), side-by-side with land use planning institutions, may be appropriate. It would deal with land consolidation, land administration and the creation or decentralization of effective land tenure control institutions, stimulating land privatization and administration processes in collaboration with legal institutional structures.

As an example of the need to employ all the available tools in support of land use decision-making, the integration of water resources in land use planning is an essential pre-requisite in drought-prone regions (ISAWIP, 1994). FAO, in co-operation with WHO, UNESCO and UNEP, is promoting this integration through stressing the linkages between land, in a narrow sense, and water, and country-level action plans on Water and Sustainable Agricultural Development (WASAD). When international river basins are concerned, such as the Nile, Tigris/Euphrates or Mekong basins, then subregional intergovernmental development committees are essential for solving water apportionment conflicts and integrating the needs of all stakeholders.

Implementation of the agreed land resources development plan

Once a consensus has been reached through negotiation on the contents of a land use plan, its execution involves a number of actions. These are the re-definition of overall policies and strategies of land use planning, maybe in the form of a "Covenant" (a set of principles on the ethics of land and water use); the preparation of projects for legislation: political decisions to proceed with the identification and acquisition of the required funds (from taxation, from local, national or international donations, from loans of development banks, etc.); the legal, administrative and institutional execution; demarcation on the ground; and finally the inspection, monitoring and control of adherence to the decisions taken.

A degree of updating and adaptation of the plan at various phases of its execution will be required. This is because of the appearance of practical problems, in one or more aspects, and the emergence of new technologies in the production or processing of yields from the land or in limiting or overcoming any environmental damage. Socio-economic changes at national and international levels during the execution of the plan will also require careful steering of any land development activities taking place over large areas.

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