Ecological-economic zoning (EEZ) is an alternative approach to zoning which aims to correct the emphasis on physical factors and crop production in AEZ by including socio-economic factors and a wider range of land uses in zone definition. In principle, EEZ deals with both land and with people and their social organization. These people comprise the actual or potential land users, which may consist of individuals, communities or governments that have a traditional, current or future right to co-decide on the future of the land.
Through a process of dialogue with the various stakeholders involved in land- use decisions, the EEZ specialist assists these target groups to make the best decisions for themselves and for the community at large.
The principal aims of EEZ are as follows (Sombroek, 1994):
· to identify areas where particular uses may be encouraged through development programmes, services, financial incentives, etc.;
· to identify areas with special needs and problems, as well as areas which require protection or conservation;
· to provide a basis for infrastructural development.
EEZ is in fact a form of land use planning that takes into account all elements of the physico-biotic environment on the one hand and the socio-economic environment on the other. It then matches both of them through multiple goal analysis, thereby providing a neutral tool for the various stakeholders (land users) to arrive at a consensus on the optimal use or non-use of the land - to be subsequently executed through legislative, administrative and institutional action on demarcated spatial units.
EEZ is in principle applicable to all geographic scales and for lands of any intensity of use. In practice, it is mostly used for large tracts of land such as major river catchments and physiographic regions that have as yet a sparse human population. An essential element of EEZ is its dynamic character; it can and should be repeated or adjusted in relation to changing socio-economic conditions of the region concerned and outside influences, such as world market trends.
EEZ has no a priori bias towards high-input and high-producing agricultural land use but considers a wide range of uses which may satisfy the objectives of the stakeholders. These objectives may be incompatible to a greater or lesser extent and they may change over time. The use of "multiple-goal analysis" and subsequent optimization enables the ranking and periodic reassessment of objectives to select the optimum use (or non-use) of the defined area.
The potential benefits of conscientiously executed EEZ are the following:
· the avoidance of haphazard occupation of the land under consideration, which may lead to social conflicts and irreparable damage to the quality of the natural resources system;
· the better understanding of the objectives, priorities and requirements of the different stakeholders, thereby facilitating an eventual consensus for actual implementation of land-use plans through reconciliation of conflicting interests;
· the harmonization of the work of national institutions that deal with elements of land characterization, evaluation and rural physical planning.
In summary, EEZ is a tool for natural resources management that has the following parameters:
· a time frame of 5 to 25 years;
· a landscape or catchment area spatial focus;
· multiple beneficiaries;
· a technology that embraces all elements of a natural resources system with maximum concern for on- and off site environmental effects;
· a target of intergenerational social equity;
· a participatory approach, and
· an incorporation of multiple policies.
The following step-by-step procedure has been proposed for an EEZ exercise of the Amazon Region (Sombroek, 1994):
Step 1: Collection of maps and spatial information and entry into GIS
Step 2: Pre-zoning activities
A Delineation of natural land units and thematic analysis of their various natural resources
· climatic conditions;
· landform characteristics;
· soil conditions;
· land hydrology;
· biodiversity values;
· current land uses;
· incidence of pests and diseases;
· near-surface mineral reserves and mining activities;
· river hydrology;
· population density;
· land ownership, formal or traditional.
B Determination of the bio physical land qualities and limitations, for each natural land unit distinguished.
C Identification of agro-ecologically viable land utilization types, and determination of their bio physical requirements in contact with stokeholders.
D Characterization of the socio-economic conditions and perspectives for each physiographic subregion or municipality, and for areas already demarcated for specific use.
Step 3: Zoning sensu-strictu
A Systematic comparison, through a process of matching and weighing, of the bio physical qualities of each identified natural land unit with the requirements of each envisaged land utilization type.
B Modification of the physico-biological rating through comparison with the prevailing socio-economic conditions.
Step 4: Post-Zoning
A A process of land-use negotiations among the various potential stakeholders on the basis of the objective inventory and evaluation of the natural resources conditions and their matching with land utilization alternatives, leading to a consensus on the future use of the various units of land.
B Implementation of the agreed future use or non-use of the land: preprojects for legislation, political decisions; legal, administrative and institutional execution; demarcation on the ground, inspection and control of adherence to the decisions.
In a sense, EEZ can be seen as an advanced application of AEZ, in which an expanded multi-layered AEZ database, including socio-economic data layers, is used.