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Chapter 3. Steps in land-use planning

Step 1. Establish goals and terms of reference
Step 2. Organize the work
Step 3. Analyse the problems
Step 4. Identify opportunities for change
Step 5. Evaluate land suitability
Step 6. Appraise the alternatives: environmental, economic and social analysis
Step 7. Choose the best option
Step 8. Prepare the land-use plan
Step 9. Implement the plan
Step 10. Monitor and revise the plan

This section sets out the tasks involved in making a land-use plan following the ten steps outlined in the previous chapter. For each step it gives:

• the objectives, i.e. why the step is needed;
• the main activities included;
• the information to be collected and its sources;
• the people involved and their responsibilities.

Each step is summarized by means of a Checklist.

Further details of methods available, with sources which can be consulted for details, are given in Chapter 4. An aspect common to all of the steps is that of "information management" (see Chapter 4, p. 75, and Glossary).

As already emphasized, these steps should be treated as guidelines to be adapted to the circumstances of specific plans.

Step 1. Establish goals and terms of reference

Getting started

The planning effort is launched by discussions between those who want the plan (land users and government) and the planners. This crucial first step should be a mutual exchange of ideas and information.

The decision-makers and representatives of the people of the planning area have to brief the planner about the problems of the area and what they want to achieve. The planner has to make clear how a land-use plan might help. A reconnaissance field tour, during which representatives of the people concerned are met, can be especially useful.

The planning assignment

The following tasks may be included in this first step of planning. Some of them will be repeated in more detail in Steps 3 and 4.

Define the planning area. Determine and map its location, size, boundaries, access and centres of population.

Contact the people involved. Before any decisions are taken, representatives of the farmers and other land users likely to be affected by the plan should be contacted and their views obtained. This serves two purposes: first, it provides the planning team with an inside view of the real situation; second, it means that the land users are aware that changes are being considered instead of being confronted with them subsequently as something imposed from above. Make sure that all groups of people are contacted, including women's organizations, ethnic minorities, pastoralists as well as cultivators. Particular attention should be given to ways in which minorities depend on land resources, e.g. through the collection of minor forest products.

Acquire basic information about the area. This is a first stage of gathering information which will be acquired in more detail in later steps. It is needed at this point to establish what the plan is intended to achieve. The kinds of information needed are outlined in Basic information about the area (p. 18).

Establish the goals. The goals may arise from local problems (e.g. low crop yields, fodder shortages) or from national policy and development priorities (e.g. crops for export). At any particular level, the goals may have been derived from higher levels (from national to district and local) or lower levels (by the amalgamation of local needs) - top-down and bottom-up planning, respectively. List the problems of the area and the benefits sought; distinguish between long-term goals and those that can be achieved in the planning period; isolate those goals of higher-level plans that apply to the area and those that do not.

Identify the problems and opportunities. Illustrate the present land-use situation. Identify the problems that the plan is intended to tackle and the opportunities for improvement.

Identify constraints to implementation. Constraints to the implementation of the proposed plan may be legal, economic, institutional, social or environmental. The design of any interventions must explicitly recognize the capacity of government, other organizations and land users to implement them. The resources available must be specified.

Establish the criteria by which land-use decisions will be made. For example, the option chosen may be the one which promises the highest return on investment, or the one which will sustain the greatest rural population. Where there are several criteria, decide on their relative importance.

Set the scope of the plan. How much is the plan supposed to cover? Will other plans still be in effect? For example, will roads or other basic services be covered by the plan?

Set the planning period. This is the length of time for which the plan will operate. It could be three or five years or longer, and may be broken down into phases for review and revision.

Agree on the content and format of the plan. What will the plan contain? How will it be presented? For example, will it include new crops, improved techniques of land management, extension services, improvements in infrastructure or new legislation? The format depends on the people who have to be informed and involved; identify the different groups of people concerned.

Decide operational questions. These include the funding of the planning operation, the authority and organization of the team, facilities, cooperation with other agencies, record-keeping and reporting arrangements, key people who can help or who need to be informed and the plan's production schedule.

Basic information about the area

To get started, the planning team will need some basic information about the land, the people and the organization of administration and services. This information will be obtained in more detail in the analysis of problems in Step 3. In Step 1, the planner must find out what is available and where to get it, and must identify the people who can serve as contacts between the planning team, specialist agencies and the local community. The planner must also find out which essential data are not available, so that surveys can be scheduled and costed. The range of information and amount of detail needed will vary according to the level of planning. Following are examples of information that may be required:

Land resources. Climate, hydrology, geology, landforms, soils, vegetation (including forest and pasture resources), fauna, pests and diseases. Sources include topographic base maps, air photographs and satellite imagery, existing surveys and departmental records. (See Natural resource surveys, p. 78)

Present land use. Surveys and departmental records of land use, farming systems, forestry, production levels and trends.

Present infrastructure. Transport, communication and services to agriculture, livestock management and forestry.

Population. Numbers, demographic trends, location of settlements, the role of women, ethnic groups, class structure, leadership.

Land tenure. Legal and traditional ownership and user rights for land, trees and grazing; forest reserves, national parks. (See Land tenure, p. 81)

Social structure and traditional practices. Land use is tied up with the history and culture of the people and has usually evolved over a long period. Understanding the present situation is a prerequisite for devising improvements.

Government. Administrative structure and key authorities; services provided and demands placed upon them. Ask representatives of the various agencies active in the area to brief the planning team.

Legislation. Laws and regulations that affect land use; traditional law and custom; whether laws are enforced. (See Legislation for land use, p. 81.)

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Find out about NGOs in the planning area, for example farming and marketing cooperatives, that may have roles in planning or implementing a land-use plan.

Commercial organizations. Contact any commercial organizations, e.g. mining companies, whose interests may be affected.

Terms of reference and budget

Step 1 is the foundation of the land-use plan. Misconceptions arising at this stage may be difficult to clear up later. In particular, it is essential to develop close working relationships between the land users, the decision-makers, the planning team and other participants of the planning process.

A major requirement of this step is to identify the main components of the planning project. From these, the terms of reference should be defined broadly enough to allow flexibility in finding solutions to the land-use problems identified while staying within the limits of the time and resources available.

The output from this step will be a project document (or similar statement) giving the terms of reference of the planning exercise, including its goals, specific objectives, time required and the necessary budget.

Step 1

Responsibility: decision-makers and planners together

• Define the planning area.

• Contact the people involved.

• Acquire basic information about the area:

-land resources
- present land use
- infrastructure
- population
- land tenure
- social structure
- government
- NGOs
- commercial organizations

• Establish the goals.

• Make a preliminary identification of problems and opportunities.

• Identify constraints to implementing improvements.

• Establish the criteria for making decisions on land use.

• Set the scope of the plan.

• Set the planning period.

• Agree on the content and format of the plan.

• Decide on operational questions for the planning project: personnel, cooperating agencies, timing, budget.

Step 2. Organize the work

What the work plan does

Work planning is not exciting. If it is not done thoroughly, however, the consequences can be a lack of coordination, frustration and needless delays. Of course, unpredictable events will occur but good organization can forestall many problems and help everyone to work together by focusing their energies.

This step transforms the general planning procedure from Step 1 into a specific programme of work. It says what needs to be done, decides on the methods, identifies who will do it, specifies the responsibilities of each team member, schedules personnel and activities and allocates resources for the ensuing steps in the planning process.

Why is it needed?

Coordination of the very diverse activities involved in land-use planning is important because:

Many tasks have a long lead time. For example, gathering information must begin as early as possible - some surveys take many months to complete.

Supporting services must be organized; for example, transport, labour, cartography, printing. These must be scheduled so they are available when needed, to make the best use of staff as well as to avoid unnecessary costs.

Supplies and materials must be obtained. Security clearance may be required for maps, air photographs and satellite imagery. More mundane but equally essential items such as stationery and motor spares also take time to get.

Training, travel, review meetings and consultancies must be scheduled months ahead.

Figure 5: Example of phasing project work using a bar chart

The time of trained staff is often the greatest constraint in the planning project. Good judgement is needed at this stage in identifying the specific needs of the project, deciding where short cuts might be made and establishing the need for particular activities and information.

Example of a planning table

Sen Gong District Land-use Plan

Planning step




Due date

1. First meeting

Identify participants

Director, decision-maker

J. Cruz


Assemble materials

Agency library, five-year plan, National database

E.J. Evans


Arrange venue, support staff, transport

Administration unit, motor pool

M. Wong


3. Structure problems and opportunities

Develop questionnaire

Regional statistician, consultant on public involvement

S. Moe (with J.E. Hoover)


3.1. Problem statements

Identify and interview key people

Contact list, interview forms team vehicle, field assistant

T.F. Guy


Prepare problem statements

Interview data

T.F. Guy S. Moe


3.2. Find options for change

Set benchmarks

Land resources survey (1985), district agronomist, team vehicle

S. Moe (with M. Wong)


Summarize regulations

Agency code book, law clerk

F. Sims


How is it done?

First, list the major planning tasks and activities. For each task, outline what needs to be done as well as the skilled personnel and other resources required.

Identify the people and organizations who will be responsible for each task and others who will contribute. A checklist of jobs and responsibilities is a priority. Everyone needs to know what is expected of them and to whom they are responsible.

Specify the time needed to complete each task, which tasks need to be completed before others can be started and the deadlines. Allocate money and equipment. Draw up budgets for each activity and list the resources (e.g. transport, equipment) that will be needed.

Figure 6: Example of a critical path chart

The simplest format for the work plan is a table, as shown in Table 1. This can be expanded to include locations of activities, materials required, times taken, budget figures and details of output such as reports and maps.

A bar chart is a clear way of displaying the work plan (Fig. 5). Colouring in the bars as each stage is completed highlights whether the work is keeping to schedule. If the project is large and complex, a critical path chart can be drawn up (Fig. 6). This is based on the concept of a preceding activity, a task which has to be completed before another can be started. Such a chart draws attention to what the key activities are, where delays will slow down the project as a whole.

However, land-use planning projects must be allowed to evolve. Not all activities can be foreseen and timed in advance, especially in situations involving several independent organizations with different workloads. A critical path analysis is not appropriate for an evolving planning project with a time frame extending over several years, but the discipline of producing a work plan of this kind for each individual step of the process can be valuable.

Step 2

Responsibility: planning team leader and administrator

• List the planning tasks and activities. For each task:

- identify the people and organizations responsible for or contributing to it;
- set out the resources needed;
-estimate the time needed.

• Decide which tasks need to be completed before others can be commenced.

• Draw up a work plan for the project as a whole (table, bar chart or critical path analysis).

• Draw up individual, personal work plans.

• Allocate money and equipment.

• Arrange administrative matters and logistics:

- Check and arrange security clearances for staff and equipment, e.g. for the purchase and use of maps, air photographs and computers.

- Budget for staff, equipment and transport costs.

- Provide for:

• transport (vehicles, spares, fuel, servicing);
• equipment;
• office facilities.

- Provide and coordinate technical support:

• inputs from other agencies
• field assistance
• laboratory
• cartography
• secretarial

-Make provision for wet or hot seasons, public and local holidays, contingencies and iteration of steps in the planning process.

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