Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 11–36 | Cite as

Livelihood alternatives model for sustainable rangeland management: a review of multi-criteria decision-making techniques

  • Hojatollah Khedrigharibvand
  • Hossein AzadiEmail author
  • Dereje Teklemariam
  • Ehsan Houshyar
  • Philippe De Maeyer
  • Frank Witlox


Although a set of appropriate livelihood alternatives has already been developed to approach sustainable rangeland management (SRM), determining an appropriate livelihood model for supporting policy makers still remains to be a challenge. Livelihood alternatives are affected by multiple factors such as livelihood capital, vulnerability contexts as well as policies, institutions and processes which can be identified by stakeholders from different perspectives. Accordingly, determining appropriate livelihood alternatives is a multifaceted challenge that requires multi-criteria decision-making (MCDM) techniques. This paper aims to review MCDM methods that have the potential to be applied in SRM. It discusses how different MCDM techniques can be used and which techniques are well matched to determine appropriate livelihood alternatives. First, it justifies the need for decision support systems followed by an explanation of the most common MCDM techniques. Among them, two techniques, namely analytic hierarchy process (AHP) and Technique for Order Preference by Similarity to Ideal Solution (TOPSIS), are found to be the most suitable MCDM in the case of SRM. Furthermore, based on the reviews on different hybrid approaches, AHP–TOPSIS is introduced as a superior approach to select appropriate livelihood alternatives. Accordingly, AHP is introduced to elicit the relative importance of livelihood criteria and TOPSIS is employed to provide a score for livelihood alternatives. As a conclusion, the application of AHP–TOPSIS approach is proposed where many decision criteria, alternatives and stakeholders are involved. Subsequently, a methodological framework to determine a livelihood model is also developed. This study concludes that, as well as recognizing the theory of appropriate livelihood alternatives, the application of MCDM techniques can be further pursued toward devising a workable policy framework for SRM. At the end, we have elaborated future methodological issues to be considered when selecting feasible alternatives to resolve the current challenges in SRM.


Livelihood alternatives Policy makers Decision tool Livelihood alternatives decision making AHP–TOPSIS approach 



The authors wish to thank Iran’s Ministry of Science, Research and Technology (MSRT) and Shaherkord University for supporting this study. Some of the ideas about the development of the methodological framework of the study were explored during discussions with notable scientists and academic researchers; in this regard, thanks to Mr. Zbelo Tesfamariam a PhD student, from Ghent University.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hojatollah Khedrigharibvand
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hossein Azadi
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Dereje Teklemariam
    • 1
    • 5
  • Ehsan Houshyar
    • 4
  • Philippe De Maeyer
    • 1
  • Frank Witlox
    • 1
    • 6
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of GeographyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Faculty of Natural Resources and GeosciencesShahrekord UniversityShahrekordIran
  3. 3.Economics Rural Development, Gembloux Agro-Bio TechUniversity of LiegeLiègeBelgium
  4. 4.Department of Mechanical Engineering of Biosystems, College of AgricultureJahrom UniversityJahromIran
  5. 5.Department of ManagementMekelle UniversityMekelleEthiopia
  6. 6.Department of GeographyUniversity of TartuTartuEstonia
  7. 7.College of Civil AviationNanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (NUAA)NanjingChina

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