Landscape Ecology

, Volume 29, Issue 6, pp 1095–1107 | Cite as

A model of the science–practice–policy interface in participatory land-use planning: lessons from Laos

  • Jean-Christophe CastellaEmail author
  • Jeremy Bourgoin
  • Guillaume Lestrelin
  • Bounthanom Bouahom
Landscape Ecology in Practice


An essential task of participatory action-research is to help close the policy implementation gap that leads to large discrepancies between policy frameworks and local practices. Too often, official regulations, laws and decrees fail to translate into concrete action on the ground. Loose institutional linkages between research, extension and local communities are often blamed as the main culprits for this gap. In turn, many stakeholders call for enhanced participation as a way to bring together scientists, development practitioners and local communities in negotiating competing claims for natural resources and designing realistic pathways towards sustainable development. Despite such general consensus about the value of participation, the latter cannot be decreed nor imposed. Participation is an emerging quality of collective-action and social-learning processes. In this paper, the experience of participatory land-use planning conducted in Laos serves to illustrate a model of the science–practice–policy interface that was developed to facilitate the interactions between three groups of stakeholders, i.e. scientists, planners and villagers, in designing future landscapes. Emphasis was put on developing an approach that is generic and adaptive enough to be applied nationally while engaging local communities in context-sensitive negotiations. The set of tools and methods developed through action-research contributed to enhanced communication and participation from initial consultation and cooperation stages towards collective decision-making and action. Both the activity of landscape design and the resulting patterns can be improved by incorporating landscape science in strategic multi-stakeholder negotiations.


Land-use planning Participation Boundary objects Action-research Landscape governance Southeast Asia 



This research was conducted by the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI, Laos) within the framework of the Catch-Up Program (Comprehensive Analysis of the Trajectories of Changes) supported by the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD, France) and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR, Indonesia) and the Landscape Mosaics Project implemented in partnership with CIFOR and funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). The study was also supported by The Agrobiodiversity Initiative (TABI) funded by SDC, in Phonxay District and by the Upland Research and Capacity Development Program (URDP) funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) in Viengkham District of Luang Prabang Province. Extension activities in Viengkham District were developed in partnership with the project on “Food security for Women and Rural Poor in Viengkham District, Luang Prabang Province” coordinated by Agrisud International and funded by the European Commission (EuropeAid/127415/L/ACT/LA). PLUP implementation at larger scale was supported by the GIZ-funded Northern Uplands Integrated Rural Development Programme (NU-IRDP) and the EU-AFD funded GRET-SNV Bamboo Sector project. The authors thank all villagers, researchers and practitioners from government agencies who were involved in this collective venture. Positive comments and constructive by two anonymous reviewers were highly appreciated.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean-Christophe Castella
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Jeremy Bourgoin
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  • Guillaume Lestrelin
    • 1
    • 3
  • Bounthanom Bouahom
    • 5
  1. 1.Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD)VientianeLao PDR
  2. 2.Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)BogorIndonesia
  3. 3.Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD)MontpellierFrance
  4. 4.School of Geography, Planning and Environmental ManagementUniversity of Queensland (UQ)BrisbaneAustralia
  5. 5.National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI)Agriculture and Forest Policy Research CentreVientianeLao PDR

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