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Participatory Evaluation of Monitoring and Modeling of Sustainable Land Management Technologies in Areas Prone to Land Degradation


Examples of sustainable land management (SLM) exist throughout the world. In many cases, SLM has largely evolved through local traditional practices and incremental experimentation rather than being adopted on the basis of scientific evidence. This means that SLM technologies are often only adopted across small areas. The DESIRE (DESertIfication mitigation and REmediation of degraded land) project combined local traditional knowledge on SLM with empirical evaluation of SLM technologies. The purpose of this was to evaluate and select options for dissemination in 16 sites across 12 countries. It involved (i) an initial workshop to evaluate stakeholder priorities (reported elsewhere), (ii) field trials/empirical modeling, and then, (iii) further stakeholder evaluation workshops. This paper focuses on workshops in which stakeholders evaluated the performance of SLM technologies based on the scientific monitoring and modeling results from 15 study sites. It analyses workshop outcomes to evaluate how scientific results affected stakeholders’ perceptions of local SLM technologies. It also assessed the potential of this participatory approach in facilitating wider acceptance and implementation of SLM. In several sites, stakeholder preferences for SLM technologies changed as a consequence of empirical measurements and modeling assessments of each technology. Two workshop examples are presented in depth to: (a) explore the scientific results that triggered stakeholders to change their views; and (b) discuss stakeholders’ suggestions on how the adoption of SLM technologies could be up-scaled. The overall multi-stakeholder participatory approach taken is then evaluated. It is concluded that to facilitate broad-scale adoption of SLM technologies, de-contextualized, scientific generalisations must be given local context; scientific findings must be viewed alongside traditional beliefs and both scrutinized with equal rigor; and the knowledge of all kinds of experts must be recognised and considered in decision-making about SLM, whether it has been formally codified or not. The approach presented in this paper provided this opportunity and received positive feedback from stakeholders.

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Fig. 1


  1. Sustainable land management (SLM) can be defined as “the use of land resources including soil, water, animals and plants, for the production of goods to meet changing human needs, while simultaneously ensuring the long-term productive potential of these resources and ensuring their environmental functions” (Liniger and Critchley 2007:10).

  2. SLM technologies can be defined as the “agronomic, vegetative, structural and/or management measures that prevent and control land degradation and enhance productivity in the field” (Liniger and Critchley 2007:10).

  3. Details on stakeholder evaluation of SLM technologies from workshops conducted in other study sites are available here:

  4. Stubble fallowing and plowed stubble fallowing technologies test the efficacy of mulching and fallowing respectively. The stubble from the past season is retained in the soil, being plowed into it using a rotary plow. The technologies used in the Turkish case were implemented under strip farming patterns and included four rows of parcels perpendicular to the dominant wind direction, one parcel active that year, the other fallowed.

  5. While not further argued here, this match gives some confidence in model results for those cases where no stakeholder opinion is recorded.


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We thank all the DESIRE study site teams and process facilitators, as well as the workshop participants and authors of workshop reports, for sharing their experiences. Special thanks to Albert Solé-Benet and Carolina Boix-Fayos of the Spanish study site team who were responsible for organizing, performing, and interpreting the outputs from the workshops and field trials. The research described in this paper was conducted in the framework of the EC-DG RTD-6th Framework Research Programme (sub-priority—Research on Desertification—Project DESIRE (037046): Desertification Mitigation and Remediation of land—a global approach for local solutions. LCS, MSR, and JDV are also funded by a British Academy Research Development Award (the Involved project). JDV received funding from a “Juan de la Cierva” research Grant (JCI-2011-08941) from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation.

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Correspondence to L. C. Stringer.

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Stringer, L.C., Fleskens, L., Reed, M.S. et al. Participatory Evaluation of Monitoring and Modeling of Sustainable Land Management Technologies in Areas Prone to Land Degradation. Environmental Management 54, 1022–1042 (2014).

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  • Desertification
  • Soil and water conservation
  • Stakeholder participation
  • Technology adoption
  • Sustainable land management