Principles for participation in competing demands for land use

Global demand for agricultural products is competing with scarce land resources and environmental protection especially biodiversity protection and the increasing thread of shortages of water and nutrients. How can we ensure biodiversity and ecosystem protection in fragile habitats if we struggle to satisfy the demand of the world population for food, energy and housing?

Ten principles for a landscape approach to reconciling agriculture, conservation, and other competing land uses (Sayer et al., 2013) can help to guide the process of decision-making in the landscape context. These principles emphasize that we will need a people-centred approach applied at landscape scales and a focus on multifunctional landscapes. The principles in short:

  • Principle 1: Continual learning and adaptive management.

Landscape processes are dynamic. Despite the underlying uncertainties in causes and effects, changes in landscape attributes must inform decision-making. Learning from outcomes can improve management.

  • Principle 2: Common concern entry point.

Each stakeholder will only join the process if they judge it to be in their interest. Launching the process by focusing on easy-to-reach intermediate targets may provide a basis for stakeholders to begin to work together. The process will build the confidence and the trust needed to address further issues.

  • Principle 3: Multiple scales.

Outcomes at any scale are shaped by processes operating at other scales. Influences include feedback, synergies, flows, interactions, and time lags, as well as external drivers and demands. An awareness of these higher and lower level processes can improve local interventions, inform higher-level policy and governance, and help coordinate administrative entities.

  • Principle 4: Multifunctionality.

Many landscapes provide a diverse range of values, goods, and services. The landscape approach acknowledges the various trade-offs among these goods and services. It addresses them in a spatially explicit and ecosystem driven manner that reconciles stakeholders’ multiple needs, preferences, and aspirations.

  • Principle 5: Multiple stakeholders.

Failure to engage stakeholders in an equitable manner in decision- making processes will lead to suboptimal, and sometimes unethical, outcomes. All stakeholders should be recognized, even though efficient pursuit of negotiated solutions may involve only a subset of stakeholders. Solutions should encompass a fair distribution of benefits and incentives.

  • Principle 6: Negotiated and transparent change logic.

The need to coordinate activities by diverse actors requires that a shared vision can be agreed upon. This requires a broad consensus on general goals, challenges, and concerns, as well as on options and opportunities. All stakeholders need to understand and accept the general logic, legitimacy, and justification for a course of action, and to be aware of the risks and uncertainties.

  • Principle 7: Clarification of rights and responsibilities.

The rights and responsibilities of different actors need to be clear to, and accepted by, all stakeholders. Clarification of conflicting claims will require changes, ideally negotiated, that may be legal or informal. When conflict arises, there needs to be an accepted legitimate system for arbitration, justice, and reconciliation.

  • Principle 8: Participatory and user-friendly monitoring.

When stakeholders have agreed on desirable actions and outcomes, they will share an interest in assessing progress. In a landscape approach, no single stakeholder has a unique claim to relevant information, and the validity of different knowledge systems must be recognized. All stakeholders should be able to generate, gather, and integrate the information they require to interpret activities, progress, and threats (principle 1).

  • Principle 9: Resilience.

Actions need to be promoted that address threats and that allow recovery after perturbation through improving capacity to resist and respond. Resilience may not be well understood in every situation, but can be improved through local learning and through drawing lessons from elsewhere (principles 1 and 10).

  • Principle 10: Strengthened stakeholder capacity.

People require the ability to participate effectively and to accept various roles and responsibilities. Such participation presupposes certain skills and abilities (social, cultural, financial). The complex and changing nature of landscape processes requires competent and effective representation and institutions that are able to engage with all the issues raised by the process.

More tools and methods for stakeholder processes and for collective inquiry in the PSC workbooks:


Jeffrey Sayer, Terry Sunderland, Jaboury Ghazoul, Jean-Laurent Pfund, Douglas Sheil, Erik Meijaard, Michelle Venter, Agni Klintuni Boedhihartono, Michael Day, Claude Garcia, Cora van Oosten, and Louise E. Buck. PNAS May 21, 2013 110 (21) 8349-8356;

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