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Home arrow Working blocks arrow Work Block 3: Defining Potential Prevention and Mitigation Strategies
Work Block 3: Defining Potential Prevention and Mitigation Strategies PDF Print E-mail
Written by Joost   
Work Block 3: Defining Potential Prevention and Mitigation Strategies

Coordinator: 5 – CDE, University of Bern, CH
Participants: 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27, 28

a)    To identify existing strategies already applied in the test sites
b)    To identify, evaluate and document potential promising strategies
c)    To share knowledge and experiences about applied and potential strategies
d)    To select the most promising strategies in each test site

General information
There are a variety of existing and potential prevention and mitigation strategies to the various land degradation processes, such as physical strategies as well as adaptation strategies, integrating changing social, economic, institutional and policy factors. Runoff- and erosion-prevention measures on agricultural land are usually aimed at changing the soil structure and surface cover (mulching and no-tillage farming) or interrupt the overland flow in critical places in a catchment (contour farming, grass strips, soil and stone bonding, terracing intercropping), and at critical times in the year (cover crops, mulch). For the mitigation of vegetation-related land degradation, other options exist which often focus on re-establishing the vegetation cover and on enhancing biodiversity. The mitigation of water-related land degradation is especially crucial in arid and semi-arid areas which are very prone to desertification, and successful measures invariably depend on an improvement of water storage in the soil. There are a variety of measures available related to water harvesting and water conservation, whether on-site (small-scale water harvesting structures, improved cover, etc.) or at the catchment scale (dams, etc.).
The objective of WB3 is to develop alternative desertification management strategies for each specific situation, which take into account the principles of Integrated Land and Water Resources Management: economic efficiency, environmental sustainability, and social equity. The strategies will be developed and applied in the hotspot areas in WB4, each representing a different type of conflict faced in arid and semi-arid regions (see Table 4.1). In order to examine and evaluate the full range of tools and options available in the hotspot areas, the strategies evaluated and compared for each region will reflect both the current practices and trends, and the new movement towards an integrated approach.
Whether such measures are implemented or not depends on factors like cost-effectiveness, severity of degradation, knowledge, enabling framework conditions (e.g. policies) and other social-cultural and economic issues. Prevention and mitigation strategies consist of such measures including the framework of implementation (the approach). The key to success lies in a concerted effort by all concerned stakeholders, where special attention needs to be paid to the process of selecting potential strategies. Otherwise the land users will neither accept nor properly implement the measure and project success will be in danger. The involvement of the stakeholders is crucial at all stages and is therefore carefully planned throughout WB3. DESIRE will include experiences from similar processes and from integrated and participatory research frameworks that can facilitate sustainable land use decision-making (Dougill et al. 2006). There is growing recognition of the importance of learning processes to make use of local potential and strengthen the local capacity to solve local problems. Linking scientific and local knowledge across the consortium will enable the team to derive a range of possible alternative options for maintaining and restoring fragile ecosystems.
There lies a certain risk in this Work Block in the assumption that local stakeholders (land user, decision makers as well as local research teams) will be willing to participate and support the identification, evaluation, documentation, selection and learning process described below. But the DESIRE consortium is convinced that all stakeholders can be brought together if the socio-economic needs and benefits can be shown and proven. Land users and local authorities are rarely having primarily the environment interests in their mind, but will apply environmentally sound land management, if they are economically convinced or even forced to do so.

WP3.1 - Identify existing and potential strategies
There are a variety of methodological tools available to help stakeholders understand the constraints and opportunities in their (natural and human) environment in terms of land degradation as well as available and potential prevention and mitigation strategies (CDE 1998, Breu and Hurni 2003, Hurni et. al. 2004). DESIRE will assess available interdisciplinary and participatory methods for the appraisal of existing strategies. Selected methods will be applied before, during and after the planned workshops, depending on the type of method, on the availability of material from WB1, WB2 and the test sites, and on the available resources.
This work package will make use of innovative, process-oriented approaches to foster social learning processes at the interface between local and external actors. Possible pathways for achieving sustainability will be defined in a process that takes account of both the “external” perspective, reflecting the views of researchers, and the “internal” perspective, which reflects local perceptions of nature and society. A set of specialized interdisciplinary and participatory methods will be applied in an integrative way throughout the process. This procedure brings together actors, stakeholders, and researchers to identify existing and potential strategies and allows the linkage of the scientific and local knowledge while simultaneously supporting a co-learning process towards sustainable development. The selection of participants within the test sites will be based on the stakeholder analysis conducted in WB1 and WB2. Existing workshop modules will be used and the workshop can be combined with the sustainability goals identification described in WB1 and the multi-criteria evaluation of indicators with focus groups described in WB2. Reflections and insights from the planned workshops combined with the will and commitment of participants to actively change things constitute the basis for identifying and elaborating options for action. An important outcome of these learning–action processes will be that local people become aware of the rich and vast knowledge they can tap and the fact that they already have many solutions in sustainable land management. Frank discussions among local people, during which they make their own assessment of the local situation and develop their own priorities and visions, is of instrumental value for the development process (Bachmann 2003). It is planned to hold such “learning for sustainability” workshops in every test site. These will lead to a set of known and tested strategies to prevent, reduce or ameliorate land degradation and desertification, which will already have been applied in the local context. Beside technical measures, these will also include legal, social, economic and policy intervention measures. Potential educational needs resulting from this process will be addressed in WB6.
Various institutions and policy-makers will be involved to develop additional potential strategies with applicabilities ranging from the national to the local scale and scientists will contribute through their vast knowledge gained from research and literature. Researchers will play a key role: they will assess the most suitable tools and methods, bring the relevant stakeholders together and provide guidance and support to the whole process. They will also be responsible for the correct follow-up through WP 3.2. The result will be a basket of options requiring further documentation, evaluation and sharing amongst the other test sites, before they are ready for the selection process.

WP 3.2 - Evaluate, document and share strategies
As a matter of course, land users and land management specialists evaluate experience and generate know-how related to land management, improvement of soil fertility, and protection of soil resources. Most of this valuable knowledge, however, is neither well documented nor easily accessible, and comparison of different types of experience is difficult. This knowledge therefore remains a local, individual resource, unavailable to others working in the same areas and seeking to accomplish similar tasks. Beside many others, this may be one of the reasons why soil degradation persists, despite many years of effort throughout the world and high investments in sustainable land management.
WP 3.2 will make use of available tools to document, evaluate, monitor and disseminate soil and water conservation (SWC) knowledge. A set of three comprehensive questionnaires and a database system have been developed to document all relevant aspects of SWC technologies and approaches, including area coverage (Liniger and Schwilch 2002, Liniger et. al. 2002, WOCAT 2004). These tools can be used, by teams of researchers and specialists together with land users, to critically review their often fragmented knowledge, to identify the gaps and contradictions in what they already know, to question and evaluate their current perceptions and field experiences, and in so doing identify locally appropriate ways of achieving the end objective of sustainable and productive land management. This research process ensures systematic recording and piecing together of local information, together with specific details about the environmental and socio-economic setting in which the information was obtained. Collecting information involves personal contact and sharing of knowledge between land users and land management specialists. Each type of documented experience derived directly from the field increases the knowledge base with actual rather than theoretical experience. These tools do not only develop capacity by learning about existing experiences, but they also enhance the capacity of those who are documenting their own experiences, as they serve as a tool for evaluation at the same time.

Work Package 3.2 will make use of the above-described tools to evaluate and document the strategies identified in Work Package 3.1. The stakeholders involved are land users, practitioners, agricultural extension workers and researchers/scientists. Decision makers and government representatives will again be involved in WP3.3. The strategies will contain technical measures as well as implementation approaches. Technologies are understood as agronomic, vegetative, structural and management measures that control land degradation and enhance productivity in the field. Approaches are ways and means of support that help to introduce, implement, adapt and apply SWC technologies on the ground. The questionnaire on technologies addresses the specifications of the technology (purpose, classification, design and costs) and the natural and human environment where it is used. It also includes an analysis of the benefits, advantages and disadvantages, economic impacts, acceptance and adoption of the technology. The questionnaire on approaches focuses on implementation, with questions on objectives, operation, participation by land users, financing, and direct and indirect subsidies. Analysis of the described approach involves monitoring and evaluation methods as well as an impact analysis. These technology and approach questionnaires are already developed, tested and available, but they will be complemented by additional items needed for up scaling and modelling in WB5. They might also need to be translated into the local languages (Greek, Portuguese, Turkish, Italian, etc.), as they are currently only available in English, French and Spanish (with drafts in Arabic, Russian and Chinese). But it is not a rigid format, as there is the possibility of adding supplementary modules and to change it according to the needs of the users.
The harmonised information system HIS developed in WB6 will store the evaluated and documented technologies and approaches and make them available on the Internet.
After the evaluation and documentation procedure, farm exchange visits between the test sites will be organized to allow the land users and other stakeholders to learn about potential new strategies already applied elsewhere. Selected innovative land users who are willing to test new strategies, as well as land users experienced in successful mitigation measures, will profit from these farm exchange visits. This will allow direct learning between participants and will stimulate further knowledge exchange and networking.

WP 3.3 - Select strategies in a participatory learning approach
Within Work Package 3.3., continuation workshops from WP3.1 in each test site, focusing on ‘Learning for Sustainability’, will allow the selection of strategies in a participatory way, which increases the chance of successful implementation by the land users. This is built on the basic assumption that learning processes related to development typically occur at the interface of different knowledge systems born out of co-operation between local people and external actors (extensionists, government representatives, decision-makers). In order to shape fruitful learning processes that foster the integration of local and external knowledge, creative learning environments are required that permit an active learning process based on equality of interaction and attitudes that promote listening, sharing, and joint learning rather than lecturing (CDE 1998 and Bachmann 2003).
The ‘learning for sustainability’ workshops in each test site will bring together all relevant stakeholders with researchers to select strategies for field trials in WB4. This will be based on an evaluation of existing strategies in WP 3.2. These will be made available in a database and will also include the documented strategy options from the other field sites. Their suitability for the local context will be assessed.
Using this information, focus group participants will conduct a multi-criteria evaluation to rank existing and potential remediation strategies for field trials. This will involve stakeholders identifying and weighting relevant criteria (for example technical requirements, costs and benefits of implementation, social acceptability, etc.), taking into account the technical, bio-physical, social, economic and institutional dimension. Comparative assessment tools, which allow comparing similar strategies efficiently and assessing their suitability and effectiveness, will support this process. They need to be selected and developed beforehand, integrating the scientific basis of WB1 as well as the indicators work and results of WB2. It is important to note that the indicators developed in WB2 need to be reflected and ranked during these workshops together with all stakeholders, in order to allow a useful impact monitoring in WB4.
The result of WP3.3 will be the selection of the most promising prevention and mitigation strategies for implementation and testing within the selected hotspot sites.

3.1.1    The understanding of all stakeholders of the constraints and potentials of the test sites in terms of available and potential prevention and mitigation strategies
3.1.2    A database with evaluated and successful or promising strategies (technical measures as well as their implementation approach) from all test sites
3.1.3    A tool for an efficient, comparative assessment of various strategy options
3.2.1    A report on each learning and selection workshop
3.2.2    Reports on the farm exchange visits
3.3.1    Ready-to-implement measures for each test site, chosen by the land users who will then test them

The last deliverable (No. 3.3.1) will be the direct input to Work Block 4, where these selected measures will be implemented. The database with the evaluated and described technologies and approaches (deliverable No. 3.1.2) will be part of the decision support system, which will be developed in Work Block 6 (Dissemination). This ideally also leads to a compilation of successful case studies in printed format within WB6. Also the reports and experiences from the workshops will be used for dissemination, as others might learn from the experiences at the test sites.
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