How can local food & energy needs be met while preserving natural ecosystems? Are there ways to balance investing in forest restoration with other objectives such as ensuring food security or improved employment opportunities? How can negotiated solutions be found to resolve conflicts over land use and agree on a shared vision?
To find out, on 12 July, the EU REDD Facility organised a webinar on participatory land-use planning. Generally regarded as complex, technical, or sensitive, land-use planning too often remains a top-down technocratic undertaking without real stakeholder engagement. Building off a decade of experience at the EU REDD Facility, the webinar showed how land-use planning can be made truly participatory to generate positive outcomes for local stakeholders and natural ecosystems.
You can now watch the webinar on Participatory land-use planning.
Moderator: Michaela Foster, Facilitator in land-use planning trainings, EFI
This EU REDD Facility webinar on participatory land-use planning drew on the Facility’s experience in supporting land-use planning across Central Africa, South-East Asia and Latin America. Panellists included representatives from African governments, international organisations and NGOs who shared experiences and success stories from various regions and showcased the Land-use Planner tool. A Q&A session addressed balancing local food and energy needs with the preservation of natural ecosystems, finding negotiated solutions to resolve land-use conflicts and establishing a shared vision. The event took place on 12 July 2023 and was moderated by Michaela Foster, European Forest Institute (EFI) facilitator in land-use planning training.
On the challenges encountered in land-use planning processes, Thomas Sembres, EFI Land-use Planner developer, mentioned reconciling conflicting needs, diversifying land uses, supporting local autonomy, resolving conflicts, mitigating projects’ negative impacts, enhancing investments’ competitiveness and adapting to a changing context. Guy Debok Nghemning, Director of Land-use Planning, Ministry of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development in Cameroon, pointed to ensuring that land-use planning is at the heart of all policies and considered at all levels to ensure sustainable development. His collaborator Romeo Noulié said bringing together all relevant stakeholders is a challenge, and an upcoming colloquium including all relevant sectorial ministries will aim to address this need. Jim Djontu, EFI land-use governance expert, stressed the need to clarify the enforceability of the land-use plans at local level in the Republic of the Congo. He explained that participatory land-use planning, supported by the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), aims to resolve persisting land ownership conflicts, especially mining permits overlapping with forest concessions. Le Nguyen Que Huong, land-use planning facilitator at the Mekong Development Research Institute, said planning challenges in the Central Highlands of Vietnam include the top-down nature of the district-level planning process, multistakeholder coordination and engagement, and data access and quality. One participant said some land-use plans have been developed in a participatory way, but without a sound understanding of projections of land uses, and therefore resulted in unrealistic scenarios that could not be implemented. Other processes have been very technical and not participatory, with resulting plans being imposed on local populations that did not respect them. Participants mentioned the following challenges: policies associated with land-use planning; reaching out to stakeholders; and agreement on common land-use activities.
On success factors in land-use planning processes, Djontu mentioned the benefit of engaging both institutional stakeholders and representatives of civil society, the ease of using an interactive model and forward-looking cartography, and the relevance of carrying out this cartography at the district scale. He added that although land-use planning can be technical and complex, EFI’s experience shows that each stakeholder has a role to play and competencies are shared. For example, while the structural analysis would be taken by the government, participatory planning needs to involve civil society and local communities. Sembres underlined the need to inform stakeholders adequately and early in the land-use planning process and reinforced the role of the land-use planning facilitator. Huong said it is key to understand the local context and culture, improve the Land-use Planner’s interactive ease and tailor training methods. Benjamin Loukou, Director at the General Directorate for Planning at the Ministry of Planning and Development of Côte d’Ivoire, underlined the importance of political will from the highest level and the need to get all stakeholders on board. Participants identified the following success factors: clear leadership; tools and access to adequate information; and participation of all main stakeholders.
Several participants referred to the land-use planning process as a balancing exercise to identify win-wins. Djontu underlined that often, governments have to reconcile their conservation aspirations with the population’s agricultural, subsistence and development needs. However, these trade-offs will only be possible through increased agricultural yields with technical and financial support. Underlining that solutions that help reduce deforestation are often very expensive, Acworth said participatory planning will be successful only if these solutions are adequately supported.
On the role of the land-use planning facilitator, Sembres said facilitators have the responsibility to follow an ethical approach and not manipulate the planning process with their skills and knowledge. He said EFI’s facilitation training focuses on soft aspects such as the selection of stakeholders and their engagement, which are not strictly related to the technical tools. Acworth pointed to the necessary balance between participatory processes that are led by people who understand the local context and culture and the use of technical tools.
Several participants noted that tools for land-use planning must be fit for purpose and adapted to the national and local contexts. Debok mentioned the development in Cameroon of a diagnosis of current land uses, a national land-use scheme and five-year action plans. Romeo Noulié explained that to ensure Cameroon’s planning tools do not overlap or become redundant, the government studied their consistency and coherence. For example, it checked the regional schemes are aligned with the national orientations. Djontu said all sectoral ministries of the Republic of the Congo were involved in the development of a land-use planning methodology, which will be used to develop land-use plans at departmental level. EFI supported the participatory development of the 20-year development plan for Mindouli District, through participatory structural analysis and mapping and territorial foresight. EFI also supported the socioeconomic impact assessment of scenarios for the palm oil industry in the Pool region using its Land-use Planner tool. Loukou said in 2006, a national land-use planning policy was adopted, focusing on socioeconomic planning, and in 2022 the development of the first national land-use scheme started. Only six out of 31 regions have a regional land-use plan, but more are being developed. With EFI support, the Ministry is drafting a local development manual at village level to ensure that local populations, in particular women, are fully involved in the land-use planning process. Sembres presented EFI’s Land-use Planner tool, data portal and training resources.
On the spatial dimension of land-use planning, participants noted that land-use planning is often much more than a spatial process, and involves identifying the relevant stakeholders and what needs to be achieved, before deciding where actions are to be implemented. Clovis Grinand, Soil and Landscape Dynamic Scientist at Nitidae, showcased the spatial module of the Land-use Planner, developed by Nitidae and EFI. Acknowledging that land-use planning goes beyond spatial planning, he said maps can nonetheless have a strong influence on planning choices and decision making. Currently, the Land-use Planner spatial covers only the African continent. It includes the status of forest land tenure and produces animated maps forecasting future deforestation.