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Training facilitators for participatory land-use planning

The EU REDD Facility recently completed a training on our Land-use Planner, a free, interactive tool designed to support participatory land-use planning processes. The Land-use Planner is practical, easy-to-use, and can be applied to a range of context and planning processes. Over four weeks, we trained 26 participants from seven organisations. Throughout the training, we demonstrated the European Forest Institute’s inclusive approach to land-use planning and provided step-by-step guidance on how to use the Land-use Planner with real planning cases provided by participants.

During the training, each team compiled data on key land uses, developed future land-use scenarios for their case studies, and explored the economic, environmental and social impacts of their various planning options. Here are the highlights of three projects from this training, which illustrate how the tool can be applied in diverse planning contexts.

Laos: Identifying alternatives to shifting agriculture through land-use planning

Shifting agricultural cultivation presents a significant challenge for efforts to promote sustainable land management in northern Laos. This region faces challenges related to illegal logging. In addition, the opening of paths and roads permit access to the forest, leading to degradation, fragmentation and ultimately forest loss. In the Thamla Cluster, GIZ and RECOFTC are working to support village forest management and conservation, with the goal of reducing deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions.

During the land-use planning training, a team from GIZ and RECOFTC explored alternatives to shifting agriculture to improve land management over the next five years. Their project focused on the Thamla Cluster, which comprises three villages across 17 000 ha. Several land uses are present, including rice cultivation, tea plantations, forests and pasture for grazing.

Figure 1: Map of the Houaphan Province in Laos.
Figure 1: Map of the Houaphan Province in Laos.

Using the Land-use Planner and their knowledge of local planning issues, GIZ and RECOFTC designed two initial future scenarios to uncover the potential impacts of land-use planning decisions.

• A business-as-usual scenario, with no changes to land-use activities during the 2022 to 2026 planning period

• An expansion scenario where tea plantations and tung oil tree areas are expanded into areas previously used for rice cultivation

Figure 2: Step 3 (scenarios) of the Land-use Planner. The scenarios allow GIZ and RECOFTC to project the potential effects of land-use planning decisions across the five-year planning period. Source: GIZ and RECOFTC, Land-use Planner project
Figure 2: Step 3 (scenarios) of the Land-use Planner. The scenarios allow GIZ and RECOFTC to project the potential effects of land-use planning decisions across the five-year planning period. Source: GIZ and RECOFTC, Land-use Planner project

Future land-use scenarios to engage stakeholders in sustainable planning

The scenario building exercise allowed the team to identity the key land-use issues in the area and the decisions likely to be at stake in future land-use planning processes. The simulation shows it would be possible to increase agricultural areas without encroaching significantly on protected and conservation forests. GIZ and RECOFTC can now use the scenarios and the results of the simulation to facilitate dialogue among farmers, government officials and other stakeholders engaging in land-use planning. These scenarios can be refined through this participatory process. In that way, the Land-use Planner can be used as part of an inclusive planning process that brings all key stakeholders to the table to discuss a shared vision for the future of the landscape. It supports understanding of the environmental, economic and social impacts of different land-use decisions.

Indonesia: Balancing lowland development and mangrove forest conservation in South Sumatra

In 2021, the Indonesian Government selected the Banyuasin District to pilot approaches for improving peatland and mangrove management in the country. The district is dominated by carbon-rich peatland and mangrove. It is also home to the Sembilang National Park and the largest mangrove forest in western Indonesia. The coastal area is also deemed strategic, as it holds several gateway ports for the Provincial coast and is a key area for water transportation. The district contains 21 sub-districts and 305 villages across 1.2 million ha, and smallholders are engaged in coconut and palm oil cultivation, including in the designated Forest Area where peatlands and mangroves are located. The various economic activities and important landscapes in Banyuasin raise various challenges for improving land management. Land-use planning is much needed to balance lowland development with mangrove forest conservation and maintaining smallholder livelihoods.

Mangrove areas being converted into other land uses, potentially oil palm plantations. Source: Satrio Wicaksono, European Forest Institute

Integrated landscape management in Banyuasin II

Figure 3: Map of the Banyuasin Regency, Indonesia. Source: WRI Indonesia

The World Resources Institute (WRI) Indonesia has an office in South Sumatra and has engaged with the Banyuasin district government regarding potential collaboration on sustainable palm oil production. To that end, WRI used the Land-use Planner to assess how expansion of agricultural areas for palm oil and rubber, as well as infrastructure development could develop without encroaching on protected and conservation forests in Banyuasin II sub-district in the Banuyasin District of South Sumatra Province.

Banyuasin II sub-district is a 350 000 ha coastal area dominated by peatland and mangrove, consisting of

  • Mangrove forest (the largest in western Indonesia)
  • Coconut, oil palm and rubber plantations
  • Special economic zone designated for future port development
Mangrove trees near the coast. Source: Satrio Wicaksono, European Forest Institute
Oil palm plantations. Source: Satrio Wicaksono, European Forest Institute

WRI developed two future scenarios to uncover the potential impacts of land-use planning decisions within the sub-district.

  • A business-as-usual scenario in which interventions to change land uses were not initiated during the 2022 to 2026 planning period
  • A palm oil expansion scenario where oil palm plantation areas are expanded over the next five years
Figure 4: Step 3 (scenarios) of the Land-use Planner. The scenarios allow WRI to project the potential effects of land-use planning decisions across the 2022–2026 planning period. Source: WRI Indonesia, Land-use Planner project

Building future scenarios to inform strategic development

Scenario building is a first step to facilitate dialogue among key stakeholders in the region. It can be used to determine a shared vision for the future development of the Banyuasin Regency. In collaboration with the Banyuasin district government, WRI plans to engage with stakeholders to further refine the scenarios and explore the economic, environmental and social effects of each scenario. This may, in turn, be used to help the Banyuasin district government to improve lowland management in a way that balances the needs of the local communities with forest conservation and infrastructure development. Specifically, the scenarios can help inform the development of the district action plan on sustainable palm oil and development of alternative livelihoods for local communities as part of the government’s programme to reduce conflict and improve tenure security.

Vietnam: Planning for sustainable agriculture in Central Highlands

With the adoption of the Doi Moi Policy reform (1986), Vietnam’s economy shifted from being based predominantly on subsistence farming to one driven by commercial agriculture. In the 2000s, Vietnam’s agricultural exports increased exponentially from USD 4.7 billion in 2005 to USD 17.4 billion in 2016. The main agricultural commodities produced in Vietnam are paddy rice, coffee, rubber, tea, pepper, cashew nuts, fruits, vegetables and timber.

To develop sustainable agricultural commodity production that supports climate change mitigation and adaptation, the Government of Vietnam has several national, provincial and district policies, aimed at increasing value added in the agricultural sector through land-use planning. The Law on crop production (2018) calls for sustainable use of natural resources and infrastructure facilities. It also requires compliance with water quality standards, connects productivity with conservation, and integrates local communities for rural development. It further calls for developing agricultural uses according to land-use planning. Similarly, the Planning Law(2018) calls for the development of national, regional and district plans for urban and rural systems every 10 years. These plans must include economic, social, environmental and climate change components. Also, the Forest Law (2017) calls for the development of a national forest plan, ensuring conservation and protection of natural forest, and forest management plans for sustainable timber extraction in production areas.

Sustainable Coffee Production

Location of Di Linh district, Lam Dong Province. Source: EFI.

The Central Highlands is the main coffee production area of Vietnam, responsible for 80% of the Robusta coffee production. The expansion of this commodity led to economic success. However, the use of fertilisers, pesticides and inefficient irrigation systems has negatively impacted the environment. The region also faces a high deforestation rate (8% between 2000 and 2010), soil degradation, loss of biodiversity and water pollution.

The Mekong Development Research Institute (MDRI) and IDH worked together during the training and used the Land-use Planner in Di Linh District, Lam Dong Province, as part of their efforts to support stakeholders and facilitators engaged in land-use planning. Stakeholders are concerned about unsustainable land use and poor smallholder conditions over the 160 000 ha mountainous area, where forests and coffee agricultural systems are the dominant land uses. With the Land-use Planner, MDRI and IDH were able to better understand the potential impacts of different land-use planning decisions, such as improving coffee production or prioritising reductions in deforestation, over a 30-year planning horizon (2022–2051).

Three scenarios were developed:

  • A business-as-usual scenario, where the coffee monoculture is the main land use
  • Scenario 2, where 1 000 ha of coffee culture is expanded into natural forests and 4 000 ha of natural forests are converted into planted forests
  • Scenario 3, where coffee monoculture is changed to intercropping with macadamia

Developing future scenarios to support the development of district and provincial land-use plans

Developing future land-use scenarios and analysing the potential costs and benefits of various planning decisions can inform the participatory planning processes to formulate sustainable land-use plans in Di Linh. Stakeholders can use the Land-use Planner and generate different scenarios to come together on a clear vision for integrating the production of deforestation-free coffee and other commodities in the future land-use trajectory of the district. A refinement of the scenarios with data from economic, social and environmental aspects can provide an opportunity to elaborate a multistakeholder district plan that can be integrated in the provincial planning process.

Figure 6: Scenarios from the Land-use Planner simulation. Source: MDRI and IDH, Land-use Planner project

Supporting participatory land-use planning with the Land-use Planner

During the training, participants learnt how to use the Land-use Planner to support inclusive, data-informed land-use planning processes in a multitude of contexts where various land-use issues are at stake. With the tool, they were able to calculate the costs and benefits of different land uses and simulate the effects of land-use planning decisions into the future. They compared alternative scenarios and identified key trade-offs, both elements that may serve as a basis for continued engagement with stakeholders to support sustainable land management.