Fertile Ground: The Impacts of Participatory Watershed Management
Since the mid-1990s, growing concerns about environmental degradation, declining agricultural productivity and increasing population pressures have led governments and agencies to seek new approaches to natural resource management. There are some innovative programmes in operation which are contributing to improved land management and increased livelihood security, many of which include the active involvement of local people in planning and decision-making in soil and water conservation and participatory watershed management. Nonetheless, there is a lack of research and information into designing and implementing new soil and water management policies and programmes, which is much needed in this complex area. Fertile Ground addresses this problem by presenting the findings of the first formal study and in-depth research into the impacts of participatory watershed management in a wider range of agroecological and socioeconomic settings in Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America. The Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Livelihoods Programme of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) has, through its collaborative research programme, New Horizons, worked with a diverse group of organizations engaged in the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of participatory watershed management and soil and water conservation projects and programmes. The twenty-three case studies present a rich and complex picture of the problems, achievements and continuing challenges faced by conservation professionals and farmers around the world. They provide compelling evidence of the importance of local people's involvement in natural resource planning and management. At the same time, they reveal how difficult it is to scale-up and institutionalize participatory approaches in large, sector-based programmes, particularly in government bureaucracies. The collection offers no shortcuts to better land husbandry or enhanced rural livelihoods, but it does provide an analysis of the biophysical, socioeconomic and institutional impacts of development and management practices and to point to practicable and realistic ways forward for both governments and external support agencies.
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