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Environment & Development Research In Practice. Methodological debates on practically doing interdisciplinary, participatory, actio-orientated research Overarching Methods – Sustainable Livelihoods Analysis (Scoones, 1998; DFID, 2001)

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environment development research in practice
Environment & Development Research In Practice
  • Methodological debates on practically doing interdisciplinary, participatory, actio-orientated research
  • Overarching Methods –
    • Sustainable Livelihoods Analysis (Scoones, 1998; DFID, 2001)
    • Sustainability Indicators (Bell & Morse, 2001; Reed et al., 2006)
  • Case Studies from Nepal & Botswana (relevant to / methods developed for UK examples later in module!)
changing project emphasis from things to people
Changing Project Emphasis - From things to people
  • Robert Chambers (1983) questioned many conventional wisdoms of development planning and action. He recognised many problems -
    • Spatial bias - e.g. roadside
    • Project bias - analysis of interventions, not poverty
    • Person bias - who practioners meet
    • Dry season bias
    • Diplomatic bias
    • Professional bias - single issues

Termed problems ‘Development Tourism’. Major impact on Brundtland report / Agenda 21 etc.

Called for ‘Putting the Last First’ and move to community-based natural resource management (CBNRM)


Facilitating Participation in Monitoring and Evaluation

POL Policy development, sector planning, and programme formulation

ID Programme and project identification

PREP Programme and project preparation

APP Programme and project appraisal and approval

IMP Implementation and monitoring

OP Operation and monitoring

NEXT Extensions or Next phase programme and project identification

EVAL Evaluation


participatory approaches are a reaction to problems of past development interventions
Participatory Approaches are a reaction to problems of past development interventions
  • “Delusion and disappointment, failures and crimes have been the steady companions of development and they tell a common story: it did not work” Sachs, 1995; p.1
  • “From the early colonial era to the present, attempts have been made to introduce soil & water conservation measures in a wide range of settings, yet many have failed.” Scoones et al., 1996; p.1
  • “The last 30 years have seen the unremitting failure of livestock development projects across Africa” Scoones, 1994; p.3
  • The general conclusion: For every problem there is a solution that is simple, direct & wrong

The Sustainable Livelihoods Model


  • Vulnerability Context (Dynamic?)
  • Capital Assets (Multi-sectoral / Interdisciplinary)
  • Policy, Institutions and Processes (Policy relevant)
  • Livelihood Strategies (Decision-making focused)
  • Livelihood Outcomes (Problem / People Focused)
  • See DFID (1999) Guidance Sheets handout, ongoing discussions on utility of these methods at - http://www.livelihoods.org
  • Also initial key paper – Scoones, I. (1998) Sustainable Rural Livelihoods: A Framework for Analysis. IDS Working Paper, 72.




Population trends

Resource trends

National / international economic trends

Trends in governance (including politics)

Technological trends

Human health shocks

Natural shocks

Economic shocks


Crop/livestock health shocks

Of prices

Of production

Of health

Of employment opportunities

Vulnerability Context


Strengths of the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach


  • People centred
  • Holistic
  • Dynamic
  • Starts from a point of strength not weakness
  • Focuses on macro – micro links
  • Sustainability is key to the approach
  • Highlights the different dimensions to poverty

Utility of the SL Approach


  • Programme identification and design
  • Project planning
  • Reviewing existing activities
  • Monitoring and evaluation

Problems with the sustainable livelihoods approach


  • Prioritising poverty eradication interventions
  • Implementing interventions
  • Assessment methodologies
  • The question of sustainability?
  • Capturing the “SOCIAL” in social
  • The Notion of Participation
research case study 1 nepali forestry
Research Case Study 1 - Nepali Forestry
  • Problems of Development Interventions and move to Community Based Natural Resource Management
  • Himalayan Degradation: Myth of Deforestation and Erosion
  • Shift to Community Forestry (reasons and implications)
key points
Key Points
  • Forest resources essential element of livelihood systems in many ways
  • Scale of tree losses great, but has been widely exaggerated
  • Losses from hill and montane forests greater in all regions
  • Root causes often linked to changes in external pressures on local systems, often been associated with change from communal ownership (post Tragedy of Commons views)
nepal s forest resources
Nepal’s Forest Resources
  • 5.8 million ha - 41.6% of the country (a further 14.5% classed as degraded forest - ICIMOD, 1998)
  • Tropical deciduous, sub-tropical pine and mixed hardwood forests (Sal and Chilaune)
  • Forest degradation rates of 3.4% (79-86) now greatly reduced by move to Community Forestry
  • Avg earnings c. $200 a year (lower in rural areas) = 7th poorest country
community forestry cf and forest user groups fug s
Community Forestry (CF) and Forest User Groups (FUG’s)
  • Aid and Govt policies focused on Community involvement in all aspects of forest resource management (CF) and control on resource access
  • Discussion of issues and forest management plan now made at local level by FUG

Key issues:

    • Participation
    • Policing
    • Rehabilitation / Sustainability
    • Local flexibility
koshi hills and nukcfp
Koshi Hills and NUKCFP
  • NUKCFP - Nepal-UK CF Project. NGO working in two regions W. and E. (Koshi hills) funded by DFID (£5.6 million)
  • Role is to facilitate community discussions, help devise management plans and assess/ report lessons from one FUG to others
  • Aim to ensure that ALL members of community benefit
leeds research involvement
Leeds Research Involvement
  • Research aimed at assessing impact of CF on resource management practices and social livelihoods
  • Based on participatory methodologies first, integrated with environmental assessments (Dougill et al., 2001 - see NBB)
  • Has CF improved forest management? alleviated poverty? empowered local people?
  • In many cases yes, but FUG’s an ideal forum for further advances in empowerment (and thus poverty alleviation and sustainable env management)
lessons learned
Lessons learned
  • Focus on forestry must be extended to consider the integrated forest, farm, livestock system. Can also discuss water, education, electricity and roads
  • Active involvement of women and the landless essential to improved forest management
  • Sharing knowledge between FUG’s and areas essential
  • Splitting of FUG’s to hamlet level ensures widest participation
key case study lessons
Key case study lessons
  • Holistic discussions enabled
  • Annual nutrient input to fields control yields NOT soil fertility (i.e. compost and fertiliser support critical)
  • Lack of labour and capital control livestock no’s that determine compost quality and quality (and yield)
  • Positive nutrient balance - more concern over acidification with inc. urea use
  • Community Forestry has not yet had a +ve effect on farming systems and therefore most peoples livelihoods
  • FUG (improved social capital) offer forum for discussion on such issues
remaining research questions
Remaining Research Questions
  • How to identify approaches that improve environmental management without impacting negatively on the poor’s resource access?
  • How to maintain successful village committee’s after project end?
  • How to spread successes to areas where project support has not aided committee establishment?
  • How to change institutional structures to enable community empowerment and to prioritise the needs of the poor?
sustainable livelihoods lessons from early experiences
Sustainable Livelihoods - Lessons from early experiences
  • Theoretically posed many challenges in trying to establish new development planning approaches and practice:
    • Can be applied in different ways
    • Holistic analysis makes focused entry point key
    • Often clashes with entrenched policy structures and processes
    • Research tools not fully defined
    • SL approaches often not shared with partners
  • “A balance must be found between wholesale promotion of a new paradigm and simply re-labelling existing activities” (Carswell & Jones, 2004)

Learning Outcome:

  • Understand how to develop and test environ-mental indicators with communities, and use them to monitor degradation/sustainability

Environmental Indicators

  • What are they?
  • Signs and symptoms
  • “A physical, chemical, biological or socio-economic measurement, statistic or value that can be used to assess natural resources and environmental quality”
  • Rapid, cheap and easy to use
  • Can point to potential solutions
  • Put a jacket on/ land management
  • Guess the degradation story behind these 3 photos…



20 yrs

What information did you use to tell this story?


How do you identify and evaluate indicators of degradation/sustainability that can effectively detect change and point to solutions?

  • Participatory indicator development

Semi-structured Interview

Focus Groups

Multi-Criteria Evaluation

Focus Groups

Oral Histories

Above plus:

Participatory Mapping

Ecological sampling

Decision Support System


Benefits of Participatory Indicator Devpt

  • Easily used by land managers themselves
  • Vast quantity of indicators: including socio-economic & livestock indicators, less on soil
  • Generation of indicators not found in the literature
  • Rejection or adaptation of indicators not relevant to local conditions or that require specialist training and equipment
  • No need for trade-off between meaningful participation and scientific rigour: empirical basis for most indicators

Significant overlap between indicators elicited from communities and literature

  • Majority of indicators tested were validated

Facilitating more sustainable land management through SIs

  • Integrate indicators with management options
  • Decision support system: ID problems & potential solutions
  • Different options for different land users
  • Kalahari: photographic manuals in local languages
  • Distribute, evaluate and optimise in January


  • Farmers can monitor and record rangeland degradation indicators qualitatively using “wheel charts”
  • And respond appropriately…


  • You should now:
  • Understand how to develop and test environ-mental indicators with communities, and use them to monitor degradation/sustainability


Reed MS (2003) Call of the Kalahari: Finding a future for a fragile landscape, Explorers Journal, Fall 2003: 30-33