The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) emphasizes the need for public participation in land degradation assessment and rehabilitation. While participatory approaches are supported by a growing body of research and practice, meaningfully involving the people affected by land degradation is far from straightforward. This paper investigates the challenge of using the UNCCD as a guide to influence community participation in policy-making and practice at national and local levels by analyzing experiences from three southern African countries. We show that the UNCCD represents a useful normative framework for addressing degradation problems, but that the participatory ethos is difficult to enact at the national level. Whilst there is increasing evidence that combining local and scientific knowledge using participatory mechanisms can deliver the benefits that the Convention strives to achieve, communication between researchers and practitioners, and those involved in implementing the UNCCD at the national level needs to be strengthened. Broad lessons and best practices in incorporating participatory practices into policy development are elucidated. Our case studies show that a range of mixed-method, interdisciplinary approaches can enable policy-makers and practitioners to meaningfully engage those who are affected by land degradation in its definition, assessment and rehabilitation.
- land degradation
- combating desertification