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The Role of Participatory Modeling in Landscape Approaches to Reconcile Conservation and Development

Marieke Sandker, Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain
Bruce M. Campbell, Center for International Forestry Research, Bogor, Indonesia; Challenge Program for Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Manuel Ruiz-Pérez, Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain
Jeffrey A. Sayer, International Union for Conservation of Nature, Gland, Switzerland; Faculty of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Richard Cowling, Botany Department, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Habtemariam Kassa, Center for International Forestry Research, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Andrew T. Knight, Botany Department, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa; current affiliation: Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, Stellenbosch University, Matieland, South Africa


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Conservation organizations are increasingly turning to landscape approaches to achieve a balance between conservation and development goals. We use six case studies in Africa and Asia to explore the role of participatory modeling with stakeholders as one of the steps towards implementing a landscape approach. The modeling was enthusiastically embraced by some stakeholders and led to impact in some cases. Different stakeholders valued the modeling exercise differently. Noteworthy was the difference between those stakeholders connected to the policy process and scientists; the presence of the former in the modeling activities is key to achieving policy impacts, and the latter were most critical of participatory modeling. Valued aspects of the modeling included stimulating cross-sector strategic thinking, and helping participants to confront the real drivers of change and to recognize trade-offs. The modeling was generally considered to be successful in building shared understanding of issues. This understanding was gained mainly in the discussions held in the process of building the model rather than in the model outputs. The model itself reflects but a few of the main elements of the usually rich discussions that preceded its finalization. Problems emerged when models became too complex. Key lessons for participatory modeling are the need for good facilitation in order to maintain a balance between “models as stories” and technical modeling, and the importance of inviting the appropriate stakeholders to achieve impact.

Key words

conservation and development; landscape approach; multiple stakeholders; natural resource policy; participatory modeling; systems modeling

Copyright © 2010 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087