Can strategic land-use planning contribute to the improvement of land governance in tropical, low-income regions?

This blog post is based on Oliveira and Meyfroidt 2021 and this Twitter thread

Land use plans and strategic spatial plans have been explored in specialized literature as the outcomes of separated planning processes. In fact, to date, few studies have devoted attention to the relationship between land use and strategic spatial planning processes. However, both can contribute to achieving sustainability objectives, including regulating the location, timing, and form of development.

In this study, we specifically focused on rural areas of the tropics. We explored how a closer interrelationship between land-use planning and strategic spatial planning supports the broader effort of understanding – strategic land-use planning – as a land governance instrument in tropical and subtropical regions, from humid forests to sub-humid or savannah and semi-arid landscapes.

We explored this relationship through a systematic literature review centered on identifying the instruments used within strategic approaches to land-use planning and how these instruments have been used. Our goal was to understand better how strategic land-use planning instruments can contribute to improving land governance in tropical landscapes.

We find “land-assessment instruments” such as “crop suitability surveys”; “land-zoning instruments” such as “agro-ecological zoning”; and “participatory instruments” such as “joint meetings between private interest groups and local communities”. The overall objective of this set of instruments is to support the decision-making of various land users, mainly farmers, regarding crop suitability or the identification of agronomic conditions as well as supporting land-use conflict resolution and better management of land-based resources.

Overall, in this review, we emphasize that to improve land governance in tropical landscapes, both planners and policy makers require reliable data regarding the existing land and its potential. We conclude with a summary of the mutually reinforcing perspective of the identified strategic land-use planning instruments and linkage to the main gaps, comprising the agenda for future research.

This exercise reinforces our initial claims that strategic-oriented, land-use planning processes have the capability of responding to current global land-use challenges in the tropics, thus supporting socioenvironmental governance.

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