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Managing Tricky Decentralised Competencies: Case Study of a Participatory Modelling Experiment on Land Use in the Lake Guiers Area in Northern Senegal

September 16, 2010

Sustainability Science, Volume 4, Number 2, 2009, 243-261

Grégoire Leclerc, Alassane Bah, Bruno Barbier, Laurence Boutinot, Aurélie Botta, William’s Daré, Ibrahima Diop Gaye, Christine Fourage, Géraud Magrin and Mame Arame Soumare, et al.

“We describe an action-research project whose objective was to help stakeholders at different organisational levels achieve sustainable land management by developing mediation models and tools. We chose to test a specific approach called companion modelling in the framework of a multidisciplinary research partnership and a formal local partnership (a ‘users committee’) involving an array of stakeholders at different organisational levels. The study area covers 10,000 km2 of agro-pastoral land around Lake Guiers in northern Senegal. We conducted studies to update the knowledge base of the area and organised six field workshops that clearly revealed three important tool functions to support decision-making on land use at different scales, i.e. understanding maps, monitoring and evaluating land tenure, and foreseeing changes in land use. We found that a toolbox approach was the best way to implement the three functions and overcome the constraints faced by the research team and those linked to the timing of the project. Therefore, we produced five simple complementary tools aimed at various users: a farm-level optimisation model (for researchers and technical services), a database for land allocations and a discussion tool to assess the impact of land allocation decisions (for the rural council), a paper atlas (for local players) and a regional land use change simulation model (for regional and national planners). Participants were able to work with paper maps, to interpret computer-generated simulations of land use change and understand the strengths and limitations of each. Self-assessment of the research process emphasised the importance of the context and the critical role played by social capital at both the research and the field level, which, in turn, emphasised the need for major improvements in the design and implementation of a quality process for participatory modelling. It turns out that action-research may be an effective way to undertake sustainability science.”

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