Spatial modelling of participatory landscape scenarios


Spatially explicit modelling tools can be helpful in participatory scenario development with stakeholders fom multiple sectors. In a set of three casestudies by PBL and EcoAgriculture Partners, this combined approach demonstrated the potential to achieve progress on multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) simultaneously.

It proved to be a catalyst for building landscape partnerships and can be a foundation for landscape action planning and inspire the development of landscape wide investment portfolios.

Spatial modelling of participatory scenarios

A key element in this project is the notion that many activities and impacts in a landscape are spatially and temporally interactive or inter-dependent, particularly in the stock and flow of ecosystem services. Our aim was to make the stakeholders more aware of these interactions, to discuss their ambitions and to analyse how these could all be realised in the landscape. Trade-offs and synergies were assessed by evaluating changes in land use and various ecosystems services, and their combined effects on progress towards fulfilling the landscape stakeholder ambitions and the selected SDG indicators on food (SDG2), water (SDG6), climate (SDG13) and life on land (SDG15).

The project connected to ongoing landscape initiatives supported by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Raising awareness, improving discussions and building partnerships

The spatial modelling tools helped to increase awareness among stakeholders about landscape dynamics, such as a growing population and increasing urbanisation, the expansion of agricultural production, the effects on water quantity and quality, and the development of infrastructure and mining.

Spatial modelling of alternative future scenarios proved to be a catalyst for building landscape partnerships, and for bringing to the surface stakeholder assumptions, analyses, and negotiations around strategy, production and resource management practices and spatial planning. Scenarios based on integrated approaches co-designed by stakeholders from multiple sectors, demonstrate the potential to achieve progress on multiple SDGs simultaneously.

Case: The Litoral Norte landscape in Honduras

On the Caribbean north coast of Honduras Solidaridad is implementing the PASOS program (Sustainable Landscapes in Honduras), which is an integrated landscape partnership built upon an already functioning partnership among actors within the palm oil sector. This new initiative includes a broader range of landscape stakeholders including not only palm oil, but also cocoa and ecotourism companies, indigenous peoples’ and community-based organizations, farmer organizations and cooperatives, municipal governments; research institutes and universities, community water associations, and non-profits. Key ambitions of this partnership include improving livelihoods and food security, doubling the sustainable production of palm oil, increasing the productivity and sustainability of the cocoa agroforestry and sustainable management of the watersheds.

Case: The Atewa-Densu landscape in Ghana

The Atewa Range, lying about 90 km north of the capital Accra, is a strip of unique upland forest surrounded by a mixture of farms, small scale gold mines and villages. The NGO A Rocha Ghana has been working in the Atewa Range since 2012, with the support of IUCN Netherlands. They are convening relevant stakeholders for the purpose of protecting the forest and the water that flows from it, while providing for sustainable livelihood opportunities for inhabitants of the landscape. This has led to the development of the Atewa Living Landscape Vision that aims for an integrated landscape that respects the region’s history, its environment and its people, and one that brings development to the region in a sustainable way. This work was catalysed by an explosive growth in gold mining around Atewa and the risk of large-scale bauxite mining activities that could potentially destroy the core zones of the remaining high-value biodiversity of Atewa and its role as a water source for currently 5.5 million people.

Case: The Kilombero Valley landscape in Tanzania

The Kilombero Valley is nestled between the Kilombero river to the Southeast and the Udzungwa Mountains to the Northeast. The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is working in this area to demonstrate how agricultural productivity and biodiversity conservation goals can be balanced within a landscape context where an expanding human population, unplanned land use, conversion, poor forest and waterway management, and changing weather patterns due to climate change are putting extreme strain on the natural systems and on the downstream water users who depend on them. They are already working with partners to set up a program for small-scale farmers from villages adjacent to the Kilombero Nature Reserve and wildlife corridor to strengthen small businesses in the area and also to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts.

Lessons learned from spatial planning in the Netherlands

A separate report presents lessons that can be drawn from experiences with integrated landscape planning in the Netherlands.

The Synthesis report is also available in Spanish.


Johan Meijer, Seth Shames, Sara J. Scherr and Paul Giesen


Publication title
Spatial modelling of participatory landscape scenarios
Publication date
21 November 2018
Publication type
Publication language
Product number