Participatory Environmental Assessment in Drylands: Introducing a New Approach

Published on 8 October 2011

A recent wave of participatory and ‘integrated local and scientific knowledge’ methodologies have been conceived, trialled and published in an attempt to offer solutions to the challenges of conducting dryland environmental assessment from a socio-ecological perspective.

Some of the key ideas and approaches within this literature are synthesized and reviewed here. Three conceptual elements that, in combination, remain largely absent within the dryland assessment literature, are identified:

  1. drylands as political, cultural and economic systems,
  2. drylands as complex resilient systems, and
  3. drylands as temporally-embedded systems. 

These conceptual elements are then combined in presenting a new methodological approach, which is based on the participatory modelling of ecosystem services and participatory assessment of future scenarios. It is an approach to environmental assessment that is sensitive to the needs and experience of present and future stakeholders and creates potential avenues for co-operative management decisions and socially-acceptable policies.


Stephen Whitfield

DPhil Student

Publication details

Whitfield, S. and Reed, M.S.
Journal of Arid Environments, volume 77