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Long-term involvement of stakeholders in research projects on desertification and land degradation: How has their perception of the issues changed and what strategies have emerged for combating desertification?

Long-term involvement of stakeholders in research projects on desertification and land degradation: How has their perception of the issues changed and what strategies have emerged for combating desertification? Original Research Article / published in Journal of Arid Environments; Volume 114; March 2015 ( Nichola Geeson, Giovanni Quaranta, Rosanna Salvia, Jane Brandt)

Highlights

  • The perception of, and importance given to, addressing land degradation by stakeholders has changed slowly over 20 years.
  • Various environmental economic and social “lock-ins” may restrict land users' choice of actions.
  • Television and the internet are the keys to increasing stakeholder awareness

For over 20 years, there has been a continuing program of EC-funded research across Europe on the causes and processes of land degradation and desertification. The Agri Valley in southern Italy is one area that has been studied in detail, and gradually stakeholders (ranging from farmers to policy makers) have been involved more actively, through consultations and workshops. Questionnaires to policy makers, students and farmers have been used to establish how levels of education and awareness of land degradation-related issues have changed over this time, and which issues are most prominent today.

Many respondents now consider desertification and land degradation to be part of a wider concern for protecting the environment for the future and this, more holistic, view has resulted in a range of new sustainable approaches supporting the future livelihoods of the local population. However, social, economic and environmental “lock-ins” have also been identified, that can make sustainability less achievable. Television and the internet are the most successful media for social learning, and smartphones with apps are likely to have a big part to play in the future.