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What are rangelands and grassland and why are they important?

Funded by the GEF and with the FAO and IUCN as implementing and executing agencies, respectively, this project has developed a methodology for a ‘rapid’ participatory assessment of land degradation and SLM in grasslands and pastoral systems.  It has been trialed in 7 countries, and the method could be useful for the LDN ‘preliminary assessments’.

The Participatory Rangelands and Grassland Assessment, so called  PRAGA methodology is designed to assess ecosystem health in the specific context of rangelands and grasslands   supported by a limited number of core representative indicators. The framework adopts the good practice of ‘collect once, use many times’, and thus it fosters the use of environmental and socio economic indicators adopted by the three Rio Conventions for reporting. The methodology is designed to assess rangeland health at scale but with enough flexibility to adapt to specific context and country. The methodology is guided by two competing principles: adequate detail for decision making and low cost.

The methodology can be used for awareness raising purposes at the local, national and global level. Awareness raising should also specifically target the importance of participatory approaches in decision-making.

At the national level, the right audience should be targeted to ensure the methodology influences decision making processes at national and local level.

At the global level, some of the audiences includes Civil Society organizations, Intergovernmental institutions, development partners, Banks, the private sector...

Some lessons include:

  • Local communities have a good knowledge of natural resources and their state
  • Local land degradation indicators are relevant to rangeland health assessment and they provide more detail than those of remote sensing
  • GIS and remote sensing tools allow for large-scale extrapolation of field assessment results
  • There is complementarity between the remote sensing and local field indicators methods, they can be integrated to develop a holistic tool for assessing rangelands
  • There is a need to exclusively consider the role of vulnerable groups and women as stakeholders
  • mapping exercise characterize the landscape and different scales (micro and macro)
  • Herder-led landscape classification gives better categorization and understanding of scale
  • If methodology is implemented across sites, a minimum set of indicators for cross-site comparison
  • There is need to validate the draft DPSIR framework with the rangeland users.


  • Rangelands refer to land on which the vegetation is predominantly grasses, grass-like plants, forbs or shrubs and is managed as a natural ecosystem. Rangelands can include annual and perennial grasslands, shrub and dry woodlands, savannah, tundra, and desert. Grasslands on the other hand are lands on which the vegetation is dominated by grasses.
  • Rangelands and Grasslands provide many ecosystem services of vital importance for local communities, including climate regulation. They are a significant source of livestock feed and of livelihoods for stock raisers and herders.
  • Most of grasslands are catchment areas and their sustainable management is crucial to ensure the maintenance of hydrological cycle and the protection of watersheds. Rangelands and grasslands are major biodiversity reserves and provide important wildlife habitats and in-situ conservation of genetic resources

Further reading from UNCCD Library

grasslands; rangelands; land degradation neutrality (LDN)