Policy gains from ILRI’s land-use planning research in eastern Africa

Reconciling land-use conflicts is a major challenge for eastern African governments today. Effective land-use planning at multiple scales is needed to facilitate optimal and conflict-free land use to support growing populations while still conserving valuable biodiversity and ecosystem services. However, land-use planning innovations can be difficult to implement, especially in pastoral areas characterized by complex multiple-use tenure systems and mobility across vast rangeland landscapes

Over the last five years, ILRI has been working with government ministries and NGOs in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania to develop participatory land-use planning processes appropriate for pastoral areas. The development of ‘joint’ land-use planning across a variety of administrative boundaries—the village in Tanzania, the woreda (district) in Ethiopia and the county in Kenya—has formed the backbone of this work. 

In late 2021, an independent evaluation of these land-use planning projects was undertaken to capture the main outcomes of ILRI’s research-based support and make recommendations for taking the work forward.  

The evaluation highlighted how ILRI’s support has helped governments improve land-use planning processes. This has brought tremendous benefits to local communities by facilitating more equitable decision-making and by resolving land-use disputes. ILRI’s promotion of peer-to-peer learning events, facilitation of community-government dialogues, development of manuals and toolkits, and participation in policy-development processes have also contributed to a more enabling policy environment.

There is acceptability and adoptability of the ILRI supported land-use planning tools at the county level. Five or seven counties are currently using these tools. 

NGO representative from Kenya

The report has revealed some fundamental lessons about land-use planning innovations. Perhaps most importantly, fostering collaboration and a clear working relationship with government partners, development organizations and advocacy NGOs was crucial to achieving the widespread adoption of land-use practices. Capacity-building exercises and participatory approaches were also necessary to foster a sense of ownership and agency within local communities and at all levels of government. ILRI’s research on rangelands and pastoral systems also highlighted the tremendous indigenous knowledge pastoralists possess—knowledge that is now better incorporated into participatory land-use planning activities.

ILRI’s engagement with other organizations like NGOs in Kenya and Tanzania made this possible. Looking at things from tenure, livelihood and development angles is what made them very successful in spearheading innovative approaches to secure pastoral rangelands in the three countries of Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.

—Interviewee from Tanzania

The report concludes with key recommendations for expanding these efforts in the future. The first step is to develop budgets and provide clarity on the costs of implementing land-use planning processes because governments will only be willing to invest in land-use planning innovations if they are cost-effective. It is also crucial to sustain current capacity-building efforts for governments and other stakeholders to help them implement these processes more effectively. Finally, it is important to help governments and civil society organizations sustain nationwide information-sharing platforms that make data and information on participatory land-use planning available to a variety of actors.

To learn more, you can read the full report here.

ILRI’s land use planning activities contribute to the CGIAR research program (CRP) on Livestock and the CRP on Policies, Institutions and Markets. The exchange of lessons learned and good practices is supported by the Rangelands Initiative of the International Land Coalition.


Pastoralist community leader from Borana, Ethiopia mapping rangelands and rangeland

resources (photo credit: PRIME/Kelley Lynch)