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The concept of land degradation neutrality (LDN) is a new approach receiving considerable interest because of its potential to address land degradation. Implementing LDN presents a number of challenges primarily concerned with the choice of scales of operation at which to apply it and then, monitoring and assessing degradation status and trends at these scales. In the absence of studies that apply the concept to local scales and engage local stakeholders, our study was undertaken in the Gilgel-Abay watershed of northwest Ethiopia using sites that equate to a local landscape scale (10-1000 km(2)) at which decisions about land use are made. Combining participatory mapping, farmer interviews and a field survey of soil erosion prevalence, our objectives were to: (i) understand local perceptions of land degradation and restoration activities; (ii) assess their implications for LDN, and (iii) explore the utility of engaging local land users in the assessment of land degradation and restoration activities. Our findings demonstrate that engaging land users can provide a comprehensive overview of land degradation and restoration activities at local scales; that land users may not share the same priorities, in terms of where, when and how to address degradation, as one another, or with other actors involved in restoration initiatives, which implies a need for negotiation; and that the impacts of restoration activities are likely to be socially differentiated. This makes it important to understand how livelihoods interact with different restoration interventions and to take measures to ensure that striving for LDN does not disadvantage the most vulnerable people. Based on these findings, we propose three guiding strategies for implementing LDN at local scales: negotiate priorities and incentivize action; match options to context; and, co-produce knowledge and indicators.


  • Land degradation neutrality Land restoration Participatory mapping Local perceptions Exclosures Northwest Ethiopia
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-54
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Development
Early online date25 Sep 2018
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018

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