Integrating local and scientific knowledge for adaptation to land degradation: Kalahari rangeland management options

Mark Reed, A. J. Dougill, M. J. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Citations (Scopus)


Despite numerous assessments of the sensitivity and resilience of drylands to degradation, there has been little research into the way affected communities innovate and adapt in response to land degradation. This paper shows how local and scientific knowledge can be combined to identify rangeland management strategies to reduce or adapt to land degradation. To achieve this, we have developed and applied a four-stage social learning approach based on stakeholder participation in three degradation 'hotspots' in communal rangelands of the Kalahari, Botswana. This approach aims to collate, evaluate and apply both scientific and local knowledge on rangeland degradation and management options. First, current practice and possible management options were identified from the literature. Second, a series of semi- structured interviews with rangeland users identified local knowledge of strategies to reduce and adapt to land degradation. Third, these options were discussed and evaluated with rangeland stakeholders in focus groups held across each study region. Finally, the outputs from these focus groups were used to produce rangeland assessment guides for each region that provided management options agreed to be locally relevant by both researchers and local stakeholders. The study found that the majority of strategies reported in the literature were not suitable for use by pastoralists in the Kalahari. However, many of the strategies suggested by stakeholders could only be applied effectively under common property regimes, giving impetus to the growing literature encouraging institutional reform to strengthen common property management regimes. The research stimulated a social learning process that combined knowledge from local stakeholders (both pastoralists and extension workers) with the scientific knowledge of researchers to provide a range of management options that could help land managers reduce or adapt to land degradation. By combining participatory research with insights from scientific literature in this way, more relevant results were provided than either approach could have achieved alone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-268
Number of pages20
JournalLand Degradation & Development
Issue number3
Early online date21 Jan 2007
Publication statusPublished - May 2007


  • land degradation
  • social learning
  • Kalahari rangelands
  • participation
  • knowledge
  • Botswana
  • environmental-change
  • South-Africa
  • sustainability
  • livestock
  • lessons
  • science
  • desertification
  • communities
  • indicators


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