Outlining a Global Research Agenda for Enabling Effective Rangeland Governance
Robinson, Lance W.
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The political marginalization of rangelands in developing countries is seen not only in national policies and politics but also in international development programming. This bias is revealed in terminology used in the field of agricultural development, in which arid and semi-arid rangeland areas are distinguished from “high potential” areas. Similarly, “agricultural intensification” is typically assumed to refer to interventions, usually plot-level interventions, aimed at improving yields from cultivation agriculture. Investments in rangeland management tend not to conform to assumptions about what qualifies as intensification. Within mechanisms of global governance, the UNCCD is a natural “home” for rangeland issues, but is one of the poorly resourced and less impactful global governance mechanisms. Rangelands are considered within other mechanisms and are discussed in other forums. For example, a side event at the 2016 United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi is endeavoring to mobilize support for a resolution on sustainable pastoralism from the Assembly. On the whole, however, rangelands and rangeland management have not received sustained and significant attention from global governance and policymaking or from global development spending. Many of the scientists and development practitioners who work in rangelands, however, believe that rangelands and rangeland management are a potentially effective and fruitful development investment. Making this case to national and global policymakers, however, will require solid evidence—evidence which at present is too patchy and anecdotal. This paper outlines elements for a global research agenda for enabling effective rangeland management. This agenda must include elements of environmental and productivity impact assessment to demonstrate and quantify the benefits of investment in rangeland management. It will also require systematic studies of approaches and strategies to document and cost effective practices and how these approaches and strategies need to be adapted to different contexts. As well as studies of community and project level interventions for rangeland management, insights will be needed into elements of the policy, governance and socio-cultural environment that enable or constrain effective rangeland management. These impact-focused studies, intervention-focused studies, and context-focused studies must be brought together in cost-benefit analysis and other types of syntheses that allow for comparison with alternative development interventions. After outlining this research agenda, the paper considers implications and possible connections for this research agenda with multilateral environmental agreements and other aspects of global governance.