Context analysis: history, state and trends of the landscape

Before planning future actions, stakeholders need to understand the history, current state and (future) projections of resource and land use in the landscape. Analyzing the ecological conditions/ecosystem services, social structures and norms, cultural and spiritual beliefs, economic opportunities, legal and institutional frameworks, financial flows, and market dynamics helps stakeholders assess important trends in their landscapes. It can be especially useful to clarify spatial patterns, how different areas of the landscape have been affected by these trends.

Stakeholders need to be aware of the current state of the landscape and its natural resources: which are healthy and which are degrading, who is benefitting and who is hurting. They can also learn how different parts of the landscape interact, for example how upland soil and forest management affects water flow and quality downstream.

They also need to understand the main trends and drivers that are affecting agriculture and natural resource use and management in the landscape. Relevant issues may include land use change (e.g. agricultural expansion, urban development and resource extraction), socio-economic trends (e.g. main sources of income for different groups), demographic trends (e.g. migration patterns and population growth) and the local, regional and national governance context (e.g. local tenure arrangements and traditional decision-making authorities).

A context analysis is strengthened by soliciting information and types of analyses that different stakeholders in the LP consider to be important. Particular attention may be given to the concerns and interpretations of minority groups whose perspectives are less commonly reflected in academic studies or government reports.

Sources of information may include reports from routine monitoring by government agencies, studies by research organizations or NGOs, participatory assessments with farmers and other local practitioners, and structured workshops with stakeholders. In some places collecting information may be difficult: official government records may be hard to access, laws for access to information may not be in place or enforced, and capacity to request information from the state or to access online databases may be weak. In such cases, the LP can draw instead on the insights and reconstructed histories developed by focus groups including diverse individuals who have deep experience in the landscape.

The information collected can be shared with the LP in ways that can be easily understood and evaluated by the different stakeholder groups. Some might be comfortable to read through a narrative report, while others might prefer maps, statistical analytics, visual dashboards or stories.