Comprehensive Analysis of Trajectories of Change in the Uplands.

Scaling-up innovations for sustainable development in the uplands of Lao PDR.

The Catch-Up program has developed a typology of land use changes trajectories in the upland areas of Lao PDR. The underlying assumption is that locations (villages, districts) following similar trajectories at a different pace or with a time difference can learn from each other and avoid repeating mistakes. If the relevant institutional structures and mechanisms are in place to support exchanges across scales and actors, this learning process will facilitate decision-making in times of uncertainty. Furthermore, the identification of locations that share the same opportunities and constraints for development will facilitate the design of appropriate technologies and spatially differentiated policies. Through an understanding of the local processes of land use changes and their main driving forces, targeted introductions of technical and organizational innovations will have better chances to succeed and achieve a greater impact at the regional level.

Systems approach and multi-scalar interdisciplinary research

The understanding of land use changes must be rooted in a diagnosis of local realities. Village level studies revealed past and ongoing processes of land use change in different agro-ecological and socioeconomic contexts. This diagnostic activity included three main components:

These activities were conducted at complementary scales: village, district and province. Remote sensing and GIS technologies were used at multiple scales to study the spatial extent and regional dynamics of farming systems.

Participatory action-research

End users of the research outputs (farmers, extension agents, local and regional decision-makers) contributed actively in all steps of the research process. This is an important condition for adoption and implementation of research results. The participatory approach combined two components:

Knowledge integration for policy-oriented research

Tools and methods were developed and combined to make policy-relevant research results available to a large public. Building upon numerous case studies and an innovative comparative methodology, the information synthesized by the Catch-Up program has been capitalized and incorporated into NAFRI's communication facilities (e.g. Policy Briefs series and Lao Journal of Agriculture and Forestry).

Participatory simulations also played a key role in the Catch-Up program and were used to better understand and represent agro-ecological dynamics at multiple scales. In addition, different scenarios of land use change, triggered by technical innovations (e.g. conservation agriculture) or new policy instruments (e.g. payment for environmental services), were explored with stakeholders in order to explore alternatives to unsustainable practices.