Demand-driven land evaluation; with case studies in Santa Catarina-Brazil

I.L.Z. Bacic

Research output: Thesisexternal PhD, WU


The main objective of this thesis is to improve use and usefulness of information for rural land use decisions based on an operational demand-driven approach for land evaluation with case studies in Santa Catarina State, Brazil. To achieve this objective, the following research questions were formulated: (1) Are the existing land evaluation reports useful to rural decision makers?; (2) What interpreted information is necessary for rural decision-making?; (3) What are the implications of the planning environment for land evaluation?; (4) What primary information are necessary and feasible to collect or generate?; (5) What models and research methods can be used and which adaptations are necessary considering local conditions?; and (6) How do decision makers evaluate methods, tools and the new information? Is it worth to invest time and resources to further improve information?This thesis is a collection of papers, all dealing with case studies inSanta Catarina,Braziland related to demand-driven land evaluation, published or submitted to international peer-reviewed journals. The case studies presented in chapters 4, 5 and 6 were selected according to the main demands of users as identified in the previous chapters.

Chapter 2describes and quantifies the use and usefulness of soil surveys and land evaluation reports to land use planners, observe the relation between latent demand and actual supply and suggest improvements on current methods. It is the basis for the thesis, indicating the main directions to be followed. The soil resource inventory and associated land evaluation had some utility, but were not in general used for their intended purpose, namely farm planning. This was mainly because they did not contain crucial information necessary to such planning in the actual context in which the farmer had to take decisions. The primary deficiencies were identified as: (1) no estimate of environmental degradation risk, (2) no financial analysis, (3) no social analysis of decision-makers' attitudes and preferences, (4) no risk assessment for weather, yields, profits and market, and (5) insufficiently-specific land use alternatives. These deficiencies could have been avoided with a demand-driven approach, evaluating and reporting according to the true needs and opportunities of the decision-makers.

Chapter 3explains the farmers' decision environment in Santa Catarina state,Brazil, which is typical of many market-oriented but low-income economies, with respect to the actors, political, legal and social frameworks, interactions and dynamics, how these affect decision makers and implications for land evaluation. It shows that different groups of farmers have different needs for information and should be approached in different manner. Some farmers would welcome any information on improving their current farming systems, whilst others are also interested in innovative crops or agricultural processes. Yet another group might need motivation more than information. It suggests that if the land evaluation process is begun with a careful analysis of the decision environment of rural land users (farmers) and follows a demand-driven approach, the results will likely be more realistic and therefore more useful to both policy/planning institutions and direct land users. This should lead to more demand and a "virtuous cycle" where planning, land evaluation and clients' needs and possibilities are increasingly inter-linked.

Chapter 4describes the applicability of a data-intensive watershed erosion and water quality model (AGNPS) in a relatively data-poor environment, reporting on the steps necessary to apply the model in a GIS setting, including data preparation, cell size selection, sensitivity analysis, model calibration and application to different management scenarios at small watershed scale in an area of intensive swine production. We calibrated the model by making a best guess for model parameters and performed a pragmatic sensitivity analysis using optimistic and pessimistic settings of these. It was not possible to calibrate over the entire rainfall range, which was thus divided into three (<25 mm, 25-60mm, >60 mm). Predicted sediment concentrations were consistently six to ten times higher than actual, probably because of sediment trapping by vegetated channel banks. Predicted N and P concentrations in stream water, adjusted by this empirical sediment concentration factor, ranged from just below to well above regulatory norms. The study shows that expert knowledge of the area, in addition to experience reported in literature, was able to compensate for poor calibration data. It was possible to apply the model for relative ranking of scenarios (actual, recommended, and excessive manure applications; point source pollution from pig farming) in comparative studies. Finally, we suggest that this methodology could also be useful as a starting point for calibration in a data rich environment.

Chapter 5shows that visualization of scenarios with community participation was useful to increase participants' understanding of the water pollution problem, improve their perceptions, stimulate the search for solutions and generate new demands. This was the case even taking into account that rural decision makers are not well educated and not used to visualizing scenarios. In this, Santa Catarina is similar to many areas of the world. This study also addresses decision makers' opinions about the provided information.

Chapter 6evaluates the potential of a participatory approach for integrating risk analysis into decision making for rural land use and decision makers' view of the supplied information. It particularly focuses on two of the main risk-oriented information demands in the region: (1) yield predictions for maize on different planting dates and (2) economic information for different land use options. It also investigates decision makers attitudes towards risk, and the degree to which these could be changed by objective information, in Santa Catarina State, Brazil, typical of transitional economies, where neither direct (farmers) nor indirect (extensionists) decision makers had been exposed to concepts of risk. Different groups had markedly different levels of knowledge, analytic capacity, economic conditions, perspectives and needs, and therefore should be approached differently and with group-specific information. Farmers were mostly moderately or extremely risk averse. However, at the end they declared themselves willing to take risks if they have adequate information. Despite their lack of previous exposure to these concepts, participants were able to understand the presented information. It finally suggests that a participatory approach, by gathering, presenting and periodically discussing demanded information with decision makers is certainly a practice to be further explored to effectively integrate risk assessment into rural decision making.

Chapter 7:Demand driven land evaluation has been suggested by several authors as an attempt to make the information more relevant and useful to rural decision makers for land use planning. This research showed that this approach is possible in practice and should be further explored, but its effectiveness needs time to be definitely confirmed.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Bregt, Arnold, Promotor
  • Rossiter, D.G., Co-promotor, External person
Award date10 Dec 2003
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs9789058089021
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • land evaluation
  • demand
  • data collection
  • decision making
  • information
  • reports
  • maps
  • brazil


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