Patrick Wall/CIMMYT

Evaluating Land Management Options (ELMO)

The ELMO tool offers a participatory approach to evaluating land management options from farmers’ perspectives.

Scientists from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) have developed the tool in recognition of the complex factors that drive farmers’ land use decisions. Land degradation is not solely a result of farmers not having access to or knowing about the ‘right’ technologies; rather, farmers may reject more sustainable land use practices due to a host of social or economic reasons, such as the technology being too time consuming, requiring too much labor or being too expensive to implement. The ELMO tool can help scientists understand such reasoning, enabling them to better support successful and long-lasting changes to land use practices.

ELMO is organized around three basic questions and entails 10 steps. It is technically simple to implement, with pens, cards, flip charts, ‘counters’ (such as beans or stones) and a camera (for documentation) being the only required equipment. Structured discussions and prioritization exercises shed light on farmers’ likes and dislikes of different land management options.

ELMO diagram
Quick reference summary of ELMO process, content and outputs.

ELMO is not intended to be a stand-alone method. Rather, it forms one component of an integrated, interdisciplinary toolbox for collecting information to guide the design of land management interventions.

The tool is primarily targeted at researchers, who may use the tool to identify ways of changing the economic conditions and circumstances that cause farmers to degrade land in the first place and instead set in place the opportunities and reward systems which will make sustainable land management a more viable, desirable and profitable option at the local level.