The governance of land use strategies: Institutional and social dimensions of land sparing and land sharing

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Agricultural land use is a key interface between the goals of ensuring food security and protecting biodiversity. “Land sparing” supports intensive agriculture to save land for conservation, whereas “land sharing” integrates production and conservation on the same land. The framing around sparing versus sharing has been extensively debated. Here, we focused on a frequently missing yet crucial component, namely the governance dimension. Through a case‐study in Ethiopia, we uncovered stakeholder preferences for sparing versus sharing, the underlying rationale, and implementation capacity challenges. Policy stakeholders preferred sparing whereas implementation stakeholders preferred sharing, which aligned with existing informal institutions. Implementation of both strategies was limited by social, biophysical, and institutional factors. Land use policies need to account for both ecological patterns and social context. The findings from simple analytical frameworks (e.g., sparing vs. sharing) therefore need to be interpreted carefully, and in a social‐ecological context, to generate meaningful recommendations for conservation practice.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12429
JournalConservation Letters
Issue number3
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 01.05.2018

Bibliographical note

The study was funded through a Consolidator Grant by the European Research Council (ERC) to Joern Fischer. We sincerely thank community groups, all governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders, discussants, and interviewees. Ethics approval was granted by Leuphana University. Feyera Senbeta kindly helped to facilitate interviews, for which he deserves our special acknowledgment. We thank the Governments of Ethiopia and Oromia for granting us the relevant permits.