Bridging scenario planning and backcasting: a q-analysis of divergent stakeholder priorities for future landscapes.

Published online
11 Aug 2023
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
People and Nature

Jiren, T. S. & Abson, D. J. & Schultner, J. & Riechers, M. & Fischer, J.
Contact email(s)

Publication language
Africa South of Sahara & Ethiopia


Many landscapes in sub-Saharan Africa have undergone rapid changes, often with negative social and ecological impacts. Avoiding (or reversing) such negative impacts requires proactive landscape planning. Scenario planning, a participatory approach that generates narratives of plausible landscape change trajectories in the future, has been widely used to support landscape planning and decisions. However, not least because of challenges arising from group dynamics, few examples exist where backcasting-the collective envisioning of a desirable future landscape and the identification of pathways to reach that future-has been applied in landscape planning. In this study, building on past scenario planning work in southwestern Ethiopia, we begin to fill this empirical and methodological gap. Specifically, we used the Q-methodology to elucidate stakeholders' divergent landscape aspirations in a case study in southwestern Ethiopia. Our results show that many stakeholders share a similar vision of building a future landscape that supports smallholder-based development. However, details in the envisaged pathways differ between stakeholders. Three distinct pathways were prioritized by different stakeholders: (1) Agroecological production, (2) Coffee investment and (3) Intensive food crop production. Accounting for these divergent aspirations is important when taking further steps in landscape planning. We show how using the Q-methodology as a subjective assessment of stakeholders' landscape priorities can facilitate the integration of backcasting within the normative process of landscape planning. Our approach thus helps navigate conflicting stakeholders' preferences and based on that, carefully plan collective action towards a shared landscape vision.

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