Workshop design & outcomes Print

Workshop design

An initial workshop design was presented at the 2010 DESIRE Plenary Meeting in China for feedback from study sites, and was significantly amended in response to this feedback, to ensure that workshops were flexible enough to work effectively across the full range of project contexts, whilst providing standardised responses for comparison between sites.
In particular, the idea of a single workshop with separate (but interlinked) sessions for both local stakeholders and national policymakers was deemed infeasible by most study site teams. Workshops were therefore designed in most study sites for local/regional stakeholders, and feedback was sought from national policymakers in separate workshops or individual interviews (many of these are ongoing).


To assist study site teams in planning the workshop, a flowchart decision aid and a Frequently Asked Questions list was developed. Preparation for workshops proceeded as follows:

  1. Update stakeholder analysis, from which an invitation list can be extracted – these lists were checked by the WB5 team to ensure a good balance between different types of stakeholder
  2. Develop facilitation plan and agenda for the workshop, assign the facilitator, book the venue and invite participants so as to achieve an appropriate balance between (local) stakeholders identified in step 1
  3. Run the local stakeholder workshop based on the workshop format in Appendix 1, discussing any changes deemed necessary with the WB5 team
  4. Conduct interviews/meetings with representative members of the national policymaker stakeholder community identified in the updated stakeholder analysis (policy messages were discussed in the DESIRE Plenary Meeting in Almeria in October 2011 to assist with this)
  5. Send workshop report to participants and to WB5 (template provided)


All workshops followed the same generic format:

  1. Brief presentation to introduce the DESIRE project
  2. Presentation of WB4 trial results
  3. Presentation of WB5 model outputs
  4. Workshop 1: Multi-criteria evaluation of remediation options at study site scale
  5. Workshop 2: how could we facilitate the adoption of the priority remediation options that have emerged at the study site scale?
  6. Workshop/project evaluation
  7. Next steps


Workshop Outcomes

A total of 15 workshops were held between July and November 2011. The only site that did not hold a workshop was the Italian site, due to long-running difficulties with stakeholder engagement there. In Portugal, one workshop was held with participants from both study areas. On average, workshops consisted of 27 participants (range: 8-60), and included a wide range of (mainly local and regional) stakeholders representing different interests.

Feedback from stakeholders about the workshops was generally very positive with participants in all sites saying that they appreciated receiving feedback from field trials and models (Table 1)


Table 1: Feedback from participants about the final DESIRE workshop

Theme     Example comments Number of sites making the comment
An opportunity to express views
  • An excellent opportunity to make their views known regarding the national program of soil conservation and the way they think
  • It was a very good opportunity to debate frankly key issues relevant to the management of the natural resources in the region
Helped participants prepare for the future
  • Farmers especially welcomed the team’s approach to determining future steps through discussion with them
An opportunity to learn about the DESIRE research
  • An opportunity to know the results of the project that they were part of
  • You see simple and feasible solutions 
Learn from and become more tolerant of each other’s views
  • Learn from participatory projects; tolerance between the different sectors (stakeholders)
An opportunity to connect with people and institutions
  • Workshops helped them to identify and connect with the institutions and the people who are working with them
Clear objectives
  • “The objective was very clear”



Feedback about the overall DESIRE process was also very positive, with positive feedback focussing on the participatory and inclusive approach to the work (Table 2).  


Table 2: Feedback from participants about the overall DESIRE project summarised from workshop reports (feedback in the words of workshop participants is given in quotation marks)

Theme Example comments Number of sites making the comment
Benefits of a participatory approach
  • The participatory approach gave each group of stakeholders the opportunity to be part of the project and share responsibility for the success of the selected technology
  • As workshops were open to anyone, the workshops helped to give more transparency to the actions and decisions that arose from the process
  • Being involved in the project from the beginning
  • Being able to assess the technologies “will greatly facilitate the extension of the results”
  • Farmers were very enthusiastic about the undertaken actions
  • Technicians/engineers appreciated the participatory approach more than farmers in one site
  • It is the best way to include all sectors, empathizing with others and getting better understanding of the other peoples opinion
  • “It facilitates participants to express their opinion”
  • “The possibility to start a debate over different subjects and that all opinions are valid, independent of from who it originates”
Poor stakeholder representation
  • The only real problem was the difficulty of including some other institutions other than those that typically attended workshops as part of the DESIRE process. Although the project team interacted with these other organisations, it would have been better to have them present more often during the land-user workshops
  • Participants agreed that a higher participation of farmers is required and that to achieve this, a different approach may be needed with meetings outside in the field and only for maximum half a day
  • Field work prevented farmers from attending some of the planned meetings
  • Only one farmer was present at the final workshop in one study site
  • More participation of farmers is needed, which requires new strategies for participation
  • More participation of general public (people who do not work in the field) is needed 
Learning from each other
  • Participants indicated they learned a lot from each other, from discussions and from the results of field trials. The interactive approach of workshops was considered effective to achieve interaction between participants, and was highly valued
  • Learning from other study sites via the HIS
  • “The DESIRE project has been good. It brought knowledge that we can pass on to younger generations”
  • “Very enriching, mutual learning”
  • “The DESIRE approach] promotes participation, collaboration and helps to better understand”
  • “Exchange of experiences and generates ideas” 
Contribution to policy
  • “The objectives of the DESIRE project fit in the goals of UNCCD and the positive results should be applied to other watersheds...”
  • The results of the DESIRE project have been important for a number of programs and actions linked to the Government’s Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources. A number of proposals have already been accepted, while others are still under development  
  • All participants agreed that the inclusive nature of the DESIRE project was particularly useful, although it was time-consuming
Concerns about follow-up
  • Lack of funding for some remediation strategies and future research in the area
  • Want to continue meeting in such events in future
Making connections
  • Highly encouraged the synergies between all the partners: research, development, policy, regional and international cooperation
  • “[The project] integrated different stakeholder groups (farmers, administration, scientists)”
Attitudinal change
  • “The project changed the attitude of land users regarding the use of natural resources”
Lack of trust in research findings 
  • “The engineers didn’t appreciate a lot the research protocol and were suspicious with some of the results”
  • “Very tangible results were provided over solutions that are innovative”
Learning between researchers and stakeholders 
  • “You learn and value other measures”
  • “I learned that the mulch type as applied in this project did not give the expected results”
  • “It combines the opinion of scientists and farmers”
  • “I think this is the best available method to facilitate the active participation between scientists and administration”
Information overload
  • “Too much information to deal with”



A survey of study site teams at the Spanish DESIRE Plenary Meeting in October 2011 found that 54% of study site teams believed that stakeholders were more positive about most technologies after hearing the findings from field trials and models, and 31% were ambiguous about stakeholder responses (either due to a mix of responses or because it was difficult to tell if perceptions of technologies had changed in response to hearing findings). In some cases, remediation strategies were deselected in response to research findings, for example if model results showed that a technology was unlikely to be cost-effective for most land users, or if field trials showed that proposed remediation strategies were not as effective as stakeholders had initially believed (and in some cases counter-productive).  


Table 3 shows how the process of trialling and modelling remediation strategies clearly influenced stakeholder priorities, leading to a priority list of remediation strategies for dissemination at a regional scale, by extenionists or other regional government representatives/agencies.


Table 3: Remediation options in priority order, as ranked by stakeholders during WB3 workshops (prior to field trials and modelling) and during final workshops (after being presented with results from field trials and models). For detailed descriptions of technologies, see »More details ... evaluation of model results and remediation recommendations for each study site

Study Site Priority order pre-results Priority order post-results  Comments
Cape Verde
  1. Small barrage/dam
  2. Water harvesting
  3. Afforestation
  4. Contour stone walls
  5. Vegetative barriers
  1. Vegetative bunds on steep rainfed arable fields, and vegetation spread across non-sloping fields
Only afforestation and vegetative barriers were evaluated in WB4/5. Vegetative barriers were significantly adapted in response to field trial results.
  1. Agronomical strategies
  2. Wood saver ovens
  3. Run-off control in gullies 
  1. Agave forestry sustainable plantations with native plants
    = Wood saver ovens
  2. Agronomical strategies
  3. Spatially targeted run-off control in gullies
Agave plantations emerged as a new option during field trials.
  1. Traditional water harvesting (Boquera)
  2. Reduced tillage in Cereal and Almond fields
  3. Organic mulch to reduce water losses
  4. Green manure in Almonds orchards
  1. Green manure in Almonds orchards
  2. Reduced tillage in Cereal and Almond fields
  3. Traditional water harvesting (Boquera)
  4. Organic mulch to reduce water losses
Turkey (Karapinar)
  1. No-till technology
  2. Pressurized irrigation
  3. Drought-resistant crops 
  1. Fallow with stubble farming
  2. Fallow without stubble farming
  3. Minimum tillage
No-tillage was adapted as minimum tillage for field trials, and stubble farming was added to field trials after the WB3 workshop.
Turkey (Eskişehir)
  1. Planted soil bunds
  2. Stone bunds
  3. Fanya juu terraces
  1. Wooden fences with soil bund
  2. Contour tillage
Vegetation and stones were replaced by fencing on soil bunds for field trials. Contour tillage was discussed but not ranked during the WB3 workshop.
  1. No tillage with subsoiling
  2. Agroforestry systems
  3. Crop rotation with legumes
  1. No tillage with subsoiling
  2. Crop rotation with legumes
  3. Agroforestry systems  
  1. Check dams
  2. Reforestation
  3. Terraces
  1. Check dams
  2. Reforestation
  3. Terraces    
Portugal (Mação and Góis)
  1. Primary Strip Network System for Fuel Management
  2. Prescribed Fire   
  1. Primary Strip Network System for Fuel Management
  2. Prescribed Fire
  1. Tabia and jessour
  2. Flood spreading  & recharge units
  3. Supplement irrigation  
  4. Stone ridges
  5. Range resting
  6. Medicinal herbal and aromatic plants  
  1. Flood spreading  & recharge units
    = Supplement irrigation  
  2. Medicinal herbal and aromatic plants
    = Cisterns
Greece (Nestos)
  1. Fresh water transport
  1. Fresh water transport   
Greece (Crete) 

Messara area:

  1. Sustainable grazing
Chania area:
  1. No tillage
  2. Pesticides
  3. Tillage   
  1. Sustainable grazing
The team worked in two areas – one prioritised no-tillage and the other sustainable grazing. The majority of workshop participants came from the location that had prioritised sustainable grazing, and so no-tillage was not explicitly evaluated during the workshop.
  1. The improved system based on cereal cropping with rotation, plus grass strips
  2. The improved system based on grazing and cereal cropping with control of the gullies
  3. The cereal/leguminous system mixed with olive trees and runoff water harvesting
  1. Cereal/leguminous system mixed with olive trees, figs trees; cactus opuntia and runoff water harvesting, in order to improve the production and restore the lands fertility
  2. Protection of existing grazing lands, forests and former cultivated areas
  3. Improved system based on grazing and cereal cropping with control of the gullies  
  1. Game ranching
  2. Biogas production
  3. Rainwater harvesting
  4. Solar cookers 
  1. Biogas production  
Biogas production was the only remediation strategy that was trialled in this study site
Russia (Novy)
  1. Precision irrigation of forage instead of overhead sprinkler irrigation (which uses excessive amounts of water)
  2. Drip irrigation
  3. Reducing of the infiltration losses from water supply channels
  1. Precision irrigation
  2. Drip irrigation
  3. Impermeability of irrigation channels
  4. Drainage of irrigated agricultural fields
  5. Phytoreclamation of soil secondary salinity at agricultural fields
Russia (Dzhanibek) 
  1. Grazing land management by rotation introducing
  2. Drip irrigation
  3. Forest, apple tree plantation or shrub belt planting
  4. Contour planting and gully control
  1. Drip irrigation
  2. Impermeability of the bed of water storage capacities




However, rather than simply using these research findings to prioritise remediation strategies, Table 4 shows how the workshop process provided invaluable local knowledge about how best to promote each of these strategies to optimise adoption rates. This builds on evidence from WOCAT that developing “approaches” to soil and water conservation, that may include changes in policy or incentives for example, is as important as the technologies themselves (Schwilch et al., 2009).
Table 4 shows the wide range of suggestions made during workshops to help facilitate the adoption of different technologies. These include, for example: the need to adapt technologies to make them relevant in different contexts or for different farmer goals; policy recommendations to create a more favourable economic context for adoption; financial incentives, and a variety of approaches to communication.It may be difficult to do much to change the preferences and constraints of the land users that remediation strategies are targeted at, the cost of adopting a remediation strategy, or to alter the policy or economic climate in which remediation strategies are promoted. However, where remediation strategies are deemed applicable and cost-effective across a wide enough area, the workshop findings suggest that there are a number of key ways in which uptake could be enhanced. For example: there may be ways that remediation strategies can be adapted, packaged or communicated that could enhance their uptake; or key individuals or institutions may be able to play an important role in spreading knowledge and changing attitudes, ultimately leading to more widespread adoption decisions.



Table 4: Factors identified by workshop participants that could enhance the adoption of remediation strategies prioritised in the final DESIRE workshop. For detailed discussion of factors that could enable further uptake, see workshop reports in see »More details ... evaluation of model results and remediation recommendations for each study site.

Study Site Priority Remediation Strategies Summary of key enablers
Cape Verde 
  • Vegetative barriers/cover
  • Target the technology to specific types of land
  • Secure funding from NGOs and municipality
  • Build the capacity of farmers and provide technical assistance
  • Promote adoption of the proposed strategy via specific existing national and international policies
  • Use drought resistant species in more arid areas or target at irrigated land
  • Agave forestry sustainable plantations with native plants
  • Wood saver ovens
  • Agronomical strategies
  • Spatially targeted run-off control in gullies
  • Establish and maintain long-term working relationships with local and regional stakeholders, including Government Ministries and agencies
  • Adapt remediation strategies to fit in with ongoing Government initiatives
  • Spatially target the adoption of remediation strategies that do not work everywhere
  • Investigate funding and legal aspects of technologies in addition to their technical feasibility
  • Consider the potential for unintended consequences of promising technologies (e.g. wood burning stoves displacing gas burning stoves and so increasing demand for wood)
  • Green manure in Almonds orchards
  • Reduced tillage in Cereal and Almond fields
  • Traditional water harvesting (Boquera)
  • Organic mulch to reduce water losses 
  • Training: a) of technical representatives at farmers organizations , and b) at high-schools and universities to create awareness and put environmental sustainability higher on the agenda.
  • Demonstration activities in the field and development of a network of demonstration and experimental farms throughout the region
  • Better cooperation and collaboration between different institutes (i.e. researchers, administration and farmers organisations)
  • Economic support for implementation of SLM measures
  • Lobby and convince responsible policy makers
  • Put higher economic and social value on products that are produced in a sustainable manner
  • Link payment of agricultural subsidies to implementation of effective SLM measures
  • More dissemination and publicity for SLM measures through newsletters and websites
Turkey (Karapinar)
  • Fallow with stubble farming
  • Fallow without stubble farming
  • Minimum tillage
  • Communicate results of field trials and models as widely as possible via brochures and meetings
  • Articles in newspapers and specialist press
Turkey (Eskişehir)
  • Wooden fences with soil bund
  • Contour tillage
  • Communicate likely future challenges relating to ground water availability and wind erosion to raise awareness of the need to adopt more sustainable approaches to land management e.g. through newspapers, brochures and meetings
  • No tillage with subsoiling
  • Crop rotation with legumes
  • Agroforestry systems
  • Provide economic incentives for the adoption of sustainable practices via Government programmes
  • Use participatory approaches that take the context and goals of farmers into account, when disseminate results
  • Facilitate local leadership and long-term coordination between local institutions
  • Training for technicians to support the adoption of the technologies
  • Further evaluate the economic and social impact of the  soil conservation practices
  • Check dams
  • Reforestation
  • Terraces
  • Communicate both environmental and economic benefits as widely as possible
  • Work with existing schemes where possible
  • Primary Strip Network System for Fuel Management
  • Prescribed Fire
  • Reformulate legislation and simplify bureaucracy
  • Promote association membership and then promote remediation strategies through associations
  • Provide economic incentives
  • Create demonstration sites
  • Raise awareness of the benefits of prescribed fire among rural populations
  • Flood spreading  & recharge units
  • Supplement irrigation  
  • Medicinal herbal and aromatic plants
  • Cisterns
  • Consolidate synergies between research programs and development projects
  • Maintain traditional techniques and local know-how in the management of natural resources while introducing improvements where it is relevant
  • Integrate remediation strategies into regional and national action plans for combating desertification and climate change
Greece (Nestos)
  • Fresh water transport
  • Promote via local agricultural unions and the Regional Department of Water Management
  • Local press and debates in local coffee shops
  • Change local water policy (to permit water transport >500 m)
Greece (Crete)
  • Sustainable grazing
  • Change in EU subsidies to incentivise destocking
  • Cereal/leguminous system mixed with olive trees, figs trees; cactus opuntia and runoff water harvesting, in order to improve the production and restore the lands fertility
  • Protection of existing grazing lands, forests and former cultivated areas
  • Improved system based on grazing and cereal cropping with control of the gullies
  • Ensure remediation techniques are profitable and have a real effect on farmer incomes
  • The selected actions must be simple and easy to reproduce, in order to facilitate their adoption by other farmers
  • Better coordination betwee Government departments working on agriculture and forests
  • Financial incentives to exclude grazing and plant fodder shrubs, to prevent soil erosion and stabilize gullies
  • Biogas production
  • Education, awareness and information dissemination
  • Demonstration in the context of development projects
  • Financial assistance
  • Conservation initiatives (development)
Russia (Novy)
  • Precision irrigation
  • Drip irrigation
  • Impermeability of irrigation cabals
  • Drainage of irrigated agricultural fields
  • Phytoreclamation of soil secondary salinity at agricultural fields
  • Financial incentives
  • Develop human resources and capacity to use new technologies
  • Develop relevant technical infrastructure
Russia (Dzhanibek)
  • Drip irrigation
  • Impermeability of the bed of water storage capacities
  • Communicate benefits via mass media, including economic and health benefits as well as environmental benefits



Rather than simply presenting research findings to decision-makers, as per the technology transfer paradigm, the DESIRE process was designed to facilitate knowledge exchange and joint ownership of findings. At best, the technology transfer paradigm is an inefficient approach to spreading knowledge of new remediation options, with those who receive the information potentially not engaging with it or questioning its validity or relevance. At worst, a one-way transfer of knowledge can lead to the development of technologies that are not adapted to the local context, leading to low adoption rates and/or unintended consequences. In contrast to this, the DESIRE approach puts local and scientific knowledge on an equal footing, giving stakeholders ownership of the research process via their involvement from the initial stages, through selection and trialling of remediation strategies, to the final decisions about priority remediation strategies for dissemination via extension services at a regional or wider spatial scale. Modelling studies in particular have been widely criticised for creating a “black box” where it is impossible for stakeholders to identify or question the assumptions of the model builder, leading to a lack of trust in the final output (Prell et al., 2007). Being able to question findings from trials and models during the final workshop enabled stakeholders in the DESIRE process to open this “black box”, so that evidence based on field trial results and model outputs could be weighted appropriately in their final prioritisation. This resulted in a level of stakeholder trust and satisfaction in the research findings that is unusual in model-based studies, as evidenced by the generally positive feedback from workshop participants re: the contribution that research findings made to their knowledge (see see »More details ... evaluation of model results and remediation recommendations for each study site).


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Global Change and
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