Evaluating Land Management Options (ELMO)

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

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 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. 

Results achieved

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. 

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. 

Next steps/variations

ELMO is organised around three basic questions, and entails 10 steps. Although these steps follow a logical, iterative process, it should be emphasised that the tool can be modified and adapted to the specific needs and context within which it is being applied. It is not always necessary to apply each and every step. 

Links to related publications and stories

A Landscape Planning and Management Tool for Land and Water Resources Management: An Example Application in Northern Ethiopia: 


Mapping soil erosion hotspots and assessing the potential impacts of land management practices in the highlands of Ethiopia: