Promoting sustainable land-use practices in tropical landscapes through community-based behavioral interventions

Tropical land-use change is a major contributor to ecosystem degradation and global climate change. Transformations towards a post-carbon society require substantial shifts in current land-use practices at social structural and behavioral levels. Our project focuses on sensitive intervention points at the level of smallholder behavior in tropical landscapes. Here we develop two interventions to mobilize rural communities towards sustainable pathways: (1) interactive board game and (2) social influence. In designing the interventions, we first conduct a survey to understand social and psychological underpinnings of land-use decisions and identify key barriers and opportunities to changing current (unsustainable) land-use practices. Using behavioral insights, our interventions leverage the social and psychological factors to influence smallholders perceptions and land-use practices. Our first intervention communicates climate and land-use related situations through various message framing and feedback and simulate real life decisions in the game mechanics. It allows people to virtually experience and feel the impacts of land-use change on their social ecological well-being and to explore alternative land-use scenarios and strategies for avoiding catastrophic consequences of climate change. Our second intervention uses the power of social networks to spread climate and land-use messages among smallholder communities and prompt an early stage of norm change by intervening in behavioral diffusion processes, an important step for instigating collective action. In this intervention, we concentrate our engagement efforts on community members with strong normative influence (identified in a survey), inviting them to deliver pro-climate messages at community assemblies and provide peer support to other community members in their social networks. Changing peoples perceptions and behaviors can potentially lead to a larger-scale social change, replacing or improving current land-use practices, norms, and social structures. When a society crosses a tipping point for environmental sustainability, the effects of this project can far exceed the number of communities we serve directly.



Smallholders in tropical regions


Trigger (intervention)




Feedback Dynamics


Timescale and scaleability





Rumi Naito

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