What is Sustainable Land Management (SLM)

There are several definitions on SLM


WOCAT defines SLM as the use of land resources, including soils, water, animals and plants, for the production of goods to meet changing human needs, while simultaneously ensuring the long-term productive potential of these resources and the maintenance of their environmental functions.


TerrAfrica, a partnership of 30 countries in SLM in the African region,defines SLM as “the adoption of land-use systems that through appropriate management practices enable land users to maximize the economic and social benefits from the land while maintaining or enhancing the ecological support functions of the land resources”.


The productivity and sustainability of a land-use system is determined by the interaction between land resources, climate and human activities. Especially in the face of climate change and variability, selecting the right land uses for given biophysical and socio-economic conditions, and implementing SLM, are essential for minimizing land degradation, rehabilitating degraded land, ensuring the sustainable use of land resources (i.e. soils, water and biodiversity) and maximizing resilience.


Sustainable land use and management (human activities) decide the sustainability/resilience or degradation/vulnerability of land resources.


The World Bank defines SLM as a knowledge-based procedure that helps integrate land, water, biodiversity, and environmental management (including input and output externalities) to meet rising food and fiber demands while sustaining ecosystem services and livelihoods. SLM is necessary to meet the requirements of a growing population. Improper land management can lead to land degradation and a significant reduction in the productive and service (biodiversity niches, hydrology, carbon sequestration) functions of watersheds and landscapes."


The definition of the European Network for Land Use Management for Sustainable European Cities (LUMASEC)emphasizes SLM as the inter and transdisciplinary cooperation on sustainable land management.


As management is the human activity meaning the action of people working together in the aim to accomplish desired goals, land use management is a process of managing use and development of land, in which spatial, sector-oriented and temporary aspects of urban policy are coordinated. Resources of land are used for different purposes, which may produce conflicts and competitions, and land use management has to see those purposes in an integrated way. Therefore, land management covers the debate about norms and visions driving the policy-making, sector-based planning both in the strategic and more operative time spans, spatial integration of sectoral issues, decision-making, budgeting, implementation of plans and decisions and the monitoring of results and evaluation of impacts

According to the Climate Smart Agriculture sourcebook of the FAO, module B.7 Sustainable Soil/Land Management for Climate-Smart Agricultureis defined as follows;


SLM encompasses established approaches such as soil and water conservation, natural resource management and integrated landscape management (ILM). It involves a holistic approach to achieving productive and healthy ecosystems by integrating social, economic, physical and biological needs and values, and it contributes to sustainable and rural development.

SLM is based on four principles:

  • targeted policy and institutional support, including the development of incentive mechanisms for SLM adoption and income generation at the local level;
  • land-user-driven and participatory approaches;
  • the integrated use of natural resources on farms and at the ecosystem scale; and
  • multilevel, multistakeholder involvement and partnerships at all levels – land users, technical experts and policy-makers.