Wetland Resources Action Planning (WRAP) Toolkit

An integrated action planning toolkit to conserve aquatic resources and biodiversity by promoting sustainable use

An Integrated Approach


“To be effective, equitable and sustainable in practice, wetland management responses must be informed by an understanding of all elements, including their mutual causality and interconnectivity (Springate-Baginsky et al. 2009).”

An “integrated approach” is fundamental to this toolkit, and means that for all the disciplines that need to be considered for wetland resource conservation and sustainable use, such as biodiversity, livelihoods (including gender and age inclusivity), ecosystem services, sustainable energy provision, economics and policy are considered together from the start when developing wetland management plans.

An integrated approach also:

  • Supports efficient research and planning. An integrated approach reduces the research and field visits (and respondent fatigue) as rather than having separate teams assessing only one element, integrated teams and field visits can be undertaken.
  • Reduces contradictory actions. As all elements are considered when developing management actions, actions that support one aspect (e.g. biodiversity) but harm another (e.g. livelihoods) are avoided.
  • Encourages a multidisciplinary approach. Often with the development of wetland management plans one element is comprehensively considered while only assumptions are made regarding the others.
Methods and Tools

The tools provided in this section of the toolkit are mostly taken from the IUCN Integrated Wetland Assessment Toolkit (IWAT - funded by UK Darwin Initiative), and provide guidance on how to incorporate these different elements together from defining management issues and planning the wetland assessments through to the implementation and monitoring of actions.

It is recommended that the IWAT relevant chapters are read so that the integrated approach is fully understood and that the assessment planning matrix is used to plan any assessment work (2.1 of the WRAP toolkit). It is also worth highlighting that it is strongly recommended that experts from the relevant disciplines (biodiversity, policy, livelihoods, economics, etc.) are identified and incorporated into the planning of work as soon as possible.

Many of the tools throughout this toolkit are designed to support an ‘integrated’ approach but are not listed in this section, please see the Assessment, Action Planning and Implementation sections for all the tools.

Therefore the tools provided in this section of the toolkit show how to incorporate these different elements together from defining management issues and planning the wetland assessments through to the implementation and monitoring of actions.

An integrated approach to informing wetland management (adapted from Springate-Baginsky et al. 2009)

Springate-Baginski, O., Allen, D. and Darwall, W.R.T. (eds.) 2009. An Integrated Wetland Assessment Toolkit: A guide to good practice. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN and Cambridge, UK: IUCN Species Programme. xv+144p.

Tools and Types of Outputs

Integrated Wetland Assessment Toolkit (IWAT) – The Whole Report (pdf) This is the IUCN Integrated Wetland Assessment Toolkit (IWAT) that was previously developed under a Darwin Initiative grant. This report details how to undertake an integrated (biodiversity, livelihoods and economic) assessment of a wetland. It is referred to many times within the HighARCS WRAP toolkit as it was used to guide integration within the assessment phase (see 2.1) of the HighARCS project.
IWAT – Chapter 1. Conceptual Framework for Integrated Assessments (pdf) This chapter of the IUCN IWAT introduces the integrated approach to wetland assessment, and provides a conceptual and methodological framework for assessing wetlands in a fully integrated manner.
Assessment Planning Matrix (doc) This matrix is a critical part of the assessment integration process. Completing the matrix will ensure that all relevant information is collected through the minimum survey efforts. Thus, avoiding multiple time-consuming and expensive surveys being collected at the same site when a well planned integrated assessment could have achieved the same result through a single visit.

Stakeholder Engagement


Right from the very outset of a wetland assessment exercise, it is important to identify and involve the multiple national, regional and local stakeholders living in the area or otherwise influencing or being influenced by the situation. Just as relevant as describing the physical aspects of the wetlands and the aquatic resources in a given area or watershed, is the mapping out of who lives there, who uses and manages the resources, who controls the management practices, who depends on the resources for their livelihoods, and who influences the resources through their legal positions, economic activities or everyday life practices. Their knowledge, understanding and opinions about management concerns, objectives, and issues are crucial to take into account when making an analysis of a current situation in view of identifying which management issues are to be addressed.

The importance given to stakeholder involvement is characteristic for communicative approaches to planning and planning theories. Involving stakeholders in all the steps of the assessment and planning processes has many advantages. It brings the planners and central-level decision-makers closer to the reality lived by the people in the area. It allows for bringing local knowledge into the recognized knowledge base informing the decision-making. It also creates a social situation where the state of the resource, drivers, pressures and impacts can be identified and the multiple management issues and response options be brought to everybody’s attention, and where viewpoints on this can be advocated, debated, discussed and negotiated.

As a reader of this toolkit, you may have different entry points, concerns or roles in relation to wetland assessments. You may belong to a local group of farmers or fishers who wish to take up some issue; you may be professional planners employed by local authorities; you may come from an international or a local NGO concerned about sustainable development; or having a concern from some different position. In this toolkit, the methods and tools given to allow stakeholder participation in the planning process are mostly intended for academic researchers or technical planners who are not familiar with such tools. If you belong to a local community group, you may read this section if you are curious to know how the planners and researchers talk about how to work with you. Maybe it could inspire your own initiatives in producing guidelines for people like yourselves on how to work more efficiently with planners and researchers in order to promote and address your own concerns and ideas.

Tools and Types of Outputs

The Assessment Phase

As the wetland assessment process evolves, you should be producing a series of outputs at the level of stakeholder engagement.

The first task is always to identify the relevant stakeholders. This is sometimes referred to as stakeholder mapping. The output of the stakeholder mapping is a data-base (or “map”) of the concerned stakeholders (communities, organizations, institutions, authorities) at the various local, provincial and national levels. Who are they? Where can they be contacted? How are they concerned by the assessment? What is their role in the assessment?

Once the relevant stakeholders have been identified, the next series of tasks concern the effective involvement of the identified stakeholders in the assessment process in various ways. Stakeholders can be involved in providing information and local knowledge about the characteristics and “state” of the wetlands under assessment. They can be involved in identifying (competing) uses or issues of management and conflicts of interest to be addressed. Some stakeholders may evolve into actual partners for joint planning of actions, others will be involved on a more consultative basis or invited to assist the assessment team in the data collection and observation activities.

In all types of involvement, the establishment of some kind of social relations between the assessment team and the identified stakeholders is of paramount importance. The nature of such relations can differ from merely creating a basic common ground of mutual recognition and trust to actual working relationships or partnerships.

The outputs of the various activities of stakeholder involvement may be expressed in terms of number of stakeholder meetings organized, agendas discussed, and attendance to the meetings. Outputs may also be registered as responses to questionnaires or interviews; or reports documenting stakeholder resource management practices, knowledge, views on the state or use of the wetlands, livelihood situations, resource use conflicts or concerns, or desired outcomes to be achieved in the future. The establishment of social relations, working relations, routines of communication, negotiated solutions to resolve conflicts, etc. can also be seen as outputs. Finally, enhanced stakeholder capacity to address conservation, livelihoods or policy and resource governance issues (knowledge, competencies, and skills) is often a relevant aspect to consider in terms of outputs.

The Action Planning Phase

At the end of the assessment phase, it can be very useful to organise State-of-the-System (SOS) Meetings or workshops with the local stakeholders and authorities. The objective of an SOS meeting is to provide a setting where all concerned parties have the opportunity of reaching a common understanding of the state of the aquatic ecosystems of the local area, and what kind of resource management problems and livelihood concerns are to be addressed.

The setting of such meetings should be carefully considered in each case.

  • Should all identified stakeholder groups be invited to attend the same session, or is it better to separate into two or more groups of stakeholders? Local community representatives may not wish to speak up so much in front of the local authorities, women may not feel comfortable in speaking up in front of the men, etc.

  • Where should the meetings be held? In a meeting room of the local government? In the house of the local village chief? Other places?

  • How should they be organized? PowerPoint slide shows? Talks by the experts? Group work and participations amongst participants with expert-facilitators giving inputs? Etc.

  • How do you decide on the issues or aspects to be presented for shared learning and discussion during the SOS workshops?

As outcomes of such meetings you are trying to get commitment and support from all stakeholders to engage in a process of analysing the results of the assessments made, and provide additional data which can help an action planning process to take shape.

Additional data collection may consist in household interviews;focus group discussions; expert interviews; resource inventories; stakeholder Delphi surveys; etc.

The main outcomes of the action planning phase are the suggestions (targets) for the action plans to be addressing. Note that the action plans should have been assessed by the local participating stakeholders, and each of them should have a main responsible implementing stakeholder.

The Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Phase

Stakeholder engagement continues to be of importance during implementation, monitoring and evaluation. At this stage, it is important that stakeholders understand and commit themselves to making work plans, selecting and observing indicators, and discussing the findings in view of identifying possible needs for corrections and follow-up actions. Tools and types of outputs for this can be drawn from existing tool-boxes of Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation, some of which are listed in 2.3 Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation.

Gender and Age Inclusivity


Why do we need to include gender and age?

In the past, approaches to development were criticised for being male-dominated and gender blind. These critiques began in the 1970s but it was not until the 1990s that gender issues were more regularly recognised as relevant to development. Now in the 21st century gender tends to be integrated into most development thinking. In contrast, issues relating to age and generation continue to be marginalised in development. Children and young people participate in important ways to the sustainability of both their household and community, yet their contributions are often overlooked. Failure to incorporate children and young people’s perspectives regarding development can lead to negative consequences for their lives.

Furthermore, it is necessary to understand patterns of intergenerational change in order to assess the potential impacts of development processes across the life course. For example, partly as a result of the Millennium Development Goals, globally there has been a growing emphasis on the education of young people. However, their increased educated status is not necessarily resulting in better paid urban employment which remains competitive with low wages and long hours. Thus changing livelihood transitions of youth add to the burden of the older generations, particularly older women, in rural areas who are losing the traditional labour contributions of young people whilst not being compensated with remittances from well paid urban jobs (Punch and Sugden 2013). A consideration of generational issues reveals the importance of exploring age relations across the life course as well as relationally between the generations (Hopkins and Pain 2007).

In order to promote reconciliation between conservation, sustainable livelihoods and development policy, it is crucial to understand not only how different communities and even wealth groups within communities utilise aquatic resources, but also the divisions within households on the basis of both gender and age. Intra-household divisions of labour are well understood regarding divergent gender roles, but are only recently beginning to take account of children’s contributions. The distribution of resources and decision-making power within households is also based on gender and age. Despite some change in recent years intra-household labour divisions and resource allocation tend to be unequal which is why it is important to develop an understanding of the gendered and generational dynamics of households and communities. Given that gender has been more mainstreamed into development processes than age, the following points summarise the key reasons why it is crucial to include the perspectives of children and young people:

  • Children are an important social group in their own right who should be considered alongside adults in research and development projects.

  • Children are not merely passive recipients of adults’ actions but social actors who actively contribute to the wellbeing of their households and communities.

  • The diversity of childhoods needs to be recognised as children’s lives vary according to age, birth order, gender, ethnicity, disability and class.


In order to mainstream gender and age within HighARCS two training workshops were conducted with each of the host research teams. The first workshop explored the concepts and theories of Participation, Age, Gender and Livelihoods, which enabled Gender and Age Framework Analysis to be designed and incorporated into the local teams’ research strategies. The second training workshop, Action Planning and Research, focused on methodological issues, in particular those relating to the collection and analysis of qualitative data.

Qualitative research methods tend to be more suitable for developing an understanding of issues that are sensitive to gender and age inclusivity. In order to understand the gendering and generationing of intra-household dynamics, we recommend conducting separate focus groups with women, men, girls and boys. This is to enable the views of different social groups to be heard whilst also exploring gender and age specific issues. As well as conducting a series of focus groups with women, men, girls and boys, the HighARCS teams spent extended periods of time in the communities to build rapport with local people and gain an insight into their lives (using the ethnographic methods of participant observation: writing field notes and a reflective field diary).

Given that many research teams conducting projects and developing action plans on wetland resources are likely to consist mainly of natural and physical scientists with expertise in quantitative methods, it is worth considering employing a qualitative researcher from a social science background who can spend time at all the field sites, travelling to work with all the research teams involved. HighARCS employed a postdoctoral research fellow for the main two year phase of data generation so that he could guide the qualitative data collection and analysis as well as ensure that gender and age were fully integrated throughout the process (Punch and Sugden 2014).

Thus, it is important to recognise that access to livelihood resources and aquatic ecosystems is mediated by structural power relations of class, gender and age which impact differentially on the wellbeing of men, women, girls and boys. In the past, development tended to be perceived from the perspective of adult men, but now the views and experiences of women, children and young people must also be taken into account.

Hopkins, P.E. and Pain, R., 2007. Geographies of age: thinking relationally. Area 39 (3), 287–294

Punch, S. and Sugden, F., 2013. Work, Education and Out-migration among Children and Youth in upland Asia: Changing patterns of labour and ecological knowledge in an era of globalisation. Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability, 18 (3):255-270.

Sugden, F. and Punch, S., 2014. The Challenges and Benefits of Employing a Mobile Research Fellow to Facilitate Team Working on a Large, Interdisciplinary, Multi-sited Project,’ Research in Comparative and International Education.

Tools and Types of Outputs

Focus Group Schedule for Men and Women (pdf)
Focus Group Schedule for Boys and Girls (pdf)
A specific objective of the focus groups was also to understand the gender and age dynamics of aquatic resource use. For the focus group with women and men, open ended questions dealt with topics such as livelihood change, the use of rivers and lakes, rules and access regimes for natural resources, market relations, understandings of wellbeing, and ecological knowledge. Gender specific questions related to the intra-household division of labour, distribution of household resources and the changing status of women. Participatory techniques were also used, including community resource mapping, production of historical and annual timelines, and ranking activities, whereby respondents were asked to rank livelihood activities and problems in order of importance, often using cards. The mapping tools was also repeated for the focus groups with young people, along with the compilation of a daily time chart of activities and ranking activities focussing on different types of work. Questions were also asked relating to how young people use aquatic resources, their relations with siblings, the benefits they get from their contribution to family labour, education and leisure.
Gender and Age Framework Analysis (pdf) This framework aims to identify and address the gender and age issues that exist at the field sites by exploring what the problems are and how best to deal with them when carrying out field research.
Training Workshop 1: Introduction (pdf) A brief introduction to the aims of Training Workshop 1: Participation, Age, Gender and Livelihoods
Training Workshop 1: Participation (pdf) This session examines the concepts and theories of participation. It explores the challenges of participation in practice, particularly in relation to environmental management.
Training Workshop 1: Gender (pdf) This presentation includes feminist development theories, gender planning, gender mainstreaming, intra-household inequalities and household divisions of labour.
Training Workshop 1: Young People and Age (pdf) Theories of childhood are outlined before discussing the advantages and disadvantages of children’s work versus education.
Training Workshop 1: Implications for the Research Process (pdf) An introduction to qualitative and participatory research involving women, children and young people, with a particular look at the practicalities of conducting focus groups. The session ends by consider issues of gender and age in context.
Training Workshop 1: Livelihoods (pdf) This session outlines the Sustainable Livelihood Framework and sums up the importance of gender and age inclusivity for a participatory research project on household livelihoods.
Training Workshop 2: Sampling Methods (pdf) An overview of different sampling methods along with a discussion of wealth ranking.
Training Workshop 2: Interview Design (pdf) An introduction to the advantages and disadvantages of conducting individual interviews.
Training Workshop 2: Focus Group (pdf) This presentation considers the challenges and benefits involved in focus group discussions.
Training Workshop 2: Participatory Tools (pdf) The benefits and limitations of several participatory tools are examined.
Training Workshop 2: Qualitative Data Analysis (pdf) This session works through practical examples of qualitative data analysis. It also discusses data management and the writing up process.

Communication Strategy


Communication plays an invaluable and integral role in sustainable development projects with an integrated approach such as in the HighARCS project. The important processes of awareness building, interaction, exchange of information, technology distribution, knowledge sharing, partnership development and community participation conducted in the project are all facilitated by communication. Success in achieving targets and goals is a function of the kind and the quality of communication that happens within the project.

In the case of the HighARCS Project, communication played an integral role from the beginning to its conclusion. For the effective management of the project, information was exchanged and dialogue continued among the multidisciplinary project partners throughout the project life.

At the level of the site teams, they had to engage the participation of the community. This entailed: creating awareness among local stakeholders of highland aquatic resources; consulting, getting feedback and validating research outputs with them; negotiating and building partnerships with these stakeholders; and participatory planning and implementation of their integrated action plans.

The eventual findings and outputs of the project also had to be transformed to appropriate formats and communicated to key local and national level stakeholders, as well as other groups interested in wetland resource action planning. While all these processes were happening, a mechanism was employed to monitor and evaluate progress against stated objectives of project activities and outputs. All these activities and processes central to project development and implementation involved communication.

The communication strategy used in HighARCS hinges on the participation between and among the institutional partners directly involved in the project, community and stakeholder engagement in the project sites and the dissemination of information to the general public. The following are the modes of communication in HighARCS:

  • Communication among partners through emails, workshops, project management steering meetings, skype, project website, online WRAP toolkit
  • Communication between partners with site teams and their stakeholders: through field visits, one-on-one dialogue with key informants as well as group meetings and local workshops, special events like school contests and public fairs
  • Communication between partners and the general public including particularly those involved in wetland resource action initiatives and related fields: through brochures; posters; facebook; website; online WRAP toolkit; attendance in external meetings, conferences, and public events

Tools and Types of Outputs

HighARCS Project Communication (pdf)

Contains CME Strategic Framework, Field Guide to Strategy including Project CME Planning and Implementation, and CME Plans for Communication Planning and Field sites in India, Vietnam and China.

Stakeholders Profile: Survey for the Site Teams (pdf)

Provides survey questions for socio-demographic characteristics of potential stakeholders from the perspective of the site teams.

Communication Planning Form from Workshop 1
HighARCS CME Planning Table (doc)
CME planning workshop_Oct 2009 (pdf)

Filling out this form helps provide a better understanding of communication planning. This form includes stakeholder network analysis and identification of types of communication media that can effectively be used for each stakeholder group, gender and age considered.

Communication Planning Form from Workshop 2
CME Planning (pdf)
CME Workplan and Communication Plan Table (doc)
CME Presentation 2009 (pdf)

Gives an outline of the elements of a communication plan and serves as guide for teams to do their own communication plans based on workplan activities.

Tables on Community Engagement Communication Activities (doc)
Communication Materials Used (doc)
Communication Research Tools Used (doc)

Documents the actual communication strategies used by the site teams to engage the communities in the conduct of the HighARCS Project.

Project Website (pdf)

A Project website (www.higharcs.org) dedicated to facilitate information exchange and to foster cooperation among multidisciplinary partners. This is the precursor of the WRAP toolkit.

Policy brief guidance (pdf) Where problems or issues identified require policy actions in order to solve them (either change in existing policy, or the development of new policy) the publication of policy briefs can be an effective tool. This document outlines the planning, development and layout to make an effective policy brief. This guidance document has been compiled using the policy brief guidance from the International Development Research Centre, Toolkit for Researchers and the FAO Food Security Communications Toolkit.
Brochure, long version (pdf)

Includes Background, Concept and Objectives, Research Approach, Overall Strategy, Strategic Impact, Partners, and Management. Detailed information and thus, more appropriate for distribution in conferences, fora and meetings directly related to the purpose of HighARCS.

Brochure, long version (Vietnamese) (pdf)

Contains the same information as the long version of the brochure in English, but is translated in Vietnamese.

Brochure, short version (pdf)

Includes project sites, overall strategy, basic information about HighARCS, such as Objectives, Research Approach, Research Partners. Brief text. Intended for the general public.

China HighARCS brochure (pdf)

An in-country brochure for the HighARCS project, with English and Chinese text. Includes Major Activities of the Project, Objectives, Maps of the Research and Sampling Sites, Major Stakeholders in Different Parts of the Beijiang River Watershed.

Suggested Guidelines on Scenario-Planning for the Public Launching of the WRAP Toolkit

The Suggested Guidelines are meant for HighARCS partners who want to introduce and launch the WRAP Toolkit to selected audiences or to the general public.

1.0 Integrated Approach

How to integrate action planning research and implementation across disciplines to avoid duplication and contradictory results and practices


2.1 Wetland Assessment

How to assess the biodiversity, livelihood, and ecosystem services values and identify policy and conflicts at a wetland site


2.2 Development of Integrated Action Plans

How to work with stakeholders to identify and implement actions needed at a wetland site


2.3 Implementation, Monitoring & Evaluation

How to develop monitoring and evaluation of the processes and action plans put in place

Impacts and Outcomes

Wetland Assessment
Development of Action Plans
Implementation, Monitoring & Evaluation
To be developed

Wetland Assessment
Development of Action Plans
Implementation, Monitoring & Evaluation