Although both land users and sustainable land management (SLM) specialists have developed (and continue to enlarge on) a wealth of know-how related to land management the implementation of this know-how still lags far behind. One reason for this is that much of this valuable knowledge is poorly documented and thus mostly not accessible to analysis, evaluation and dissemination. Knowledge related to SLM and SWC often remains only a local, individual and institutional resource, unavailable to others working in comparable areas and seeking to accomplish similar tasks.
It was in this context that WOCAT was designed in 1992 for furthering SLM knowledge. In 1997, the project became an international programme.
WOCAT’s methodology was originally designed to focus mainly on soil erosion and fertility decline in erosion-prone areas. Nevertheless, in the course of further developing and applying this methodology, other land degradation types were included. Today, WOCAT focuses on all aspects of sustainable land management: soil, water, vegetation and animals. Based on the needs of WOCAT participants, formerly standardized tools were developed into a modular and flexible methodology. There has also been a shift from pure data collection to evaluation and monitoring, as well as to training and research.
WOCAT has developed standardized tools for documenting, monitoring and evaluating SLM know-how and for disseminating it around the globe as a means of facilitating the exchange of experience. Joint and participatory development of the programme on the part of all participating institutions has permitted continuous improvements and adaptations to users’ needs.
WOCAT has evolved from a simple project idea to a global network and institution. To date, WOCAT was organized as an informal global network of national, regional and international institutions. In response to the need to formalise the informal global network a Framework Agreement defining the WOCAT Network as WOCAT International, and WOCAT Regional and National has been elaborated and legally safeguarded. In August 2014, the eight Consortium Partners officially signed its governing Framework Agreement.
In early 2014, WOCAT’s growth and ongoing improvement culminated in its being officially recognized by the UNCCD as the primary recommended database for SLM best practices, including measures of adaptation.