Participatory research in cooperation with scientific institutions

Published: 05 October 2020
Last edited: 05 October 2020

Participatory research is essential when historical records lack and new concepts are introduced. The research in Yakou included three phases. The first phase aimed to understand the site and its significance. As a typical village with a well-preserved landscape of “forest-village-terrace-water system”, Yakou was selected to represent the landscape pattern of Laohuzui Area. Fieldwork was conducted both by the nomination team (Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage) and the scientific research team (Yunnan University). The second phase focused on the restoration of Yakou’s irrigation system. Semi-structured interviews to locals, fieldwork and restoration were conducted. According to research results, the traditional water management system and related knowledge emerged as key elements in Yakou. Ditches, canals and water-woods were repaired to ensure its long-term use, and traditional ceremonies and inspection system were established by the elders. The third phase focused on the enhancement of the water management, where researchers conducted spatial research of the settlement patch distribution pattern and hydrological analysis using Geographic Information System followed by the replication of the experience in other villages.


Collection of baseline and monitoring data and knowledge
Communication, outreach and awareness building
Education, training and other capacity development activities
Scale of implementation
Phase of solution
Planning phase
Inception phase
Documentation and dissemination of results

Enabling factors

  • Local research institutions are familiar with local conditions. Research requires the active involvement of local people and community to share knowledge and experience, especially oral history and unrecognized knowledge that is significant and need to connect to international and national societies. 
  • Combination of international perspective and local experience. 
  • Cooperation between public service institutions and domestic research institutes. 
  • Collaboration between “research institutes + public service organizations + villager organization.”

Lessons learned

  • The relationship between land-use, society and culture are crucial in landscape studies. Environmental challenges might be the manifestation of social changes and new regulations (e.g. Land and water disputes could be the underlying issue).
  • In the WH framework, the Outstanding Universal Value can be broad and general, but detailed features can not be neglected because these are the clue to understand the site characteristics. In Yakou, different layers of values research contribute to heritage management before and after inscription as WH. It has improved the knowledge of site managers, locals and researchers, and it is a continuing process.
  • Lack of historical records and documentation is a big problem for the preservation of the traditional water culture. Too much attention has been give to the landscape views yet not sufficient attention to  the nature-human interactions which produced these. 
  • Separate plans can not solve long-term management: Water management, conservation management and master plans should be drawn up in coordination and integrated for implementation.

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