Environmental impact assessment is used by countries around the world as a tool to enhance environmental protection. However, in developing nations such as India, it has yet to measure up to even procedural requirements. Of the many shortcomings, the newly introduced scoping stage is
highlighted for its lack of avenues to examine issues of concern from the area under consideration. To strengthen the scoping stage for projects in rural areas, a methodology is presented to understand and assess, in an integrated manner, the ecological, social, physical and financial linkages
of various livelihoods in a rural community. This methodology relies on local knowledge and perception and employs cognitive mapping to understand the linkages and derive a detailed list of indicators. The indicators are then developed into a questionnaire to record information regarding the
status or trend (positive/negative) of each indicator and its spatial property (i.e. where it is found). The utility of the methodology is illustrated with an example from an Indian village. The methodology has the potential to enhance the investigation of current issues of concern in agro-ecosystems
in India, and might be useful in other developing nations as well.