A Framework for Resilience

By Fabrice DeClerck,  Senior Scientist, Agrobiodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Resilience (Bioversity International, Rome); Alexander Fremier, Assistant Professor Fish and Wildlife Sciences (University of Idaho, ); and  Louise Willemen, Senior Scientist (EcoAgriculture Working Group, Cornell University, New York).  This post is excerpted from the Agriculture and Ecosystems Blog of the CGIAR-WLE research programme. 

Building off of last week’s focus on climate resilience, the Landscapes Blog continues to explore the meaning and mechanisms by which agricultural landscapes weather shocks and changes over time. Next week, scientists head to the Ecosystem Service Partnership (ESP) conference in Bali, under the theme ‘Making Ecosystem Services Count.’ An Ecosystem Service and Resilience (ESSR) Framework will be presented during a proposed half-day session, and will be operationalized and tested within the context of the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative and the CGIAR Partnership on Water Land and Ecosystems. The ESSR framework will provide a lens to reconsider development challenges by accounting for ecosystem-scale processes, external shocks and inevitable change. 

Why focus on ecosystem services in rural communities?

Agricultural development has progressed in leaps and bounds to feed the global population, but not without environmental and production costs. These environmental costs have limited the ecosystem services on which we depend, including agricultural production as well as access to clean water, protection from natural disasters and fertile soils. An ecosystem service-based approach reconsiders these decisions and aims to move beyond agriculture that ‘does no harm’, to an integrated approach that boosts agricultural production concurrently with other benefits such as soil and water quality, biological conservation, and increased resilience of rural communities.

Principles of the Water Land and Ecosystems (WLE) Ecosystem Services and Resilience Framework

Harnessing ecosystems services for poverty reduction and agricultural development requires a significant shift in perspective from more traditional ecosystem service-based approaches that focus primarily on services provided by protected areas. WLE’s Ecosystem Service and Resilience Working Group considers eight principles that highlight this perspective:

  1. People are fundamental – understanding how people benefit from ecosystem services is the central objective of our work.
  2. Human and natural ecosystems are tightly coupled – WLE uses a systems-based approach to highlight the interactions between human and natural systems.
  3. Governance structures and institutions: Ecosystem services can be classified as common pool resources, novel governance structures and institutions are central to their management.
  4. Ecosystem services needs to be part of the global agricultural development discussion – Amongst the many approaches to agricultural development, ecosystem service-based approaches that restore, harness and conserve our natural resources must be included.
  5. Multi-functionality – Agricultural landscapes are important for multiple functions, crop productivity cannot be managed solely for its agricultural production at the expense of all other services.
  6. Design a resilient system –Agricultural landscapes and communities are constantly exposed to stress and shocks: anticipate and plan for change.
  7. Modify socio-ecological systems –Ecosystem service-based approaches to poverty alleviation may need to modify the composition and configuration of agricultural landscapes to ensure ecosystem service conservation and restoration. Likewise changes in governance structures and institutions may be needed to (re-) direct the benefit flows.
  8. Large Scales – ecosystem services are nested within multiple scales in agricultural landscapes. WLE embraces a basin-scale focus to define the context of agricultural systems, but identifies the finer scales at which ecological processes and institutions often operate.

The principles of the framework act as a guide for ecosystem service-based approaches to development interventions. We welcome your input on these principles and any insights from working with ecosystem service-based approaches. Members of WLE’s ESSR team will be present at the Ecosystem Service Partnership conference where we are hosting a Tuesday afternoon workshop on Ecosystem services and development in resilient rural landscapes and where we will have a booth.

Head over to the WLE AgroEco Blog to add your comments about the principles.

Photo credit: Amir Jima
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