Safeguarding biodiversity and climate resilience (SABIOMA project)

Safeguarding biodiversity and climate resilience (SABIOMA project)

Safeguarding biodiversity and climate resilience (SABIOMA project)

Country: Argentina

Partners: UK: UK Centre of Ecology & Hydrology; Argentina: University of Buenos Aires, The National University of Córdoba, The National University of Tucuman, The Catholic University of Salta

Summary: SABIOMA looks to develop integrative solutions to design nature-based solutions that promote biodiversity, increase resilience to climate change and contribute to sustainable livelihoods in Argentina’s agro-ecosystems.

Related links: SABIOMA

Optimising the long-term management of invasive species affecting biodiversity and the rural economy using adaptive management (CONTAIN project)

Countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile

Partners: UK: University of Aberdeen, Queen’s University Belfast; Latin America: Unesp (São Paulo State University, Brazil), CONICET (Argentina), Centro de Humedales Río Cruces (Chile), Agricultural and Livestock Service – SAG (Chile)

Summary: The CONTAIN project works across the Latin America region with the aim of realising the multiple environmental, social, and economic benefits and co-benefits of managing Invasive Alien Species (IAS) in a cost-effective manner. The project’s objectives are to:

  • Move from efficacy to efficiency when evaluating IAS management, by considering wider costs and benefits associated with each management action, such as those that scale up with the number of invaders and costs associated with ecosystem services changes brought about by IAS.
  • Rigorously evaluate empirically and through modeling under what circumstances invasive trees deliver valuable carbon sequestration ecosystem service that could be traded-off against the loss of carbon above and below ground, by native plant communities, loss of biodiversity, and ecosystem service and resilience. Hence informing a lively ongoing debate on the pros and cons of carbon sequestration by invasive trees, a potential nature-based solution.
  • Evaluate how incentives, compensation for the loss of income, and sources of income may contribute to the sustainability of participatory control of IAS for rural communities so heavily affected by IAS that their livelihoods are in peril.

Delivering climate resilience through safe and sustainable food systems (OneFood project)

Country: South Africa

Partners: UK: Centre for Environment Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (Cefas), Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA); South Africa: Department of Science and Innovation , (DSI); Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR); Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC); National Agricultural Marketing Council, (NAMC); Agricultural Research Council, (ARC); Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, (DFFE); FCDO SIN regional office; Intergovernmental: FAO; plus 13 other partners.

Summary: The indivisible link between food production and nature means that actions on food security impact the environment and vice versa. Climate change adds further complexity to this problem and the combination of these facts is thus a difficult balance that requires a clear understanding of the impacts associated with exploitation of the natural resources and the needs of the communities consuming the food. Hazards drive inefficiencies in food systems. These include those that impact food production and those hazards posed to the environment by production itself. To date, little consideration has been afforded to linkages between specific hazards in driving inefficiencies within and between food sectors, or the impact that multiple hazards have on food system efficiency and sustainability. In addition, appropriate investment in hazard control has not been articulated relative to potential gains for biodiversity, or to reductions in climate impacts resulting from improved food sector efficiency. The OneFood project places hazard profiling and management at the heart of environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable food system design. It seeks to develop new tools for calculating the impacts of hazards occurring between food sectors and considers the consequences for human, animal and plant health and the environment. The project maps hazards across and between food sectors with selected partner countries, will inform modelling of terrestrial and aquatic sectors applicable across multiple geographic and food sector contexts and will examine the food systems in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as biodiversity targets.

Related links: OneFood Community website

 

Piloting a living laboratory approach to sustainable agriculture

Country: Colombia

Partners: TerraViva Consortium- Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Fundacion Natura, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA)

Summary: Integrated landscape approaches have emerged as a spatial unit for holistically managing various land uses and stakeholder needs within a region. It is a governance strategy that acknowledges the interdependencies of human and natural systems and seeks to optimise synergies and minimise trade-offs to harmonise wellbeing of rural communities with their environment. TerraViva is an emerging landscape management initiative, piloted in coffee-dominated landscape in the Gaitania area of Tolima Colombia to support the creation of a holistic plan with embedded platforms of good governance, wellbeing, livelihoods and traditional leadership to support small scale producers and their communities adapt to climate change and live in harmony with nature. The goal of TerraViva is to create a long-term development vision or Common Territorial Agenda (CTA) built from the perspective of local stakeholders that leads to a collection of solutions to meet both production, and environmental goals of the territory.

Watch ‘SAN TerraViva’ by Sustainable Agriculture Network

TerraViva Sustainable Landscape Approach (TerraViva project)

Gaitania, a coffee-growing community of the municipality of Planadas in the southern Tolima department of Colombia, is marked by several challenges: a prevailing monocropping production system for washed Arabica coffee, unsustainable agricultural practices, a complex history of social armed conflict, and a lack of access to markets. The absence of a landscape approach also makes decisions regarding biodiversity, climate change, and livelihoods a farm-by-farm issue at the will of each producer.

This project aims to foster a sustainable landscape approach in a post-conflict region. With initial GCBC R&D funding, the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) and its partners sought to understand the situational context of the Gaitania region and the interactions of governance structures, communities, and socio-economic factors with the interconnected patchwork of different land uses, ecosystems, and land cover. Research entailed mapping all relevant stakeholders that play a role in the landscape and interviewing them at length. This includes political actors, farmer organisations and cooperatives, the local environmental regulator agency, and smallholder producers from the villages which are represented by essential governance bodies called Community Action Boards. Representatives from these communities also took part in workshops where the TerraViva consortium deployed a Community Capitals Framework (CCF) research approach which allowed the consortium to view the various elements, resources, and relationships within a community from a systems perspective.

The CCF focused mainly on the assets of a community rather than on community needs and deficits. It divides a communities’ assets into natural, human, social, cultural, built, financial, and political capitals and focuses on the interaction among the seven capitals and the resulting impacts across them. Guiding questions helped the community take an appreciative approach to analyse the various capitals and how they could be leveraged to strengthen or generate more assets. Additional efforts to understand the context of Gaitania’s coffee production included the mapping of the coffee value chain, drone-assisted cartography, and desk research using secondary data sources. A study to determine the applicability of a payment for ecosystem services model in the context of the Colombian regulations and institutions was also carried out.

Positive Impacts

Culminating with a participatory multi-stakeholder dialogue, the research results will lead to the creation of a Common Territorial Agenda – a long-term development vision built from the perspective of local stakeholders to enable innovative, systemic interventions by balancing environmental, social, and economic goals of the region’s stakeholders. However, the exploratory process itself has already yielded positive impacts with the community. The differentiated approach taken to build solutions – by recognising the community’s preponderant role in the decision making to build the Common Territorial Agenda – opened spaces for smallholder producers to think broadly and collectively about the state and future of their landscape.

The CCF workshops also raised local awareness of the opportunitiesthat Gaitania’s many assets present for the community’s development and of the negative environmental and social impacts of coffee farming and production caused by the current practices implemented by smallholder farmers. Further impacts will occur once the Common Territorial Agenda is implemented and will be measurable in the long term. 

Challenges

Transportation was the greatest challenge faced during the implementation of the research project due the distances from Gaitania to the main population center of Planadas and each of the villages. Difficulties were compounded by the poor state of the roads and variable weather. Travelling by day and having a local informant that could report on the weather conditions were important mitigating factors to address these challenges. Given the history of armed conflict in the area, additional safety measures were implemented, however, safety issues were not present during the work performed in situ. Maintaining constant contact with Community Action Board presidents to monitor potential safety issues was also important.

The project encountered participation challenges by two of the six villages targeted to take part in the pilot project. The lack of participation was largely owed to post-conflict recovery and peacebuilding efforts that included many unsuccessful international cooperation pilot projects that lacked sustainability and impactful results. Identifying the community capitals using the CCF was an important approach to differentiate this project and help with future plans. Maintaining a strong local presence in the Gaitania was also an important way to build rapport and trust with locals and community leaders.

Lessons learnt and next steps

This research project was designed to be replicable in many productive landscapes and tested in a complex region like Gaitania precisely to increase its replicability. As landscapes are social constructs, building trust with the targeted community is pivotal to ensure continued and active community engagement. This demands local presence, constant communication with community leaders, transparency during the process, and communication of results. Understanding the local context is also a critical factor for project success.

In a community like Gaitania, historical complexities can interfere with the technical aspects of project implementation. Therefore, social awareness and sensibility are necessary for productive and respectful interactions between field staff and community members.

Co-owning the One Food principle with the South African government (One Food project)

The One Food project seeks to develop a Food Risk Tool to assess and mitigate multiple hazards across the entire food system and to transform the way actors (governments, researchers, industry, third sector) perceive and work on food production to ensure economic, environmental, and social sustainability. Since such a transition is impossible without full buy-in from partner country policymakers, the project worked to secure South African government co-ownership of the concept.

This was achieved by targeted engagement with government departments through a series of scoping, workshops, and follow-up engagements. The project also supported in-country research and capacity development to expand the research on tools to assess the hazards present across food systems, linking multiple food sectors (e.g., farming, fishing, aquaculture, hunting) and multiple hazards (e.g., food safety hazards, pollution hazards, biodiversity hazards, climate hazards). This was done through a South African research fellowship scheme designed to support 8 postdoctoral fellows and up to 14 MSc studentships.

Positive Impacts

The South African Government Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) have agreed to co-fund elements of the project. They are employing a coordinator and are considering allocating a full-time staff member to lead the project concept from the South African side. The departments are also championing the project in internal fora, leading upcoming workshops, and working with the UK project team to identify a second country to expand the concept to. DSI and ARCH have also fully endorsed the scheme and have agreed to ‘own’ and co-fund the fellowships. CSIR has agreed to oversee the scheme and to fund a scheme coordinator.

Challenges

Since One Food is such a broad project, there were challenges with navigating South African government departments to identify the best suited agency to take a lead and then to ensure other government departments remained engaged with the project. These challenges are overcome by having a strong stakeholder strategy informed by local expertise, a dedicated project engagement workshop at the inception phase, and a dedicated UK engagement lead to manage the diverse stakeholders and their needs.

The research fellowship scheme required negotiation with government departments and research councils with different priorities and personnel rules. This presented challenges in gaining agreement on the details of the fellowships and the employment and inclusivity processes that should be applied. The project is overcoming these by drawing on advice from stakeholders familiar with the South African government landscape (particularly from Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office) and by developing pragmatic solutions to meet the requirements of the different actors and to accommodate South African government priorities.

Lessons learnt and next steps

This intervention has demonstrated that these types of projects are best led by UK Government departments rather than academia or NGOs. This results in more traction within overseas Governments which, with support from the local FCDO’s Science Innovation Network and other global initiatives that are already linked to a government (e.g., United Nations Environment Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization, etc.), leads to higher engagement and likelihood of successful delivery with partner countries.

The research fellowship scheme is an excellent way to support career development in collaborating countries and particularly to support under-represented groups. It is important to understand the scientific and research context to ensure fellowships are pitched at a useful level (undergraduate, graduate, or postdoctoral level) and understand how the fellowships might help future career opportunities. Diplomacy and compromise are key.

Realising the potential of plants as nature-based solutions in African biodiversity hotspots: Supporting climate resilient, sustainable development (Kew TIPAs project)

High biodiversity developing countries face numerous competing pressures surrounding poverty and food insecurity. Conservation can support sustainable development while improving lives and livelihoods. Kew’s research and conservation activities in Ethiopia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone focus on identifying and evidencing the value of high plant biodiversity landscapes to communities and their governments. This project supported capacity building on Red List conservation assessments, herbarium skills, and conservation research through a 2-month internship programme at Kew for 11 early-career scientists and a 1-week Ethiopian Red List training workshop for 16 participants.

Community outreach programmes, such as the Guinean Schools programme that reached 100 children from 10 schools and the Guinean Community Awareness training programme that involved over 500 villagers, raised awareness of the importance of conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. The establishment of 5 plant nurseries involved 88 members of 4 local communities adjacent to two newly established Tropical Important Plant Areas (TIPAS) sites in Guinea, helping to incentivise locals to manage and maintain reforestation projects adjacent to the TIPAs sites. The unifying purpose of these activities was to build in-country capacity to lead future plant conservation strategy, planning, and practice particularly in the context of Kew’s TIPAs programme and the new Global Biodiversity Framework targets.

Positive Impacts

The capacity building activities focused on training mainly women and girls (17 out of 27) on a wide range of skills that are expected to have a positive impact on their careers. Following completion of the first project phase, newly trained assessors in Ethiopia and Sierra Leone will lead the assessment of parts of the remaining unassessed endemic species in the current project phase. . There has been a high level of engagement with the installation of nurseries and seed collection for forest trees. School teachers and students also benefited from the awareness training. Posters of threatened tree species have been produced and translated into local languages.

There are plans to establish school clubs with gardens to increase awareness of threatened trees and improve the surrounding environments. Lastly, one of the nurseries has grown c. 2,500 saplings of threatened and useful plant species for community livelihoods and reforestation in the buffer zones of two TIPAs sites. Communities have formed and signed a one-year agreements with the forestry service to produce and maintain the nurseries which are expected to produce a minimum of 1,000 plants for use in assisted regeneration of the forest in these areas with long-term benefits to the local communities.

Challenges

Generally, the lack of continued funding and adequate resources makes it difficult to provide the long-term support and partnership for true capacity building activities. However, the project benefited from Kew’s >30-year track record in countries such as Ethiopia and the strong, trusted relationships developed over that time. There were also issues related to securing visas for early career developing country researchers. During the awareness training in Guinea the main challenge encountered was access to the villages during the rainy season and the low level of education. This was overcome by significantly modifying the material to be more accessible. For the nurseries, the main challenges arose from aquiring enough seed of threatened species and propagating them successfully since few of these species have been propagated before. To overcome this, data is being collected on the techniques used for future propagation protocols.

Lessons learnt and next steps

Key to successful implementation is long-term partnership with host countries beyond the activity of a single grant. Attendance of the training workshop followed by participation in the internship programme was a very successful combination that allowed project interns to refine their skills and start contributing to project assessment outputs and deliverables with almost immediate effect.

Awareness training in both communities and schools can easily be replicated and will be continued at communities in the TIPAs sites of Mt Béro and Diécké. The use of visual materials, translation into local languages, and participatory approaches are essential for good understanding by the communities. The approach followed to establish the nurseries is a simple and effective intervention but necessitates community involvement. Continued awareness training on the importance and benefits of biodiversity and the wider environment is necessary to ensure successful implementation.

Waste not, want not: Investing the use of disposable nappies and black wattle biochar for land rehabilitation in the upper uMkhomazi River Catchment (Environmental Pollution programme)

Residents in communal lands in the upper uMkhomazi River Catchment, in the KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa, do not have access to waste collection services. This results in the rise of improper and indiscriminate waste disposal including disposable nappies thrown away from the homestead, often in water courses, posing potential health and environmental risks. Faecal matter in nappies can contain pathogens and potential toxins. However, they are also a source of nutrients – particularly nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium – that can be used for agricultural purposes. Burying nappies can enhance soil water holding capacity (through superabsorbent polymers (SAPs) contained in disposable nappies) and improve soil nutrient supply. Therefore, they can help rehabilitate degraded and nutrient-poor soils.

In the upper uMkhomazi Catchment there are ~7,500 ha of abandoned cultivated lands which have become degraded due to erosion and bush encroachment by black wattle (Acacia mearnsii). Clearing these trees/bushes could improve the ecosystem health and converting the wood to biochar can provide a source of carbon to improve soil biological processes and restore degraded soils.

This project aims to assess the utility of simple, low cost, and culturally acceptable options for the use of disposable nappies and biochar from black wattle, both individually and in combination, as in-field soil amendment media in degraded and abandoned agricultural lands at selected sites in the upper uMkhomazi Catchment. The initial experiments included two species of fodder plants (Napier Fodder and Vetiver Grass) and will be monitored over a period of two years (i.e., two growing seasons under rainfed conditions) with measurements of biomass yield, sediment capture, soil biological indicators, soil fertility, soil chemistry, soil water, pollution, and pathogens.

Positive impacts

This is the first year of a 3-year programme. Although too early to fully determine and measure the impacts, preliminary measurements suggest that treatments that included fertiliser show greater crop growth.

Challenges

A hot, dry spell delayed the monitoring of the vetiver grass component of the trials for the first growing season. The team planted replacement tillers and provided temporary irrigation to assist with propagation. The dry spell is likely a consequence of climate change, and more frequent and erratic dry or wet climate events could be expected in the future.

Lessons learnt and next steps

Results from the first growing season show that this type of intervention yields positive outcomes. However, longer-term monitoring from multiple growing seasons will be needed to determine the full impact on the soil and plant growth and subsequent replicability.