SUSTAINPEAT: Overcoming barriers to sustainable livelihoods and environments in smallholder agricultural systems on tropical peatland

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Biosciences

Abstract

This proposal aligns closely with 2 of the 5 agriculture and food system challenges identified in this BBSRC global challenges call namely (a) resilience of the food system to climatic variability and (b) agriculture within the context of the wider landscape.

This project is designed to support environmental sustainability of important landscapes such as tropical peatlands (and the vital ecosystem services they provide) which is only possible if the socio-economic needs of local communities are combined with local knowledge. Thus, an interdisciplinary approach is a crucial component of delivering successful outcomes; this is embedded within our project. Communities living in the peatlands of SE Asia are especially relevant in this context due to their high rates of poverty and low resilience to environmental stressors (e.g. ENSO-driven droughts and floods, air pollution from peat/forest fires) in conjunction with their high exposure to external market forces. The project deliberately considers both Indonesia and Malaysia to allow us to contrast the impact of different within country policies with respect to peatland management.

The novelty of the project revolves around a number of interrelated features. Firstly the study will provide a comprehensive account of the status of SHA on tropical peat swamps. It will do so via a dedicated study which will develop and employ an innovative framework tailored to the specific characteristics of SHA on peatlands. Not only will this generate high quality information concerning the current status and challenges facing SHA on peatland, but the framework will provide a transferable approach which can be employed to assess SHA in different areas and is upscalable to national and regional scales. The involvement of smallholders and other stakeholders will ensure rapid translation of research findings into planned proposals for practical action. Thirdly the project employs a holistic approach drawing on, and integrating interdisciplinary knowledge across national boundaries; this integration of the biophysical understanding of the crop and peat systems within a relevant socio-economic framework forms the basis of the research approaches. Importantly, this approach will explicitly develop an understanding of key local and scientific terminology reducing barriers to interdisciplinary research and enhancing prospects for adaptation and innovation uptake. There have been livelihood benefits from previous action-led approaches collaboratively undertaken by research teams and communities. However these have been narrowly discipline based; the breadth and depth of the research disciplines within this project and the peatland environment focus will provide further novelty and opportunities for impact.

Fundamentally, our proposal makes an innovative contribution to support Malaysia and Indonesia in achieving their Sustainable Development Goals, specifically in relation to reducing poverty, achieving food security and improved nutrition, promoting sustainable agriculture, reducing land degradation, and reducing (economic) inequality between and within countries.

Technical Summary

To achieve objective 1 we will carry out six months of field work in six pilot SHA communities to determinate C stock, GHG fluxes, agro-biodiversity yield and peat hydrology and nutrient status.

To achieve objective 2 this object we will generate local data of local knowledge field work determining on the socio-economic status of SHA in our six pilot communities. This will be carried out using focus group discussion, community mapping exercises and semi structured surveys.

To achieve objective 3 agro-economic and biophysical data will used to model the dynamic interaction between biotic, abiotic and human factors controls the status of peatlands in the pilot areas. Model analyses will be conducted to identify candidate alternative crops for each study site under a range of peat management scenarios in which the water table is maintained at different mean depths.

Objective 4 will be achieved by identification, mapping and ranking of key ES for participating communities and participatory evaluation of ES trends and drivers. Methods used will include deliberative valuation approaches, mapping, ranking and choice modelling.

The models will generate data and information with respect to the economic, agronomic and environmental implications of current practices and comparisons with alternative scenarios. This will be iteratively assessed by local communities to undertake modelling of smallholder income under current local use and assessments of the feasibility of different options to deliver objective 5.

Planned Impact

This project is designed to enhance climate-resilient livelihoods amongst PSF-dependent smallholders, through improved food security/ sovereignty resulting from economically, environmentally and socially sustainable agricultural practices in environmentally sensitive peatland areas. Long term system resilience lies at the heart of this project which explicitly recognises the importance of the human component of SHA. The project will thus contribute to the economic development and welfare of LMICs, for whom these groups form a significant proportion of the population, as explicitly required in national development goals and policy commitments. This will be achieved by improving resource-dependent livelihoods, while simultaneously mitigating GHG emissions and protecting key ecosystem services across the wider landscape. Further potential health benefits arise for communities living within peatland and contiguous landscapes by reducing the detrimental health effects of air pollution and haze caused by peatland forest fires and use of potentially harmful agrochemicals as well as cultural values linked to natural rainforest environments. The prospect of a genuine development impact arises through the integration of biophysical understanding of the crop and peat systems within a context-relevant socio-economic framework.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We have identified that diverse market oriented systems dominate small scale farming in Indonesia and Malaysia. The project is in the initiation phase and further research will explore the environmental impact and socioeconomic sustainability of current farming approaches.
Exploitation Route Our findings will be relevant to agricultural extension workers, policy makers and land users.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

 
Description Greater engagement from local communities with their environment.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Title Combined peat crop and economic model 
Description Development of existing crop models to novel tropical crops 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This work is under progress 
 
Description Collaboration with UNMC, UNTAN and UPR 
Organisation University of Nottingham
Department University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus
Country Malaysia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have signed MOUs and MTAs with the University of Tanjung Pura and University of Palanka Raja. We have agreed a joint collaboaration with the School of Geography at the UNMC.
Collaborator Contribution Access to field sites, laboratory faciliaties, support with research permit applications, joint research and student supervision.
Impact Approved research permits.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration with UNMC, UNTAN and UPR 
Organisation University of Palangka Raya
PI Contribution We have signed MOUs and MTAs with the University of Tanjung Pura and University of Palanka Raja. We have agreed a joint collaboaration with the School of Geography at the UNMC.
Collaborator Contribution Access to field sites, laboratory faciliaties, support with research permit applications, joint research and student supervision.
Impact Approved research permits.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration with UNMC, UNTAN and UPR 
Organisation University of Tanjungpura
Country Indonesia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have signed MOUs and MTAs with the University of Tanjung Pura and University of Palanka Raja. We have agreed a joint collaboaration with the School of Geography at the UNMC.
Collaborator Contribution Access to field sites, laboratory faciliaties, support with research permit applications, joint research and student supervision.
Impact Approved research permits.
Start Year 2017