Managing ecosystem services for food security and the nutritional health of the rural poor at the forest-agricultural interface

Lead Research Organisation: University of Malawi
Department Name: Chancellor College

Abstract

[Proposal EE112/ K1396905]
Predicting the impacts of global change on rural communities is increasingly challenging due to the accelerating pace of climate change and social and economic development. The combined demands of ensuring food, energy and water security have been described as a "Perfect Storm" by Prof Sir John Beddington, HM Government's Chief Scientific adviser. It is clear that food security will continue to remain a critical issue in developing countries due to the unpredictable nature of food chains and the effects of climate change.

Food security in poor rural communities often relies significantly on flows of ecosystem services from 'natural' environments. For millennia mankind has engaged in thinking and learning experiences which have shaped the processes underpinning the production of food and the management of land, addressing multiple factors and tradeoffs. However, many food production systems require intensive management and are prone to failure outside of the range of their optimal environmental conditions. Concerns are growing about the ability of current agricultural systems to support rising human populations without further degrading critical ecosystem services (such as water provisioning, pollination). During extreme events, such as drought, or other shocks or crises (environmental, social or economic), the dependence of rural communities on ecosystem services to meet their nutritional and livelihood needs often increases. This highlights the importance of minimising the impacts of agricultural systems on ecosystems and the services they provide. Strategies for coping with food insecurity may, in turn, have an impact on the capacity of ecosystems to deliver ecosystem services as the spatial and temporal nature of feedbacks between socio-economic and ecological systems can be complex.

Addressing the sustainability of natural resource management and rural livelihoods requires integrated thinking across disciplines. The complex transformations which can, or have already occurred from natural forest to managed landscapes must be fully understood so that systems can be adopted which promote sustainable transformations and/or can mitigate any negative impacts. This proposal therefore brings together expertise in social sciences, economics, ecology, risk management, spatial planning, climate change and complexity sciences to design and integrate a suite of models and methods to analyse how dynamic stocks and flows of ecosystem services translate to local-level food security and nutritional health. The study will examine the multiple (and multi-directional) links between ecosystem services, food security and maternal and child health outcomes in poor rural communities, addressing three main themes:
1. Drivers, pressures and linkages between food security, nutritional health and ecosystem services;
2. Crises and tipping points: Past, present and future interactions between food insecurity and ecosystem services at the forest-agricultural interface;
3. The science-policy interface: How can we manage ecosystem services to reduce food insecurity and increase nutritional health?

Analysis of household and intra-household nutritional status and assessment and mapping of ecosystem services at the relevant spatial scales will be conducted in sites in Colombia and Malawi, which are characterised by mosaics of forests and agricultural lands, to explore the trade-offs and tipping points associated with managing these dynamic landscapes under climate and socio-economic change. Powerful new models will predict how ecosystem services will be changed by drivers and pressures for human wellbeing and food security. This will allow risk management/mitigation models and strategies to be developed which can inform national and regional policy in order to maintain ecosystems and support human wellbeing.

Planned Impact

The developmental impact of this project will be to contribute to poverty alleviation for the 550 million people living at the forest-agriculture interface (FAI) in the tropics through improved food security and nutritional health and more sustainable management of ecosystem services. Primary beneficiaries will be the almost 2 million people living at the FAI in the project's Malawi and Colombia case study sites, particularly underprivileged or marginalised social groups including women and children, poorer households and disadvantaged ethnic groups. Secondary beneficiaries include local leaders who manage natural resources and national policy-makers concerned with achieving food security without degrading ecosystems. A final group of beneficiaries includes academics and researchers working in cognate fields. Since the publication of the MEA in 2005, many scientists are taking an ecosystem service approach to complex land management challenges, and the major conceptual and methodological advances that will arise from this work will influence this important and topical research and policy area.

The project will provide an improved evidence base on the value of ecosystem services for food security and health, leading to the development of better policies and practices to manage ecosystem services and food security, in turn leading to healthier, more food secure indigenous people who are better able to contribute to economic activity, thus reducing poverty. The project is structured to ensure identification of the most appropriate pathways to impact and to facilitate monitoring. It begins with a baseline assessment of the current linkages between food security, nutritional health and ecosystem services, and the drivers and pressures determining these linkages. The project's second theme focuses on understanding past, present and future crises and tipping points and the trade-offs (and associated constraints) involved in coping with them, identifying key areas and opportunities for engagement. The third theme deals with the science-policy interface, supporting decision-making at different levels through scenario-building that explicitly outlines the food security and nutritional health outcomes of different decisions relating to ecosystem services management.

Primary beneficiaries in the case study sites will be engaged through village development or environment committees. A participatory approach will ensure that local research concerns are addressed by the project, and feedback is provided in appropriate formats to different groups (posters, leaflets, meetings - all in local language). Community radio will help target primary beneficiaries at national and regional scale.

Ownership at national policy level in Malawi and Colombia will be ensured by annual meetings with a national advisory group comprising government, NGO, leading academics and private sector representatives. Scenario-building workshops using the ARIES ecosystem service mapping and Bowtie risk management models developed by the project will enable national decision-makers to visualise impacts of policy options with potential impacts on food security (e.g. PES schemes, adaptation strategies). Uptake will be assured through the strong existing relationships between our national teams and local Ministries of Environment, Agriculture and Planning and supported by dissemination of information through policy briefings and news media.

At international level, uptake of the project's findings will be promoted through the global networks of CIAT, Worldfish and CI. CIAT and Worldfish are both part of the global CGIAR network while CI has over 30 offices worldwide engaged in policy discussions related to ecosystem services, climate change and conservation and with close relationships with relevant ministries. Within Africa, engagement of policy-makers will further be assured through the network of LEAD fellows and their activities.
 
Description Food security, nutrition and health are influenced by both supply and utilisation as well as utilisation side of the equation.
Land and forest are no longer providing food security needs this is because of forest degradation, land degradation and limited holding.
Dietary diversity particulary fruits are low this has been refelcted in meals observed during the food and drinks diary.
Based on trend analysis there is adequate knowledge by communities about environmental degradation and loss of ecosystem services.
Indegenous knowledge systems in food processing and preservation is slowly eroding and soon might not be available for the younger generation.
Local communities rely on biomass energy for cooking and shortage of wood fuel was responsible for choice of what and when to cook (http://espa-assets.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/sm-news-paper-article-on-assests-dissemination-seminar.pdf)

.
Exploitation Route The policy implication is for capacity building to reverse the degradation, implement sustainable intensification and creating opportunities for income generation.
The policy implication is that response to natural resource degradatio should take advantage of the exisiting knowledge by enhancing capacity to take action through, for example, adoption of appropriate technologies that include climate smart agriculture and integrated water resource management.
The research confirms the need to integrate relevant indigenous knowledge in capacity building for natural resource management, improving nutrition and informing both natural resource management and nutrition policies.
Afforestation programmes should not only target communal woodlots but also household woodlots and orchards.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://www.espa.ac.uk/files/espa/ASSETS_ESPA2016_Dawson%20Schreckenberg%20Willcock%20Chiotha.pdf
 
Description The project has finished and the findings have been used in a number of ways that include media reports for dissemination, posters for national conferences and data has inputted into drafting of yet another funded project on Ecosystems Based Adaptation for Food Security funded by UNEP (2014-2015). In addition to that, the repertoire of qualitative and quantitative methods, including food diaries, household surveys, and qualitative data collection around the contribution of ES to well being within cultural values has borne a decent level of sensitization of the importance of managing ecosystems for the services they provide. Knowledge exchange through a variety of public avenues such as publications, conferences, media engagement have seen the elevation of ESPA outcomes into national debate on climate change, environment and natural resource management, for example, and shaping of public policy such as the forest management, food and nutrition policies, charcoal strategy. Ministers and key decision-makers have been made more aware of ES through participation on the advisory board. The social sciences work has especially enabled the researchers themselves to understand coping strategies and the lived realities of the people at the forest-agricultural interface. Government officials were heavily influenced also by the pictures of the food diaries. The state meteorology and water agencies have also began to include data collected from the hydro-met stations installed under ASSETS project in the Lake Chilwa basin in 2015
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description A burning charcoal issue: livelihoods matter
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Impact Policy makers have responded to the work of researcher Harriet Smith (whose work involved the same ASSETS field sites, and built on the research base). Harriet's work shows that current policies criminalise charcoal producers and particularly transporters. Her emphasis on the livelihood aspects of the charcoal value chain was taken up by the 2015 National Charcoal Forum and the current process to develop the new Charcoal Strategy. The work is also likely to make significant contribution towards Malawi REDD+ Corruption Risk Assessment. Additionally, DFID has recognised the relevance of this case to the charcoal sector. A regional approach to woodlands and charcoal - as a key livelihood opportunity for certain segments of society - is beginning to influence DFID policy in this area
URL http://www.ltsi.co.uk/project/scoping-study-for-a-potential-new-dfid-programmemiombo-forests-livelih...
 
Description Drafting of African Declaration for policy makers based on key messages emerging from ESPA research with a call to action by policy makers to appreciate the role of ecosystems services towards welbeing
Geographic Reach Africa 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
 
Description Hydrological and Meteorological Network enhancement
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
Impact Through ASSETS research project, weather and water monitoring in the Lake Chilwa basin has improved through the installation of 7 Davis Automatic Weather Stations (DAWS) and water monitoring gauges. These installations have increased the data collection points and range of parameters monitored and improved data acquisition, archiving and retrieval. The meteorological and water resources agencies in Malawi are incorporating our extra automated weather station and hydrology data. The additional data may lead to more accurate local weather predictions, water resources planning and local early warning of impending disasters such as drought and flooding. The meteorological and water agencies will become more effective in service delivery. There is no evidence of impact yet improved local weather forecasting may benefit more than50,000 local people including smallholder subsistence farmers. Potentially more accurate hydromet prediction will improve agricultural production and reduce food insecurity through better decision making in terms of when and what to plant
 
Description Re-thinking investments in sustainable landscapes and livelihoods
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
URL http://www.landscapes.org/warsaw-global-landscape-forum-launches-alongside-cop19/
 
Description TV programme on Importance of bamboos
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
Impact The appearance of members of the ASSETS team on Malawian national television has taken ESPA's work into the national climate change debate. The programme was broadcast several times by public demand. The programme has been shared in request with other local NGO's such as Southern Africa Family Enrichment (SAFE) and Emmanuel International. The work of ASSETS has influenced not only policy and implementation of ecosystem services (ES), but has also informed the broader debate and enabling environment around ES management.
 
Description The contribution of ecosystem services to local level health and nutritional well being of the rural poor in Malawi
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
 
Description Global Challenge Research Fund
Amount £6,000,000 (GBP)
Organisation Research Councils UK (RCUK) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2018 
End 05/2022
 
Title EWS for media 
Description Experiences on EWS from the research outputs provided capacity for media reporting as apart of the climate change adaptation. This was done through exclusive interviews and panel discussions on 2016-2017 rainy season and impact of La Nina on agriculture and food seucrity. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Based on ASSETS datasets, the rainfall bar graphs have been used in various discussions and papers as evidence on rainfall distribution and intensity during different weather settings. The then Minister of Agriculture used the evidence to call upon Malawians and development partners to sensitise communiyies on the importnace of participatory weather and river discharge monitoring. 
 
Title Early Warning Systems for Climate Change Adaptation 
Description ASSETS project procured weather and water resource monitoring equipment which has been reported under..... In addition, the research contributed to the national workshop entitled " Strengthening Early Warning in Malawi" whose proceedings have been published as "Proceedings of The First Stakeholder Workshop on Enhancing Early Warning Systems in Malawi. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Monitoring of insect pest outbreaks to inform authorities for management responses, and farmers for vigilance to detect early outbreaks for targeted responses. Ability for proactive response. Response time reduced due to targeting 
 
Title Evidence on Tornados Affecting Malawi 
Description Using the AWS researchers were able to provide the magnitude of the wind speed to comliment eye witness account linking episode to tornado like experience. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The damage to crops and infrasructure was explained by emperical evidence for the first time and suggections for policy change to include severe storms among the regular threats of floods and droughts. 
 
Title Food and Drinks Diary Database 
Description The database has been built from household data collection through observation and adminstration of household questionnaire on individual food, fruits, snack and drinks consuption quantities and patterns. A total of 72 households was the sample observed. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2014 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The results have been widely shared and notable impacts are the use of the results by decision makers and other research groups. Also verification of the fact that what was claimed during PRA is different in practice (actual foods/drinks consumed) 
 
Title Geographical Information System and Remote Sensing Database 
Description The ASSETS project procured 2 ArcGIS licences from ESRI in 2012 for storage, analysis and reporting of spatial data collected in all project sites. The datasets include points such as households, water points and settlements; polygons such as forests, cultivation fields and wetlands and lines such as access routes, rivers and boundaries. 
Type Of Material Data handling & control 
Year Produced 2012 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Availability of maps in different themes and notable one is the map showing distribution of raingauges, automated weather stations and river gauging locations. The database also contributed to the success of Lake Chilwa Basin Climate Change Adaptation Programme (2010-2017). 
 
Title Household Survey Database 
Description The household Survey database: It hosts data collected from households at two intervals. The database consists of household demography, health, education, housing, food security, and agriculture just to mention some. The questionnaire comprise of 28 modules with 1300 variables. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2013 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Reports are available which are being used by policy makers and other researchers 
 
Title Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) Database 
Description The PRA was used to generate baseline information regarding available natural resources, history of the community, sources of food, sources of water, land resource management practices, conflict that arise from resource competition, and current resource management strategies and practices. The tool and the database also documented available natural resources and variety of ecosystem services. 
Type Of Material Data handling & control 
Year Produced 2012 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The analysed data was used to produce reports, papers for presentation and posters. The database is very rich and will be able toprovide information for the next 10 years or so. 
 
Description Collaborative weather and water reource monitoring in the Lake Chilwa Basin 
Organisation Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services Malawi
PI Contribution ASSETS project procured automated weather monitoring equipment, water level gauges and river discharge (flow) meters which were installed in 12 strategic places in within the Lake Chilwa Basin in Southern Malawi that includes ASSETS project sites
Collaborator Contribution Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services: Provided training for the community volunteers responsible for monitoring, recording and sharing of weather parameters from the seven automated weather stations. The parameters include rainfall, temperature, humidity, wind speed, weed direction and atmospheric pressure. The department also provided registers for data recording to in put into the national meteorological database. Departmemt of Water Development: provided installed river discharge meters and water levels gauges in 5 locations of the 4 major rivers draining the Lake Chilwa Wetland and the lake itself. The department trained communty volunteers in data management and reporting. The department also provide 20 metallic river gauges to replace the plastic ones procured by ASSETS projects and which failed to withstand extreme weather such as floods.
Impact The collaboration has initiated participatory scenario planning groups being championed by the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services within the Lake Chilwa Wetland. All the partners have documented their experience regarding weather and water resource monitoring and published "Early Warning Systems" guide. All automated weather stations are linked to the national database and daily readings of weather parameters are broadcasted on National Television - the Malawi Broadcasting Coorporation.
Start Year 2015
 
Description A burning charcoal issue: livelihoods matter 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Department of Forestry has taken up issues raised in the Charcoal policy brief discussed in the development of a charcoal strategy aimed at curbing deforestation from Malawi's energy crisis. DFID has recognised the relevance of this case study to the charcoal sector. A regional approach to woodlands and charcoal - as a key livelihood opportunity for certain segments of society - is beginning to influence DFID policy in this area
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.ltsi.co.uk/project/scoping-study-for-a-potential-new-dfid-programmemiombo-forests-livelih...
 
Description Developing professional Development Course and running the course for university staff in Malawi, Kenya and Madagascar 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Involvement of the project in development of Professional Development Course (PDC) whose material was based on research outcomes of ESPA. The courses were delivered to university professional in 3 countries that include Malawi, Kenya and Madagascar. A total of 60 professionals were trained in a form of seminar (20 participants per country).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Importance of bamboos livelihoods 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The programme on TV was broadcast several times by public demand. It brought out numerous comments and questions but also acknowledgement of awareness by the public about the way bamboos are propagated. ASSETS received many requests for bamboo seed and training for bamboo nursery establishment. The Department of Forestry was subsequently requested by ASSETS Malawi to provide the training to set up a demonstration nursery at Salifu Village, Zomba West, Chingale
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Socio-economic impacts of water level recessions in Lake Chilwa 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A power point presentation made at the Royal Society meeting in London in December 2012 focusing on the impacts of lake level recessions on food security and livelihoods in the Lake Chilwa basin and the need to identify what needs to be done in order to improve ecosystem and livelihood resilience in the face of increasing anthropogenic activities and climatic variability
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description The contribution of ecosystem services to local level health and nutritional well being of the rural poor in Malawi 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The paper noted that the first food and nutrition conference in Malawi lacked any discussion of the importance and relevance of environmental integrity to food and nutrition yet negative ecosystem change has undermined the contribution of ecosystem services (ES) to the well being of the rural poor in Malawi and that the pursuit for food security is not only dependent on ES but could be the greatest driver of loss of ES. Therefore, to achieve both food and nutrition security as well as environmental sustainability, the paper offered consideration of a systems approach
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015