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

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: School of Biological Sciences

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 How ecosystem services contribute to food and nutritional security depends on where the community sits on the forest/agricultural landscape? If the 'Natural" forest dominates the landscape (Colombia Case study), then the community utilise its resources alongside any "managed" farmed resources as required, but this has a carrying capacity and the communities maintained are small but still subject to climatic shocks which can be hard to address. Those communities where most forest has been lost (Malawi case study) are most precarious in terms of food and nutritional security as less resilience offered by natural resources and everything is reliant on managed/farmed resource. Peru Case study represents a community in transition and the tipping point between the Colombian and The Malawian states is still uncertain. We do know that the single transition curve based on forest cover is too simplistic and the system is much more complex. We would need to consider multiple dimensions and curves and that complex system is still work in progress and the team and its members have secured other funding and collaborations to explore this more.
Exploitation Route Successful Funding through GCRF projects (BRECCIA) has maintained some of the team and other team members are very active in this space and successfully receiving funding from non UK sources
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

 
Description Our findings have been used to inform land use policy and decision making in Malawi and Colombia and Peru through our partners and their organisations. A series of outputs (papers, radio shows, media press releases) have placed our evidence in a wider sphere and the sphere of impact have started with meetings with decision makers in all 3 case study countries.
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description Shadowing & visit: Deputy Chief Scientific Advisor of DFID
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
URL https://blogs.royalsociety.org/inside-science/2016/01/12/scienceinwestminster15/
 
Description workshop Policy and Science: Who defines the problem?
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
URL http://espa-assets.org/?s=Policy+%26+Science%3A+Who+defines+the+problem%3F
 
Title Pest impact on rural villages 
Description This model uses land cover to derive the decrease in agricultural yield cause by pests 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Yet to come 
 
Title Pest-control impact on rural villages 
Description This model uses land cover to derive the increase in agricultural yield cause by pest regulation services 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Yet to come 
 
Title Pollinator impact on rural villages 
Description This model uses land cover to derive the increase in agricultural yield cause by pollination services 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Yet to come 
 
Description ESPA 2013 
Organisation Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The ESPA 2013 call has been designed to enhance the academic and development impact of the ESPA programme by filling significant gaps in the ESPA portfolio and, where possible, capturing emerging opportunities. The call provides an opportunity for the world?s best researchers to add significant value to the ESPA programme by filling important research, knowledge and evidence gaps that have been identified. - See more at: http://www.espa.ac.uk/funding/current-calls#sthash.JIVS23fy.dpuf
Start Year 2012
 
Description BC3 Basque Centre for Climate Change - International Spring University 
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 Simon Willcock teaching at the International Spring University in 2013, 2014 and 2015
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014,2015
URL http://springuniversity.bc3research.org/
 
Description Biophysical Ecosystem Services in Malawi 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Two ASSETS associated students from Southampton (Jessica Weyell and Oriole Wagstaff) were broadcast on Malawian radio explaining ASSETS and food security. They discussed the methods we are undertaking and the knowledge transfer between ASSETS and the local villages.

Better understanding of the concept of ecosystem services by the local communities
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description ESPA's Annual Science Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Carlos A Torres-Vitolas presented at the ESPA's Annual Science Conference: "Mixed Methods in Ecosystem Services Research: Is there room for Qualitative approaches?" London, November 2015.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.espa.ac.uk/news-events/events/wed-2015-11-25-0900/espa-2015-annual-science-conference
 
Description Ecosystem Service Partnership in South Africa in 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Simon Willcock presenting "Modelling trade-offs among ecosystem services in agricultural production systems" (on behalf of Balbi et al) at the Ecosystem Service Partnership in South Africa in 2015
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation & World Water Day 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Afternoon session on ecosystem services and water issues. Organised together with ESPA deltas. In association with Multidisciplinary Research Week 2013 at the University of Southampton and association the Southampton WaterAid local group.

Future collaborations between ASSETS and GIZ were discussed
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://espa-assets.org/?s=water+day+2013
 
Description Research visit to Pontiff Catholic University of Peru, Faculty of Social Sciences 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Carlos A Torres-Vitolas was a visiting researcher at the Pontiff Catholic University of Peru, Faculty of Social Sciences, during April-May 2015.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description UN World Development Information Day- SSS Mobilising Solutions to Global Development Challenges 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact ASSETS participating in:

The United Nations' (UN) World Development Information Day is annually held on October 24 to draw attention of worldwide public opinion to development problems and the need to strengthen international cooperation to solve them. The Sustainability Science at Southampton USRG is celebrating this important day with a special evening seminar on 'SSS- Mobilising Solutions to Global Development Challanges' with presentations on the latest progress of the leading ESPA projects.

To celebrate this important day, SSS is holding an evening event which includes a series of talks on the latest developments in the University-led projects funded by the 'Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme, with an introduction to global challenges and the new curriculum innovation module. The event is sponsored by the local Southampton WaterAid group and will include information about how you can get involved in local campaigns events.


Introduction to the ESPA programme - Professor Paul van Gardingen (ESPA Director)

Safe operating spaces for regional rural development: a new conceptual tool for evaluating complex socio-ecological system dynamics- Professor John Dearing

ESPA DELTAS: Assessing health, livelihoods, ecosystem services and poverty alleviation in populous deltas- Professor Steve Darby

ESPA ASSETS: Attaining Sustainable Services from Ecosystems through Trade-off Scenarios- Professor Guy Poppy

Safeguarding local equity as global values of ecosystem services rise- Dr Kate Schreckenberg

Poverty and ecology: developing a new evolutionary approach- Dr Ke Zhang

Global Challenges, the Curriculum Innovation Module and TEDx- Dr James Dyke

More information about the event: http://www.southampton.ac.uk/sustainability_science/news/events/2012/10/24_un_development_day.page?
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://www.southampton.ac.uk/sustainability_science/news/events/2012/10/24_un_development_day.page?