Sustainable poverty alleviation from coastal ecosystem services (SPACES): Investigating elasticities, feedbacks and tradeoffs

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Geography

Abstract

This project aims to better understand the links between ecosystem services (ES) and wellbeing in order to design and implement more effective interventions for poverty alleviation. We do this in the context of coastal, social-ecological systems in two poor African countries; Kenya and Mozambique.
Despite recent policy and scientific interest in ES, there remain important knowledge gaps regarding how ecosystems actually contribute to wellbeing, and thus poverty alleviation. Following the ESPA framework, distinguishing ecological processes, 'final ES', 'capital inputs', 'goods' and 'values', this project is concerned with how these elements are interrelated to produce ES benefits, and focuses specifically on how these benefits are distributed to (potentially) benefit the poor, enhancing their wellbeing. We thus address the ESPA goal of understanding and promoting ways in which benefits to the poorest can be increased and more people can meet their basic needs, but we also identify conflicted tradeoffs, i.e. those which result in serious harm to either the ecosystem or poor people and which need urgent attention.
Several fundamental questions are currently debated in international scientific and policy fora, relating to four major global trends which are likely to affect abilities of poor people to access ES benefits: (1) devolution of governance power and its impacts on local governance of ecosystems and production of ES, (2) unprecedented rates and scales of environmental change, particularly climate change, which are creating new vulnerabilities, opportunities and constraints, 'shifting baselines', and demanding radical changes in behaviour to cope, (3) market integration now reaches the most remote corners of the developing world, changing relationships between people and resources and motivations for natural resource management, (4) societal changes, including demographic, population, urbanisation and globalisation of culture, forge new relationships with ES and further decouple people from direct dependency on particular resources. Study sites have been chosen so as to gather empirical evidence to help answer key questions about how these four drivers of change affect abilities of poor people to benefit from ES.
We aim for direct impact on the wellbeing of poor inhabitants of the rapidly transforming coastal areas in Mozambique and Kenya, where research will take place, while also providing indirect impact to coastal poor in other developing countries through our international impact strategy. Benefits from research findings will also accrue to multiple stakeholders at various levels.

Local government, NGOs and civil society groups - through engagement with project activities, e.g. participation in workshops and exposure to new types of analysis and systems thinking.

Donor organizations and development agencies - through research providing evidence to inform strategies to support sector development (e.g. fisheries, coastal planning and tourism development) and methods to understand and evaluate impacts of different development interventions - e.g. through tradeoff analysis and evaluation of the elasticities between ecosystem services and wellbeing.

International scientific community - through dissemination of findings via conferences, scientific publications (open access), and from conceptual and theoretical development and new understandings of the multiple linkages between ecosystem services and wellbeing. Regional African scientists will benefit specifically through open courses offered within the scope of the project, and through dissemination of results at regional venues.
Our strategies to deliver impact and benefits include (1) identifying 'windows of opportunity' within the context of ongoing coastal development processes to improve flows of benefits from ecosystems services to poor people, and (2) identifying and seeking to actively mitigate 'conflicted' tradeoffs in Kenya and Mozambique.

Planned Impact

The project will benefit a number of different groups of people; both within the timeframe of the project and beyond (see Pathways to Impact).

Poor people in East Africa are the ultimate beneficiaries of this research. We aim for direct impact on the wellbeing of poor inhabitants of the rapidly transforming coastal areas in Mozambique and Kenya, where research will take place, while also providing indirect impact to coastal poor in other developing countries through our international impact strategy.

Local government, NGOs and civil society groups will benefit from the research findings and through engagement with project activities, e.g. through participation in workshops and exposure to new types of analysis and systems thinking.

Donor organizations and development agencies will benefit as research provides evidence to inform strategies to support sector development (e.g. fisheries, coastal planning and tourism development) and methods to understand and evaluate impacts of different development interventions - e.g. through tradeoff analysis and evaluation of the elasticities between ecosystem services and wellbeing.

International scientific community will benefit through dissemination of findings via conferences and scientific publications (all open access). New understandings and rigorous analysis of the multiple linkages between ecosystem services and wellbeing will inform conceptual and theoretical development in fields of international development, ecosystem services, environmental change and resilience, vulnerability and adaptation. We test novel and innovative methodologies, and extend conventional wellbeing and ecosystem analysis. Ultimately this will contribute to understanding the environmentalist paradox through new empirical and conceptual analysis. Regional African scientists will benefit through open courses offered within the scope of the project, and through dissemination of results at regional venues such as the biannual WIOMSA conference (see academic beneficiaries).

This project adopts two strategies to deliver local and regional level impact on poverty alleviation for the coastal poor in Kenya and Mozambique:

(1) we identify 'windows of opportunity' within the context of ongoing coastal development processes to improve flows of benefits from ecosystems services to poor people. This strategy draws on existing knowledge of coastal Kenya and Mozambique and new data produced by the project on ecosystem flows and access mechanisms. In particular, the project will have substantial impact in the areas of fisheries development and coastal tourism, both areas already identified as major (but poorly understood) opportunities for poverty alleviation.

(2) we identify and seek to actively mitigate 'conflicted' tradeoffs in Kenya and Mozambique. Conflicted tradeoffs are those which result in serious harm to either the ecosystem or poor people and which need urgent attention- indeed by doing so, poverty alleviation impact is likely to be significant. Previous ESPA research (PMOWTICK and Coastal Situation Analysis) has highlighted several conflicted tradeoffs between agendas of coastal development, poverty alleviation and ecosystem sustainability, and has advanced an innovative participatory modeling tool (a key PMOWTICK output) which explicitly identifies tradeoffs. We use this tool to further address evidence gaps and deliver it to key stakeholders in both regions, to enable decision-makers to tackle tradeoffs and deliberate options for resolving them, using the best scientific data available on ecosystem services flows and wellbeing outcomes.

Publications

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Januchowski-Hartley FA (2017) Drivers and predictions of coral reef carbonate budget trajectories. in Proceedings. Biological sciences

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Chaigneau T (2019) Incorporating basic needs to reconcile poverty and ecosystem services. in Conservation biology : the journal of the Society for Conservation Biology

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Fortnam M (2019) The Gendered Nature of Ecosystem Services in Ecological Economics

 
Description Please see findings entered under NE/K010484/1
Exploitation Route Please see text entered for NE/K010484/1
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment,Other

 
Description Please see those recorded under the project NE/K010484/1
 
Description Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation
Amount £13,704 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/M007502/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2015 
End 12/2015