Ecosystem Services as a Missing Dimension of Poverty

Lead Research Organisation: World Conservation Monitoring Ctr WCMC
Department Name: Science Unit

Abstract

This project will examine the role of ecosystem services in the conceptual understanding of poverty, by analysing the extent to which ecosystem services can be seen as a missing dimension of the way in which multidimensional poverty is defined. In order to do so, it will undertake a review of the ways in which wellbeing and poverty are understood, and the extent to which elements of the natural environment contribute to improving wellbeing and reducing poverty. It will focus on the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), which defines poverty as a person's inability to meet the minimum internationally comparable standards in the core elements that are necessary for human flourishing, and will examine the extent to which access to ecosystem services can be conceptually included as one of the core elements that define wellbeing.

The project's conceptual and theoretical contributions will focus primarily on identifying the philosophical and scientific arguments that suggest that lack of access to nature and ecosystem services reduces the capability of people to achieve their potential. In doing so, the project will engage with recent literature which has been assessing the subjective elements that make up the definitions of poverty and wellbeing, and the extent to which these are influenced by the ways in which humans interact with nature.

Having established the broader conceptual framework for incorporating ecosystem services into multi-dimensional poverty, the project will operationalise this understanding by examining the extent to which existing methods for collecting poverty and environment data can be made more compatible. These include data collected at national level, spatially explicit data on the incidence of poverty and the occurence of ecosystem services, as well as detailed household-level survey instruments which seek to understand multidimensional wellbeing as well the use of, and dependence on, flows from natural ecosystems.

The project will test these ideas in a small selection of case study locations, building on the existing work that is being undertaken by the project partners at global, national and sub-national scales. The partners bring a unique set of resources and skills into productive conversation with each other, connecting knowledge communities that tend not to be well integrated with each other. UNEP WCMC is the leading repository of global environmental data, but has tended not to have an explicit mandate to understand the poverty implications of these data; OPHI is at the cutting-edge of work that seeks to define and measure poverty, but has tended to pay relatively limited attention to the role of the environment in its definition of multidimensional poverty. The University of Cambridge provides a unique bridge across these communities, as well as to the wider portfolio of existing ESPA research. By making these connections, the project hopes to have an impact on the ways in which poverty and human wellbeing are understood and defined, especially in relation to ongoing discussions about the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.

Overall, therefore, the project will make contributions at three distinct, inter-connected levels: (i) conceptual, in shifting the ways in which the relationship between ecosystem services and wellbeing and poverty is defined and understood; (ii) methodological, in developing techniques and protocols that allow the unification of hitherto distinct approaches to measuring and understanding poverty and environmental sustainability; and (iii) at the policy level, by contributing to the definition of international goals for human society in the twenty-first century, and associated targets to guide decision makers operating across a variety of spatial and temporal scales.

Planned Impact

Multidimensional poverty measures are having an important impact on poverty reduction efforts by providing policymakers with enriched information about who is poor (e.g., according to gender, ethnicity and other social groupings), in which regions they live (e.g., in rural or urban areas, or specific states or municipalities) and how or in which dimensions they are poor (e.g., health, education, employment, physical safety or living conditions). Such policy-relevant information can feed into ecosystem services policy design, programme targeting efforts and monitoring and evaluation activities, ensuring that the multiple deprivations - including environmental ones - that better poor peoples' lives are the focus of poverty reduction activities.

To ensure that the influence of this proposed research upon policy making is maximised, the project team at UNEP-WCMC, OPHI and the University of Cambridge will continue to invest in conceptual, instrumental and capacity building impact activities. Key user groups will be involved in the research programme design and will be systematically engaged in the findings throughout the five year grant window . These plans build on the partners' substantial engagement with research users to date, and their recognised track-record in reaching non-academic audiences with their research, which then has impact beyond academia. (OPHI has, for example, been shortlisted for an ESRC Impact Award 2014, the results of which are embargoed until June 5th 2014).

The key target groups for maximising the environmental, social and economic impact of this research are:
- Academic stakeholders across social science fields such as development economics, economics, development studies, environmental studies, ecosystems management, sociology, statistics, demography, and social policy;
- Decision-makers in national governments, specifically Ministers and Vice Ministers of Planning, Statistics, Environment, Social Development and Finance;
- Statisticians, civil servants and technical officials such as those in National Statistics Bureaus, the UN Statistical Commission, and government special advisors on poverty and environmental issues;
- Senior officials and thought leaders in donor agencies and development institutions such as UNDP, UNEP, UNDESA, UNICEF, World Bank, African Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, OECD, ECLAC, SADC, GIZ, DFID, USAID, Europeaid and others;
- Agencies advancing the Sustainable Development Goals and the post-2015 development agenda (which include many already mentioned, plus any special organisations to be constituted)
- Development and environmental practitioners and early adopters in NGOs and civil society groups including people's movements;
- Journalists, commentators and bloggers.

Academic stakeholders will benefit from the easily-available theoretical and methodological advances made under this grant, which will provide new ways of using multidimensional poverty and ecosystems analysis together, and fresh opportunities for applying theory to evidence. The substantial empirical analysis and methodological illustrations carried out during this grant will provide a rich source of evidence to researchers, which will be made readily available online. The trail-blazing work of this grant can lead eventually into the regularization of multidimensional poverty-ecosystem statistics and provide an official legitimacy for governments that are as yet uncertain regarding these new methods.
 
Description The research project considers the diverse and complex relationships between the natural environment and human wellbeing and poverty. It focuses on whether the current treatment of the environment adequately captures the diverse ways in which these relationships are understood. In particular, the project looks at the possibility and the implications of treating the natural environment as a 'constituent', or internal element, of wellbeing and poverty, as opposed to an instrumental or external factor. Our review of philosophical accounts and conceptual frameworks of wellbeing and poverty shows that there is a robust theoretical and empirically-grounded basis for including the natural environment as constituent element of concepts of poverty and human wellbeing in at least some contexts. Failing to consider these missing environmental aspects can result in an incomplete identification of the poor, measurement of poverty, and understanding what drives poverty, thereby posing a challenge to adequately address the needs of the poor.
Exploitation Route The findings of this project are directly relevant to how we define and measure poverty, wellbeing and societal progress. As a result, the findings are directly relevant to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how progress in meeting the SDGs and associated targets is being measured. Without adequately capturing the role of the natural environment, the identification of the poor, as well as understanding what makes them poor, risks being partial, thereby posing a challenge to addressing poverty adequately. We suggest that a broader framing of the environment-wellbeing relationship, which captures the natural environment as a constituent element, has the potential to inform a new generation of individual level wellbeing and poverty indicators. In particular, the project findings can be taken forward through developing multidimensional indices of poverty and wellbeing that take the natural environment adequately into account. The findings can therefore be put to use by the relevant policy and decision makers.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL https://www.unep-wcmc.org/news/failure-to-consider-the-relationship-between-environment--human-wellbeing-and-povertyhttps://www.unep-wcmc.org/featured-projects/links-between-the-natural-environment--human-wellbeing-and-poverty
 
Description Interest by certain governments in the work and interest by them in developing this further, hence our continuing project work.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Rwanda Poverty Reduction Strategy
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description Aligning the financial system and infrastructure investments with sustainable development - a transformational approach
Amount $2,000,000 (USD)
Funding ID gef 9775 
Organisation World Bank Group 
Department Global Environment Facility
Sector Public
Country United States
Start 10/2018 
End 10/2020
 
Description GCRF Impact Acceleration Account: NGO Data project (Developing an Environmentally-adjusted Multidimensional Poverty Index)
Amount £49,196 (GBP)
Funding ID ES/S501359/1 
Organisation University of Cambridge 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2018 
End 03/2019
 
Description Global Challenges Research Fund - Secondary Data Analysis Initiative
Amount £173,034 (GBP)
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2017 
End 04/2018
 
Description Missing Values: The Role of the Environment in Multidimensional Poverty
Amount £18,500 (GBP)
Organisation University of Cambridge 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2018 
End 12/2018
 
Description Research England GCRF QR Funding 2018-19 (Integrating Environmental and Social Data, Measures and Decision Systems for Sustainable Development and Poverty Reduction)
Amount £79,548 (GBP)
Organisation University of Cambridge 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2019 
End 07/2019
 
Description UNDP-UNEP Poverty Environment Initiative
Amount $40,000 (USD)
Organisation UNDP-UNEP Poverty Environment Initiative 
Sector Public
Country Global
Start 04/2017 
End 12/2017
 
Description UNDP-UNEP Poverty Environment Initiative
Amount $40,000 (USD)
Organisation UNDP-UNEP Poverty Environment Initiative 
Sector Public
Country Global
Start 01/2019 
End 12/2019
 
Description Collaboration with Department of Philosophy, University of Cambridge 
Organisation University of Cambridge
Department Department of Biochemistry
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The research team organised and hosted regular meetings with the partner, as well engaged in discussions and exchanged expertise with regards to the project.
Collaborator Contribution The partner attended various meetings and a workshop organised by the project team in May 2016, engaged in discussions and exchanged expertise with regards to the project, and contributed towards an academic paper.
Impact The main output out of this collaboration has been an academic article, which has been submitted to a peer-reviewed journal for publication. This is a multi-disciplinary collaboration, involving in particular philosophy, economics, geography and ecology.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Collaboration with OPHI 
Organisation University of Oxford
Department Department of International Development
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Our project team has convened a number of virtual meetings and has exchanged ideas and knowledge with the Oxford team concerning the NERC-ESPA project as well as on a parallel project funded by the UNEP-UNDP Poverty Environment Initiative.
Collaborator Contribution The Oxford team has joined a number of virtual meetings and has exchanged ideas and knowledge with our project team concerning the NERC-ESPA project as well as on a parallel project funded by the UNEP-UNDP Poverty Environment Initiative.
Impact This collaboration has led to the exchange of knowledge and ideas concerning the NERC-ESPA project as well as concerning a parallel project funded by the UNEP-UNDP Poverty Environment Initiative. This is a multi-disciplinary collaboration involving in particular economics, international development, geography and ecology.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Collaboration with the Department of Geography, University of Cambridge 
Organisation University of Cambridge
Department Department of Geography
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The research team organised and hosted regular meetings with the partner, as well engaged in discussions and exchanged expertise with regards to the project.
Collaborator Contribution The partner participated in regular meetings to discuss the project, exchange ideas and contribute towards project implementation. The postdoctoral researcher employed as part of the project is predominantly based in the Cambridge Geography Department and physically located in the David Attenborough Building as part of the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute.
Impact As a result of the collaboration the research teams conducted a literature review, analysis of existing conceptual frameworks linked to the project and wrote an academic paper, which has been submitted to a peer-reviewed journal for publication. The research teams also organised an expert workshop in May 2017, presented at a workshop in Brazil in June 2016 on environmental change and poverty in the Amazon, joint a trip to Rwanda in August 2016 to engage with stakeholders there, presented and discussed the project with the Rwandan High Commissioner in October 2016, developed a policy brief based on the project outputs, contributed towards a report for UNDP-UNEP Poverty Environment Initiative and wrote an article for The Conversation. It is a multi-disciplinary collaboration spanning the social and natural sciences, in particular economics, geography and ecology.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Collaboration with the University of Southampton 
Organisation University of Southampton
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Our research team organised and hosted various meetings with the partner. Engaged in discussions and exchanged expertise with regards to the project.
Collaborator Contribution Attended meetings, engaged in discussions and exchanged expertise with regards to the project.
Impact As a result of the collaboration the research teams conducted a literature review, analysis of existing conceptual frameworks linked to the project and wrote an academic paper, which has been submitted to a peer-reviewed journal for publication. The research teams also organised an expert workshop in May 2017, jointly presented and discussed the project with the Rwandan High Commissioner in October 2016, developed a policy brief based on the project outputs, and presented at the African Ecosystem Services for SDGs in Africa Conference in Nairobi in November 2016. It is a multi-disciplinary collaboration spanning the social and natural sciences, in particular economics, geography and ecology.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Partnership with UNDP-UNEP Poverty Environment Initiative (PEI) 
Organisation UNDP-UNEP Poverty Environment Initiative
Country Global 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Our research team contributed knowledge and ideas through various meetings with the partner as well as to a report on how to integrate environmental and poverty data. A team member further joined PEI on a trip to Rwanda and engaged with relevant stakeholders there.
Collaborator Contribution The partner attended a workshop in May 2016 organised by the project team as part of this award, engaged with the project team through various meetings and invited a member of the project team to join a trip to Rwanda in August 2016 to engage with in-country stakeholders on issues directly relevant to the project.
Impact The main outputs are (1) engagement with stakeholders during a trip to Rwanda and (2) a report on integrating environmental and poverty data. The collaboration is multi-disciplinary, involving especially economics, geography, conservation, environmental sciences and ecology.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Article for The Conversation 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Wrote a journalistic article for The Conversation to disseminate the project findings to a broader audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description British Ecological Society Annual Conference 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited contribution to a panel on Ecosystem Services for Human Well-being: Achievements and Future Research Directions. Bhaskar Vira presented findings from this ESPA project: " The political ecology of ecosystem services for poverty alleviation"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.britishecologicalsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/BES-Programme-2016-web.pdf
 
Description Climate Climate and Sustainability Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Gave a presentation about the role of the environment for human wellbeing at the Cambridge Climate and Sustainability Festival in February 2019.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Convened expert workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The project team convened a workshop in May 2016 bringing together experts on integrating environmental considerations into concepts of wellbeing and poverty, as well as their measures. The workshop discussions fed into an academic paper. Furthermore, at least one of the participants reported a change in views as a result of discussing these issues with the project team.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Developing an Environmentally-adjusted Index for Multidimensional Poverty: Kathmandu Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The project team organized a workshop on "Developing an Environmentally-adjusted Index for Multidimensional Poverty" on 25 May 2018 in Kathmandu. Conducted in collaboration between the Southasia Institute for Advanced Studies (SIAS), the Universities of Cambridge, Sheffield and Southampton, the UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre, and the International Institute for Sustainability in Brazil, the workshop was a national level methodological and policy dialogue. The agenda of the workshop comprised two key components: (1) reviewing the conceptual and empirical basis for including the natural environment as a dimension of poverty and/or human wellbeing, and (2) assessing and developing ways of integrating the environment with multidimensional measures of poverty and wellbeing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.sias-southasia.org/past-events/developing-an-environmentally-adjusted-index-for-multidim...
 
Description ECCB Symposium and talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Organised a symposium on the links between human wellbeing, poverty and the environment at the European Congress of Conservation Biology in Finland in June 2018. This included a series of presentations, including one about this research project, followed by a panel discussion involving the audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Global Media Forum 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Participated at an expert panel on inequatliy at the Global Media Forum organised by Deutsche Welle in Bonn, Germany, in June 2018. The expert panel was live streamed online and therefore reached a wide audience both those participanting in person at the Global Media Forum and globally online.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Meeting with Rwandan High Commissioner to the UK and Ireland 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Members of the project team met with the Rwandan High Commissioner and gave a presentation on the project, including findings from the trip a member of the project team made to Rwanda.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Panel discussion at the World Economic Forum at Davos, 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The Cambridge Conservation Initiative hosted an event at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos, exploring the role of nature in delivering the Sustainable Development Goals. The panel discussion and round-table took place in the SDG tent, bringing together business leaders, academics and conservation practitioners to share their insights on developing nature-based solutions that reverse the loss of biodiversity at scale. The panel was chaired by Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, and himself a prominent thinker on human rights and environmental law. Professor Bhaskar Vira was a speaker at this panel discussion, focusing on the role of the natural world in delivering the UN's SDGs, with a particular focus on new measures to better reflect nature's contribution to sustainability, as well as to health, equality, justice and climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXQ7LB3h8l0
 
Description Policy brief summarising project findings 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Developed a 1-page policy brief based on the findings of the project. The policy brief was disseminated at the African Ecosystem Services for SDGs in Africa conference to relevant policymakers and academics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Policy meetings with UNDP and UNEP 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Several meetings in the UK and Nairobi with policymakers at UNDP and UNEP to share findings of the project and ensure uptake into policy making. A member of the project team was invited to participate in a UNDP-UNEP mission to Rwanda to meet with policy makers there and to contribute towards a report on related issues led by the Oxford Poverty Environment Initiative.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
 
Description Presentation at the African Ecosystem Services for SDGs in Africa Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A member of the project team participated and presented findings from this award at the 2016 African Ecosystem Services for SDGs in Africa Conference held in Nairobi, Kenya, in November 2016. The conference was attended by academics and African policymakers. At the conference our project team member distributing the policy brief developed as part of this project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.espconference.org/africa2016#.WMgPWlOLSUl
 
Description Rome conference presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Gave a presentation about the research project and findngs at the ACUNS (Academic Council on the United Nations System) Annual Meeting in Rome, Italy, in July 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Series of meetings with policymakers and stakeholders in Rwanda 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A member of the project team joined a mission of UNDP-UNEP Poverty Environment Initiative (PEI) to Rwanda to discuss the project, receive input into the project and facilitate the update of the project finding into policy-making. As a result the Rwandan counterparts and PEI would like to develop follow-up work with the project team that would build on this project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description UN workshop in Nairobi 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Organised and ran a workshop for government officials of Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique at the UNEP complex in Nairobi, Kenya, in June 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description University lecture (University of Tyumen) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Judith Schleicher (Co-I) gave a lecture to students at the University of Tyumen to slightly over 100 students on the sustainability and the links of the environment and human wellbeing in February 2019. The students were very engaged and asked many questions after the talk. They will reaction papers to the lecture.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Webinar: Poorer without it? The neglected role of the environment in addressing poverty 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This webinar presented and discussed the findings of research funded by the UK's ESPA programme and Global Challenges Research Fund that describes:
- A new conceptual understanding of the environment as a missing dimension of poverty;
- Why this is important for allocating resources to poverty alleviation efforts; and
- Practical ways in which this understanding can be integrated in measuring multidimensional poverty through top-down (e.g. satellite) and bottom-up (e.g. household survey) data collection, and what this means for developing indicators for measuring poverty.

Speakers:
Judith Schleicher, Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, UK; Professor Bhaskar Vira, Professor of Political Economy, Fellow of Fitzwilliam College, and Director of the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute; David Smith, Manager of the UNDP-UN Environment Poverty-Environment Initiative Africa Programme; and Marije Schaafsma, Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Geography and Environment, University of Southampton.

The presentation and discussion allowed participants to engage with the methodology and findings from the project, and to consider the wider applications of this approach.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.espa.ac.uk/event/webinar-poorer-without-it-neglected-role-environment-addressing-poverty
 
Description Workshop on Supporting Sustainable Ecosystems For Poverty Alleviation in the Amazon 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact A member of the project team participated and presented at the workshop on Supporting Sustainable Ecosystems For Poverty Alleviation in the Amazon, held in Manaus, Brazil. The workshop brought together early-career researchers from Brazil and the UK working on these issues to discuss ideas, key challenges, how to address them and provide a platform for collaboration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016