ESPA Blue Skies research and building ESPA’s impact in Africa

Paul van Gardingen, ESPA Director
July 6, 2015
This month I have the pleasure of welcoming the staff of five new ESPA projects to the programme.  At the same time my team in the Directorate is seeking to expand our team by the appointment of a Regional Evidence Advisor for East and Southern Africa to be based in Nairobi, Kenya.
The new ESPA-2014 “Blue Skies” projects bring the number of projects funded by ESPA to 104, with over 800 researchers now contributing to the programme.  The new projects are also important at this stage of the programme in that they were designed to help set the agenda for the next decade of research linking ecosystem services to human well-being, environmental and economic sustainability.  The five ESPA-2014 projects will help to position ESPA’s science to lead the next generation of science linking environment and society, a theme central to the UN’s proposed Sustainable Development Goals.
Our five new projects include three working on expanding and challenging our understanding of how ecosystem services contribute (or do not contribute) to poverty alleviation.  The project “Ecosystem Services as a Missing Dimension of Poverty” analyses the extent to which ecosystems services might be considered to be a missing dimension of the way that multidimensional poverty is define.  A second project, “Framing Debates about Poverty Reduction and Ecosystem Services” seeks to inform the future research agenda linking ecosystems services and poverty reduction by identifying the key disputes and areas of agreement that animate current debates in this field before using this information to suggest areas for new future research.  A third project, Why ESPA, “Why should ecosystem services be used for poverty alleviation? Establishing the ethical foundations of ESPA” takes the debate even further by asking the question “why should ecosystem services be used for poverty alleviation?”  The two other projects relate to marine ecosystems “GLORIA - Global Learning Opportunities for Regional Indian ocean Adaptation” working in Madagascar considering the way that ecosystem services may offer options for local communities to be able to adapt to climate change.  Our final new project “Sharing the benefits of sustainable fisheries: from global to local legal approaches to marine ecosystem services for poverty alleviation” extends ESPA research into a new academic domain asking the question of  “How can science be translated into law in ways that encourage more sustainable fishing that benefits the poor?”.  Each of ESPA’s new projects continues the programme’s commitment to fund highly innovative, interdisciplinary research, bringing together talented researchers from around the world.  I am really looking forward to seeing the results from each project.
At the same time as the programme grows its research base, my team in the ESPA Directorate is growing to deliver greater focus on building impact from ESPA’s excellent science.  We recently appointed new impact staff in Edinburgh and New Delhi and we are now advertising for an ESPA Evidence Advisor to be based in Nairobi. Kenya working with projects across East and Southern Africa.  This is an exciting opportunity to someone who shares ESPA’s commitment to using world-class research to delivery impact linking ecosystem services to enhance human well-being, through environmental and economic sustainability.  The post will be hosted on behalf of ESPA by ICRAF and is currently advertised on the ICRAF website.  Please share this opportunity with your networks, noting that the closing date is Friday 17th July at noon.  I am looking forward to welcoming the successful applicant to my team.