Opinion pieces and features from our team, ESPA researchers and others working on science and practice relevant to ESPA…

In Laos, an emphasis on cash-crop agriculture has questionable impacts

01 September, 2015
By Neil Dawson, University of East Anglia
In the remote villages of mountainous Houaphanh Province in north-eastern Laos, change has occurred at a staggering rate. Just 30 years ago many inhabitants lived deep within the region’s tropical forests, where rivers served as highways, interactions with the outside world were rare and virtually every type of resource required for living came from the immediate surroundings. In 2015, the same people sit in their roadside homes, now situated outside of Nam Et Phou Louey National Protected Area, and wait for the daily installment of Thai soap operas to blast through their television sets. But perhaps the most influential change to village life has come in the last 5 years with the replacement of traditionally grown rice for maize as a cash crop. Rice was harvested through strenuous shifting cultivation practices that provided for subsistence agriculture, as opposed to maize, which could be exported to feed Vietnam’s burgeoning livestock supply. With this shift in production mode and emphasis, governments and analysts commonly noted a rise in income among smallholders and a sharp decline in poverty rates. This story appears full of positive trends – but as is so often the...
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Transforming our World by 2030: The Essential Contribution of Ecosystem Services to the proposed Sustainable Development Goals

01 September, 2015
By Paul van Gardingen, ESPA Director
Earlier this month, the United Nations published it’s framework for the post-2015 development agenda “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.  This document will be presented at the UN’s General Assembly in September for the world’s leaders to sign.  The proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will replace the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) from 1 January 2016.
ESPA’s research agenda was a response to the challenges outlined in the MDGs (2000/2001) and the subsequent Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005).  Looking forward, it is the SDGs that will help to frame the way that the results derived from ESPA’s research is used to transform the world.  
Many of ESPA’s research projects are currently working with partners to implement activities to enhance the development impact of their work.  The new UN publication is essential reading to support and guide this work.  The document very clearly documents the importance of ecosystems across a number of the 17 Goals and associated...
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