Strengthening Capacity to Alleviate Poverty through Ecosystem Services (SCAPES): Putting methodological developments into practice
In South Asia in general and India in particular, more than one fourth of the population depends for their livelihood upon the services from different ecosystems but are below the poverty line and are characterised as having a low level of well-being.
Conventional decisions of public policy are taken without acknowledging the people-ecosystem linkages. This creates situations where the condition and the ability of ecosystems to deliver those services are affected adversely.
Some of the drivers of change, like climatic variations and loss of biodiversity, are linked with drivers like demographic dynamics and rapidly expanding trade and investment in the region. The scientific evidence base is sufficiently broad and strong to suggest that ecosystem service delivery in the region is changing and this change is impacting the societal well-being and material dimension of the poor in the region, but the capacity to internalise the concerns of changing ecosystems and its implications for poverty alleviation in dominant public policy is limited. Growing societal pressures and the availability of credible scientific evidence like Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) and Inter Government Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have made decision-makers receptive to the role ecosystem services in improving the material condition of the poor. Some of the recent initiatives by the Government of India on watershed management, national action plan on climate change and desertification, assessment of wasteland, new forest policies, task force on Tigers and the biosphere reserve programme clearly demonstrate the level of this receptivity. However, the mechanisms through which ecosystems can be made an integral part of mainstream planning and policies needs a more concerted and focussed approach.
The capacity of the decision makers to analyse the way choices made by society might impact the functioning of ecosystem is not adequate. One of the significant gaps in the capacity identified during the ESPA Situation Analysis conducted for South Asia is the ability to capture the benefits people derive from ecosystems. Since the prevailing market does not account for the benefits, the decision making tool chooses to ignore the benefits of ecosystem services and the costs of ecosystem degradation. People depend on those services but the level of dependence is proportionately more for the poor than the rich.
In this context, our project focused on two components:
- Methodological development to support policy design
- Building capacity and demand.
Component 1 synthesised available information on state-of-the-art methods to support the decision-making process, facilitating the development of these methods within the region and the development of 'toolkits', such as a toolkit for the valuation of regulating services, and decision support systems.
Component 2 built capacity within the region through engaging key stakeholders and decision makers at province level to disseminate the findings of component 1, fostering regional demand for future work within this area, developing regional capacity and awareness amongst the regional research community and developing networks for future collaborations. The project built upon the past and on-going work with the feedback from the stakeholders and key decision-makers in a trans-disciplinary and reiterative framework.