Indian Ecosystem Service Initiative to promote sustainable livelihoods (IndES Initiative)
This project was part of the ESPA scoping phase, which ran from 2008 to 2011. The resulting proposal for further funding was unsuccessful.
The aim of this Project and Partnership Development grant was to build a new trans-disciplinary consortium (IndES) within ESPA that could develop and test novel, yet robust, evidence-based decision support tools for creating sustainable livelihoods in East India.
The proposal built on recent situation analyses for the subcontinent and complements other initiatives by seeking to synthesise knowledge about the value of ecosystem services (ES) and human well-being with insights on ecosystem functioning. The Indian Ecosystem Service Initiative focused on ecosystem services and poverty issues associated with forest and water use in three Indian states: Tripura, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh. The project designed a research framework to allow a proposed Research Consortium Grant-funded study to make a comparison of people-environment relationships in mountain, hill, plain and coastal situations. This would have examined a range of services including carbon sequestration, flood hazard and water regulation, as well as the provision of food, materials and energy.
The objectives of the Indian Ecosystem Service project were to: 1) establish a detailed and shared understanding of research needs and capacities within the Indian Ecosystem Service consortium in respect of the issues surrounding ecosystem services and sustainable livelihoods in the target study sites; 2) review the opportunities that novel approaches based on Bayesian Belief Networks offer for synthesising and communicating knowledge; 3) identify key research and skill gaps that must be addressed in order to take forward such work and; 5) develop a funding proposal for a full Research Consortium Grant in December 2010.
Ecosystem services have emerged as a key focus for those concerned with the links between poverty and environment. While it was accepted that strategies for poverty alleviation depend on the sustainable management of natural capital, new assessment and policy frameworks were still needed. Although progress had been made through the world-leading ESPA initiative, much remained to be done in relation to knowledge synthesis, capacity building, and the application and testing of techniques and approaches. The Indian Ecosystem Service project built a platform on which this could be done. The project scoped a full Research Consortium Grant proposal that examined, tested and applied novel methodologies for negotiating these challenging research and policy agendas, by looking at the opportunity that Bayesian Networks offer for integrating, representing and exploiting different kinds of knowledge.
The Indian Ecosystem Service consortium was a strong one, linking researchers from a range of natural science and social disciplines, experienced in modelling and assessing ecosystem services, and analysis of issues impacting on the livelihoods of people living in the forest and agricultural ecosystems in South Asia. The consortium was, however, trans-disciplinary in character, and involved local stakeholders in framing questions and evaluating outcomes. Although the partners had worked together before in different combinations, the IndES project brought them together in a formal way, to develop a holistic perspective on what had been a fragmented field. The Indian Ecosystem Service team therefore brought new thinking to the ESPA programme and contributed to its future strategic development.
Besides other funding bodies (e.g. EU, Defra) the consortium had a track record with the Department for International Development (DFID), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the National Environment Research Council (NERC) and welcomed the opportunity to develop, apply and test concepts to this globally important problem. The project was led by the Centre for Environmental Management at the University of Nottingham, who have been committed to taking the ecosystem services and sustainable development agendas forward at the international level. However, the consortium had a balance of members from north and south, with the Indian Co-Investigators (Co-Is) also playing a key role in contributing expertise on the structure and functioning of forest ecosystems, the role of these systems in sustaining human well-being and political/social contexts in which strategies for poverty reduction were set.