BKS - Bridging knowledge systems for pro-poor management of ecosystem services
In the era of globalisation, many poor rural communities are faced with rapid land use change which threatens to reduce the supply the goods and services from nature, such as food, building materials and fertile soil.
The management of these ecosystem services in a sustainable and equitable (i.e. pro-poor) manner requires an ever more comprehensive understanding and knowledge of nature and society and their interactions, at different spatial levels and time scales.
Locally developed Traditional Ecological Knowledge has often been treated as separate from or inferior to scientific (or 'global') knowledge. It has been argued that the over-reliance on scientific knowledge has been a key reason why top-down aid programmes have often failed to deliver sustainable rural development.
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment has helped to increase the recognition that Traditional Ecological Knowledge is of fundamental importance for the sustainable management of ecosystem services.
Pro-poor management of ecosystem services can only be achieved by drawing on both Traditional Ecological Knowledge and scientific knowledge because ecosystem service delivery is highly dependent on local conditions, Traditional Ecological Knowledge is intimately linked with cultural and practices and traditional or informal governance structures (at the very local to the more regional level) scientific knowledge on ecosystem services is still patchy - especially in developing countries.
This has to be done in a collaborative, constructive and non-hierarchical manner. We developed a methodological framework which could do just that. The challenge and novelty of the framework lay, not primarily in the knowledge which it captured or integrated (although that was highly relevant), but rather in the process of creating decision support tools for ecosystem services management that could (a) bridge Traditional Ecological Knowledge and scientific knowledge and (b) be used to design policies for sustainable and equitable ecosystem services.
The project consisted of the following three phases: An initial desk-based study which identified the state of the art in knowledge bridging and the development of Traditional Ecological Knowledge-science integrated decision support tools. It was used to design a number of engagement methods for eliciting Traditional Ecological Knowledge and relating it to ecosystem services and land management options.
Secondly, these engagement methods were tested during fieldwork in Zambia. Instead of trying to map all the ecosystem services mentioned in the scientific literature, we focused especially on those that were raised by local people as being important or being of concern. We used the uncertain ecology and economics of a new agricultural crop (Jatropha), as a case study to examine how Traditional Ecological Knowledge and science linked up or supplemented each other.
Thirdly, using the Traditional Ecological Knowledge elicited from local farmers and scientific knowledge from UK and Zambian academics, we developed qualitative models that described the impacts of land use options on local ES and livelihoods.
These models were used to design an expert system that assessed what rewards (financial or otherwise) farmers would need in order for them to be able and willing to practice sustainable ecpsystem services management. We assessed how these models could be deployed at different levels, from households, villages and traditional authorities, to national government agencies and international NGOs.