Impact Stories

Find impact stories by theme.

May 2018

The ‘water factories’ in Bolivia’s upper watersheds have been degraded by unsustainable land use. In Bolivia, many communities have no economic alternative other than to deforest their land for agriculture and livestock grazing, even though removing forest cover jeopardises the water sources on which they and downstream users depend. Farmers allow their cattle to roam freely through the forest, contaminating water supplies and posing a serious health risk to water users.

Watershared schemes facilitate an exchange whereby downstream water users provide incentives to upstream land managers to conserve and plant trees, and to manage their cattle carefully, with greater respect for the watercourses. In return, the upstream residents receive materials and equipment to bolster sustainable livelihoods, such as beehives, fruit trees, irrigation systems and water troughs for cattle.

The project demonstrated that the implementation of these ‘Watershared’ agreements is replicable and scalable across Bolivia, and raised interest from the private sector. The solutions presented by ‘Watershared’ agreements resonate with communities across Latin America and worldwide, despite the different socioeconomic contexts and locations.

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May 2018

The livelihoods of the many tens of millions of poor people in Bangladesh’s delta region are increasingly precarious as the natural resources upon which they depend are threatened. Scientists from the ESPA programme and senior officials in the Bangladesh government have collaborated to ensure that development in this challenging area works for the economy, the environment and people. To support more equitable delta development, an ESPA project worked with stakeholders to co-produce ΔDIEM, a cutting-edge computer model that can indicate the effects of development policies and activities on future livelihood and poverty scenarios. For instance, initial trials of the ΔDIEM model show that new and enhanced polders (the traditional means to keep back annual river flooding and storm surges) have the potential to improve life for the poorest residents in the study area, if properly maintained. This pilot has also highlighted the importance of considering ecosystem services across administrative boundaries. It shows how development interventions could affect neighbouring districts. The foundations have now been laid for further application of ΔDIEM in the current study area, across Bangladesh, and also in delta regions around the world. Effective stakeholder engagement and partnership is a fundamental component of this project, with the uptake of ΔDIEM being determined by its value to relevant decision-making and policy processes in Bangladesh.

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May 2018

In the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, Nainital’s lake supports its growing population and tourism industry, but its water levels are declining. A project funded by the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme researched the impact of human activities on water levels, and convened an expert group that supported local citizens who are engaged in a public interest lawsuit to protect their water source.

Nainital is reliant on its central lake to support its growing economy, but its critical recharge zone has suffered a rapid increase in water pumping and construction that has resulted in declining water levels. ESPA research suggested that such activities should be halted in order to restore the capacity of this critical water recharge zone. The research fed into a public interest lawsuit, media articles and a citizen group, all focused on building support to rejuvenate the recharge zone. The Uttarakhand state government has released 30 million rupees (just under US$500,000) for this purpose.

The project worked to empower non-experts with crucial knowledge about critical water zones and the importance of recharging watercourses, and brought together diverse stakeholders (in particular the citizens impacted by water shortage) to promote dialogue.

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May 2018

In Kenya, research supported by the ESPA programme has enabled local people to conserve their mangroves in exchange for community development projects, in a scheme that is impacting both Kenyan and international policy. angroves are highly efficient at capturing carbon, much of which ends up buried below ground and is stored away from the atmosphere.

The initiative researched the mangroves’ total potential to store carbon below ground, and the vulnerability of this carbon if the mangroves were cut. The team quantified the amount by which carbon dioxide emissions increased when mangrove trees die, and then an associated conservation scheme, known as Mikoko Pamoja (‘mangroves together’), engaged communities to restore thousands of new trees along the coastline. This meant the community could apply for accreditation to sell carbon credits through the voluntary carbon market, receiving an income for their conservation.

The sale of carbon credits has now raised US$52,758 and is funding new conservation and community projects.

Further research found that seagrass meadows also store carbon, presenting new conservation opportunities.

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May 2018

Using inexpensive, replicable and ancient technologies to improve water management in the Peruvian highlands, an ESPA project has benefited both rural upstream communities and the downstream capital city, Lima. 

In the Peruvian highlands communities depend on water sources for their livelihoods and cattle, which can lead to overgrazing and jeopardise water flows due to sediment build-up. Downstream, Lima depends on these water sources to provide for its population and agriculture. Historically, data has not been sufficient regarding the environmental management of these highland regions and their role in securing fresh water flows downstream – making it difficult to plan interventions.

This ESPA project found that overgrazing has a significant effect on the variability of river flows, due to sediment build-up.The team investigated and developed low-cost monitoring equipment, and tested and restored an ancient hydrological technique, mamanteo, as an example of an inexpensive way to manage water flows effectively.Using this research as a case study, Lima’s water utility is investing US$23 million in ‘green infrastructure’, with US$1 million allocated for mamanteo restoration.

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Mar 2018

Cocoa production is a pillar of Ghana’s economy and of rural livelihoods, but it is at risk from forest degradation and climate change. An Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) project has identified eco-friendly farming methods that could play a role in securing the crop’s future.

Key messages of this ESPA Impacts Story are:

• Ghana’s cocoa yields are at risk from both forest loss and from the impacts of climate change.

• Private cocoa companies, the smallholder farmers from whom companies purchase cocoa beans, and the Government of Ghana all have an interest in protecting and enhancing yields of the lucrative cocoa crop.

• The ESPA ECOLIMITS project has identified eco-friendly practices and key management variables that have the potential to boost cocoa yields.

• Improved cocoa yields help address some – but not all – aspects of rural poverty.

• Farming methods alone will not address the security of cocoa farmers and the ecological health of Ghana’s cocoa forests. Policy changes at national level are needed for Ghanaian cocoa farming to reach its potential for economic, social and environmental sustainability.

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