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Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area – DAPA

Ecosystem services for the poor at DAPA

Welcome to the ecosystem services blog from the Decision and Policy Analysis program in CIAT.  We’ll try and keep you up-to-date with progress towards our goals of improving the management of ecosystem services to the benefit of the poor.  Here’s a description of the theme to get started.

Photo of Lake Titicaca by Carolina Roa-Rodriguez

Photo of Lake Titicaca by Carolina Roa-Rodriguez

Theme description:

Large and reliable harvests depend upon ecosystem services. Fertile soils, ample water, and healthy biodiversity are beneficial inputs to agricultural production. These inputs also reflect the potential of ecosystem services. Degradation of natural resources is common in Latin America and throughout the world. Pressures to earn money in the short-term prevent longer-term sustainable land management practices. Trees are cut; soils erode; water sources dry out.

Nevertheless, some people may be willing to help pay the costs of sustainable management practices. Carbon in vegetation and roots has value; avoiding soil erosion saves costs downstream; communities and cities want reliable water. Farmers may be willing to change their practices if the money is right. But who would be willing to pay? What investments are required? How effective are the changes in management?

The sustainable management of ecosystem services is a critical component of eco-efficiency in agriculture, and has direct implications for bringing direct and indirect benefits to the rural poor as both net users and providers of several ecosystem services. In Latin America there is considerable demand for research on the best means of managing ecosystem services, especially through the use of novel payment schemes (PES). This output therefore has two major areas of focus. Firstly, the theme looks to analyze cases across the Andes and Amazon and extract lessons for what policies work for promoting the conservation and sustainable use of ecosystem services to the benefit of the poor, and secondly the theme develops specific tools and methodologies for quantifying ecosystem service flows and valuing them to a variety of stakeholders across institutions and landscapes. Both these focus areas aim at increasing the success rate of payment schemes through learning what contributes to successful, long-term schemes, and ensuring that schemes are established with realistic goals, and that all stakeholders in the scheme have access to information about the costs and benefits of implementing it.

The theme focuses primarily on water-related services and carbon-based services as these are both critical resources under the current environmental outlook, and services for which both demand and formal markets exist for the establishment of payment schemes. However, other ecosystem services (e.g. biodiversity) are also considered when relevant through the bundling of multiple services.

This theme is currently exclusively based in Latin America, although significant potential for transfer of lessons from Latin America to other regions exists, starting with Asia and then moving on to Africa.

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