Written by Manon Koningstein; Edited by Gisella Cruz-Garcia and Tatiana Gumucio
Coffee with… Gisella Cruz-Garcia
This week’s ‘coffee with…’ is with Gisella Cruz-Garcia, who is a Research Scientist in the Ecosystem Services group, which is part of the Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area (DAPA) at CIAT. She explains for us the work she is doing within her team, specifically the work with the ASSETS (Attaining Sustainable Services from Ecosystems through Trade-off Scenarios) and SAL (Sustainable Amazonian Landscapes) projects.
The Ecosystem Services team is undertaking research aimed at protecting critical ecosystem services to society. Gisella and her team’s work is focused on the human dimensions of ecosystem services, and their research lies on the interface of social and natural sciences. In this regard, Gisella believes that it is necessary that ecosystem services research highlights the coexistence, rather than separation, of humans with nature. In order to achieve that, as an ethnobiologist, she has a transdisciplinary approach to the understanding of the interactions of humans and the environment, based on the study of local knowledge-value systems, as well as on the use and management of natural resources by rural communities, with a gender approach.
Together with Martha Vanegas, Erwan Sachet and Marcela Beltran, who recently joined the team to work on her PhD, they are looking into wellbeing and food security as it relates to access to ecosystem services. They also assess local communities’ perceptions of different environmental problems, and the effects these have on their livelihoods. Their research at CIAT is mainly focused on mestizo and indigenous communities in the Amazon of Colombia and Peru and rural communities in the Andean highlands of Peru, and it will be expanding to Central America, as well.
The ASSETS project aims at understanding the multiple linkages between ecosystem services, food security and nutritional health of the rural poor. Gisella, together with Martha, Erwan and Alexander Buritica, coordinate the activities of the social component of the project, which include participatory rural appraisals (PRAs), household surveys and dietary diaries. The project activities take place in La Pedrera, which is an area with a high percentage of forest cover and very low deforestation rate in the Colombian Amazon, and Ucayali, which is located in the Peruvian Amazon and is characterized by an increasing deforestation rate mainly due to logging and expansion of palm oil plantations. This component of the project is conducted with the University of Southampton, Conservation International (CI) and the Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana (IIAP). ASSETS, which started in 2012, is now in its closing phase, and the research team is doing the final data analysis and preparing the main outputs together with local and international project partners. ASSETS is part of the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation initiative (ESPA) funded by DFID, NERC and ESRC from the UK.
The overall objective of SAL project is to design sustainable silvopastoral and agroforestry alternatives to enhance climate change mitigation and adaptation capacities in the forest transition frontier of Caquetá and Yurimaguas (Colombian and Peruvian Amazon respectively), while enhancing ecosystem services and local livelihoods, with a participatory approach. Gisella and her team are leading the social component of the project. This is a four-year project funded by the International Climate Initiative (ICI) of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB). The project started this year and is conducted together with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), and project partners in Colombia including the Instituto Amazónico de Investigaciones Científicas (SINCHI), Centro para la Investigación en Sistemas Sostenibles de Producción Agropecuaria (CIPAV), Universidad de la Amazonía (UNIAMAZ), and Peru with IIAP and the Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina (UNALM).
Gisella Cruz Garcia and her team are also conducting interesting research activities with Genowefa Blundo, who is an environmental economist in the Impact Assessment group at CIAT. For instance, they are assessing the trajectories of dietary and land use change in three rural communities in Ucayali, Peru, by comparing the present situation to the results of research conducted by CIAT 15 years ago. They are also collaborating on the design of a household-level model of trade-offs between ecosystem services and food security, which is led by Nadine Andrieu, in the same study site. In addition, Gisella is part of the project on participatory setting of conservation priorities for the implementation of payment for ecosystem services (PES) schemes in the Cañete watershed, in the Peruvian highlands. In order to achieve that, Genowefa, Piedad Pareja, María Claudia Tristán and Gisella conducted PRAs in eight districts in Nor-Yauyos that
correspond to the upper water catchment and belongs to the Landscape Reserve Nor Yauyos-Cochas (RPNYC). They identified the major problems in different land-uses and the types of interventions local people would like to have for the conservation of water resources. Furthermore, Genowefa and Gisella are going to participate in a project aimed at quantifying the multiple benefits of Ecosystem based Adaptation (EbA) for food security in six countries of Central America, together with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE), and multiple national partners.
Gisella and her team are working on the situational analysis of the state of the art of ecosystem services in relation to food security and human wellbeing in a global context. Finally, a new research project on the linkages between agrobiodiversity and nutrition in the Peruvian Andes will start in 2016, in collaboration with national and international partners.
The work conducted by Gisella and her team belong to the CGIAR Research Programs on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE), Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTP), and Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).
For more information on the ASSETS project, please see the following links:
For more information on the SAL project, please see the following links:
http://dapa.ciat.cgiar.org/lanzamiento-del-proyecto-sal/ (only in Spanish)
For more information on the work conducted with the Impact Assessment group, please see the following links:
For more information on the ecosystem services and food security line of investigation, please see the following link:
For more information about CIAT’s Ecosystem Services Strategic Initiative, please see the report: