Ecosystems underpin Sustainable Development

June 30th, 2017

There is incredible generosity in the potentialities of Nature. We only have to discover how to utilize them. E. F. Schumacher

Practical Action have just attended the 11th international conference on Community Based Adaptation (CBA) a global platform of practitioners at which Practical Action country staff can share lessons learned and knowledge from our projects while also networking, sharing and exchanging ideas with practitioners working around the world. This year staff from Nepal, Bangladesh and Peru[i] were able to attend the conference, joined by two staff from the UK.

This year the CBA took place in Kampala, Uganda. The conference lasted for three days and was attended by more than 300 participants from over fifty countries. The theme of this year’s conference was Ecosystem Based Adaptation (EBA), a theme that would ring true to our founder Dr Fritz Schumacher who spent his life highlighting the fundamental interdependency between human existence and a healthy planet.

The conference brings together an incredibly vibrant community of practitioners, and in its 11th year builds on over a decade of shared learning. One piece of common understanding is that climate change is happening now and is impacting the poorest the most. Those whose daily lives balance precariously on the frontlines of numerous threats many of which are exacerbated by climate change. Therefore a key driver for CBA practitioners is that we have to act quickly to reduce this threat.

One cost effective way we can do this is to utilise the potential of nature and this is the basis of EBA. EBA is the conservation, sustainable management and restoration of natural ecosystems in a way that helps people adapt to climate change, coupled with people’s wise management of these natural components to ensure their preservation, to support the wellbeing of current and future generations. The key element is that ecosystems enhance the adaptation capacity of communities and community action protects the ecosystem services upon which they depend.

Healthy ecosystems underpin people’s wellbeing and can help them adapt to climate change in four fundamental ways;

The rapidity of climate change relative to the speed at which natural adaptation, otherwise known as evolution, takes place is challenging existing capacity to adapt. The exposure of people, their communities and societies to climates not experienced during their lifetime, or reflecting the period over which their complex wellbeing strategies have developed is placing new challenges on natural and human systems to adapt. Not only with the pace of adaptation required, but also in a way that can anticipate the uncertainty that the future will undoubtedly bring.

CBA combined with EBA offers huge potential to reduce people’s vulnerability to a range of climate change impacts and provide significant co-benefits for biodiversity and people, especially those most vulnerable to climate change. We need to overcome any existing conflict between the two approaches, and then scale up from the tens of thousands to the tens of millions as rapidly as possible.

[i] Unfortunately our Peru colleague was unable to join us although her paper was presented by Chris Henderson in her session on day two.

One response to “Ecosystems underpin Sustainable Development”

  1. Gehendra B. Gurung Says:

    I was expecting to understand EBA a little bit in depth by understanding the connecting threads (binding elements) between the beads (interdepending components) in the ecosystem. In a natural ecosystem, the connecting threads/ elements are “nutrients”, “energy” etc. that flows from one element or component to another (beads) that bind (make interdependent) the elements or components to each other. If the thread or the flow of energy / nutrient breaks, the system breaks, which cannot run and produce their services. In the EBA, my expectation was, that the effects of climate change on NUTRIENT or ENERGY (connecting elements) flow or the components that interact to each other were assessed, and the EBA interventions were so designed that protect, strengthen or restore the cycles based on the understanding of the climate change effects. But experiences being shared in the events touched upon the elements or components like Forest, Agriculture or Water Resources Management, and were not clearly explaining their interconnectedness / interdependences through nutrients or energy or through other means, how these interconnecting elements (threads) or the components have been affected / impacted by climate change, and how the implemented interventions have strengthened/ restored/ protected the connecting elements (nutrients, energy) and the components from being affected by climate change, etc. etc. So I think there is a need to implement the interventions in an ecosystem approach, not like a general management of resources or the components. The EBA Approach should be different from Natural Resources Management (NRM) Approach or from Integrated Conservation and Development Programme (ICDP) approach for Climate Change Adaptation (CCA).

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