Alliances for change: Developing a collaborative roadmap for Ecosystem-based Adaptation

An IKI-funded project by TMG and partners develops a roadmap for scaling up ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change

Tree nursery, Fedecovera, Guatemala, 2018. Marai El Fassi, TMG Research

Nature-based solutions (NbS) feature prominently at the ongoing COP26. Many advocate NbS as a systemic approach to the intertwined crises of climate change and ecological degradation. Expectations are high that NbS will play a prominent role in the outcome of COP26. But beyond commitments and target setting, NbS must be implemented at policy and programme level, with robust frameworks and the best available safeguards. A lack of cross-sectoral collaboration and financing continue to pose major obstacles.

The IKI-funded Climate-SDG project aims at analysing and strengthening the enabling conditions under which Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) can thrive and be upscaled. EbA, a prominent NbS approach, links climate resilience, nature conservation and human development. The projectIt connectslinks local experiences of long-standing EbA projects with national and state level processes serving both climate change and sustainable development agendas. Through extensive work by the partners and other collaborators in Maharashtra, India and Guatemala, the project has reached important milestones. Today, EbA enjoys much political traction in the partner countries, thanks to the project’s approach of bringing diverse actors together and jointly developing roadmaps for EbA to be scaled up and incorporated into different sectoral policies and programmes.

In partnership with WOTR, WWF Mesoamerica and ADIMI, the TMG-led project began in 2018 with the aim of exploring the ways that EbA can support the implementation of voluntary goals such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change at country level. EbA enjoys much international support as a strategy with multiple benefits towards these global goals. Evidence on what it can deliver in the specific context of Guatemala and Maharashtra is necessary to convince policy makers, but has been scarce up to now.

‘Roadmaps for Scaling Up Ecosystem-based Adaptation,’ a webinar hosted by TMG Research, WOTR India, WWF Guatemala and ADIMI, 22nd September 2021.

Researching existing initiatives that combined climate adaptation with natural resource management was thus important in building a context-specific evidence base for EbA. The research carried out in case study sites in Guatemala and India showed multiple benefits such as improved food and nutrition security for 87 % of families in San Francisco, Guatemala, or increases in income averaging 37% for farmers in Bhojdari, India. These case studies helped to create positive, evidence-based narratives, underpinning the construction of a common vision for EbA, as well as to inform the priorities and action areas that the roadmaps for upscaling EbA subsequently addressed.

From this starting point, roadmaps were developed in each context, following a process which was presented by staff from the four partner organisations in a recent webinar attended by around 200 people. After a systematic review of existing policies and programmes, multi-stakeholder platforms were set up to elaborate EbA roadmaps that responded to the countries’ development challenges and ambitions, drawing on local and national expertise.

For example, collaborative assemblies such as the first National EbA Forum fostered exchange across major political stakeholders that culminated in a “written declaration that recognized the need to implement EbA on a larger scale in Guatemala”. Multi-stakeholder platforms such as the ‘EbA Technical Group’ (Grupo Tecnico) in Guatemala, and thematic working groups in India, fostered cross-sectoral collaboration, transcending institutional silos to create concrete action plans for EbA policy design, implementation, financing, and monitoring. Another important activity was communication and capacity development, bringing together traditional knowledge and technical know-how, to increase both political and societal support for EbA. In each case the final step in the roadmap was the endorsement of EbA at the political level.

Model of the roadmap development process, presented by Larissa Stiem-Bhatia of TMG Research in a webinar of 22nd September 2021

While the joint development of the roadmap has been challenging under pandemic conditions, steppingstones for upscaling EbA have been laid. In Guatemala, EbA was little talked about three years ago. At the ongoing COP26, EbA has been included in Guatemala’s country position. Since March 2021, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources has its own secretariat, providing a new home for the Technical EbA Group that was once set up by the IKI project. Thanks to collaboration instigated by this group, a consortium of over 20 institutions from the public sector, academia, civil society, and the private sector, EbA is being integrated into several policy instruments such as the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and the national biodiversity strategy. EbA has also experienced increased momentum in India. Though cross-sectoral collaboration is a big challenge, working groups have brought together actors from different sectors to develop ideas on how EbA can help India adapt to climate change while ensuring farmers’ welfare. This impetus resulted in the creation of the first-ever India-wide EbA network, an alliance of researchers and practitioners that work together to bring EbA to scale in India.

The roadmap development process is promising because it goes beyond knowledge exchange, and enables actors from different levels and sectors to work together. A key success factor in this collaboration has been the counter-current principle, which means connecting local and national/ state levels in both directions. EbA solutions based on long-standing initiatives have informed, and have been embedded into, existing programmes and policies, with the aim of creating an enabling environment for EbA measures to be impactful at local level. While the core objective of the collaborative multi-stakeholder roadmap process is to respond to local needs, its design can be adopted in multiple settings and contexts. This is what makes it such a powerful tool for the urgent work of scaling up.

The roadmap development processes elaborated through the Climate-SDG Integration Project have shown great progress in alliance building and knowledge creation around EbA, as well as in increasing the adoption of EbA into policy frameworks in the two project areas. However, the roadmap only marks the beginning of a long-term process. It is important to translate the ambitious roadmaps into effective action — hopefully supported by a strong COP 26 outcome on nature-based solutions.

Written by Larissa Stiem-Bhatia and Harry Stopes, TMG Research

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