Agriculture and Ecosystems Blog

Improved natural resource management for livelihoods, food security and the natural environment

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Wapichan people heading out into the forest to gather produce. Photo: Fred Pearce

Time to hand back protected areas in the name of conservation

How can we best protect forests for the myriad ecosystem services they provide – capturing and storing carbon, protecting river systems and soils, maintaining biodiversity and ensuring access to bushmeat? The presumption is that the local forest dwellers and users have to be kept out. But that increasingly looks like exactly the wrong approach.

Brakish water fish farm inside a polder in Bangladesh. Photo: CPWF

Is community water management in Bangladesh working?

Community-Based Natural Resources Management has been applied widely, from the forests of Malawi to the coastal zone of Bangladesh. But it appears that leaks are beginning to spring in the CBNRM foundation. No longer considered to be a panacea to natural resource management, many are beginning to recognize the weaknesses and limitations of the approach.

Photo: Doug Varchol

The beauty of small things

A new film spotlights a research project that demonstrates how the ‘big win’ is actually the result of the convergence of many small interventions. The project improved inland fisheries in Bangladesh from a number of angles that acknowledged the prevailing social system, market and ecosystem dynamics.

Slide by Mike Muller

How can we harness the nexus to address water security?

Business as usual in water management will not provide adequate water security, upon which our global economy relies ever more heavily. Part of the business as usual that needs to be shaken up is the process-based IWRM that has dominated discourse on water management over the past 20 years.

Solar pumps in the fields of the Nalanda district in Bihar.  Photo: Tushaar Shah

Reversing the Perverse Incentives

The recommendations outlined in this post were shared with India’s Finance Minister during pre-budget consultations. The budget speech earmarked ~ USD 67 million for a new scheme to promote solar-power driven agricultural pumps. How the scheme will be implemented will be clear in the coming days.

CJ Jones

Policy Pitching to the Dragon’s Den

During a “Dragon’s Den” session, researchers and communicators pitched policy recommendations to a panel who provided candid, straightforward and constructive feedback. “If you can’t explain your science to a policymaker, you aren’t going to do any science that’s going to make any difference to anyone,” said panelist Alex Awiti.

Syria

How can we overcome dysfunctional water governance?

Of all the causes of the horrendous on-going civil war in Syria, the one that is least discussed is water. It may be a stretch to call the conflict a water war. But, as Brian Richter notes in his book Chasing Water, years of drought in Syria have “created a tinderbox for revolt” as wells run dry and food prices in local markets soar.

Flash desalination plant on Ascension Island, South Atlantic Ocean. Photo: U.S. Air Force photo/Lance Cheung

Riding the wave of the future with solar-powered desalination

What if a virtually unlimited energy supply like the sun could be effectively combined with the planet’s seawater supply to help ease global water scarcity issues? In their recently published paper (open access until Sept 2014), Sood and Smakhtin of IWMI assert that using renewable energy to purify seawater could one day revolutionize desalination.

Yellow billed duck transporting pond weed on its feathers. Photo: Chevonne Reynolds

Nature: the ultimate innovator in agricultural systems

Sources of novelty and innovation are key to building resilience in socio-ecological systems. “Nature” is the ultimate innovator and we only have to examine adaptations that have evolved in response to complex problems to realise that it is a decisive and creative force. However, we often tend to overlook sources of innovation provided by natural ecosystems.

Colombian coffee producer using the mobile to seek technical advice for his crop.  Photo: Angelica V Ospina

ICTs give farmers the power of choice

Deep into the mountains of Colombia’s coffee region, a producer uses his mobile phone to find out the daily reference price for a sack of dry parchment coffee. He will use that information to decide the best moment to sell his crop, a choice that could represent additional earnings. A choice he didn’t have just a few years ago.

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