MK28: Implementing cross-sectoral negotiations to coordinate Nam Xong water resources, livelihoods, ecosystem services and agricultural intensification

Integrating the interactions between river management, agricultural productivity, ecosystem services, land use change and livelihood status into cross-sectoral negotiations is an acute knowledge gap when designing development interventions in the Mekong region. Policy decisions are currently geared to single sector, agency specific objectives. Although policy outcomes can approximate single sector objectives, adverse and unforeseen social, ecological and economic consequences can emerge for other sectors. Failure to treat individual sectors as part of a coupled social and ecological system compromises overall system performance, generating unaccounted externalities and distributional disparities. Recent evidence from Mekong case studies indicates that sectoral coordination framed by the water food and energy nexus combined with improved systems thinking remedy institutional impediments and bridge prevailing science-policy boundaries. The project will facilitate a participatory process to coordinate development investments framed by the water food and energy nexus and develop systems learning of Lao PDR decision-makers. The process facilitates the discovery of water food and energy interactions and a robust foundation for decisions that address gender specific livelihood, ecological and economic trade-offs arising from proposed Nam Xong River basin water and land development investments. The participatory process will investigate, evaluate and coordinate proposed or impending development interventions and investment decisions; will be conducted with diverse and potentially competing agencies at three governance levels, and focus on the gender specific trade-offs between livelihoods and ecosystem services in the Nam Xong. In preparation of this proposal, stakeholders in Lao PDR were consulted regarding prioritization of research for development initiatives. The National Economic Research Institute (NERI) and the Department of Water Resources (DWR) have identified the Nam Xong as a river basin where competing and diverse water and land demands occur, are likely to continue and decisions across governance levels are often non-coordinated. The cross-sectoral analysis and joint evaluation of livelihood and ecosystem services is a unique feature of the participatory decision support process we propose to conduct in the Nam Xong. This project is led by the Mekong Region Futures Institute in partnership with the National Economic Research Institute, Ministry of Planning and Investment (Lao PDR) and the Department of Water Resources, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (Lao PDR).