The Ecosystem Alliance: creating a green and inclusive economy

From 2011 to 2015, Both ENDS took part in the Ecosystem Alliance to improve the livelihoods of the poor and create an inclusive economy, through participatory and responsible management of ecosystems.

The Ecosystem Alliance (EA) was a joint initiative by IUCN NL, Both ENDS and Wetlands International. With the EA programme we aimed to improve the livelihoods of the poor and create an inclusive economy through participatory and responsible management of ecosystems. The EA also facilitated the organization of national and international CSO networks to create communities of influence for better management, restoration and conservation of ecosystems. Improving women's rights and strengthening their voice in decision making was an integral part of the programme.

The projects and activities were clustered around three themes: Livelihoods and Ecosystems; Greening the Economy; and Ecosystems, People and Climate Change.

Livelihoods and Ecosystems: sustainable land use

We aimed to enable the rural poor to make sustainable use of the land by empowering communities, community based organizations (CBOs) and CSOs to improve their capacities and skills in land use management. Raising awareness of the links between ecosystem services and local livelihoods stimulated the engagement of communities, local governments and private landowners.

Several partners held training courses and assisted local communities with sustainable resource exploitation, including the development of markets for non-timber forest products (such as honey, oils, fruit, rattan and dyes), local products and community-based ecotourism. In various countries the programme strengthened sustainable agriculture, aquaculture, fisheries, and mangrove restoration and management. In Mali and Burkina Faso, the introduction of farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR) on 35,000 hectares around critical biodiversity hotspots turned previously barren land into productive agroforestry landscapes, ready for further upscaling.
Participatory mapping proved to be a useful tool for getting governments to recognize the existence and boundaries of indigenous territories and to raise awareness of community and women's rights and needs.

Greening the Economy: global commodity chains

Many global commodity chains, like soy, palm oil, biomass and the extractive industries, have a large ecological footprint in the program countries of the Ecosystem Alliance. Therefore, the program strengthened the knowledge and capacities of CSOs to influence trade policies, governments, commodity roundtables and companies, in order to have them adopt more ambitious green policies and more sustainable business models and practices.

Roundtables are important multistakeholder platforms for dialogue and defining sustainability of commodity chains. Their certification standards are the best available, but progress has been slow. Achievements include the revision of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Principles and Criteria to include peatland conservation, greenhouse gas emission reductions and management of high conservation value (HCV) areas, as well as the establishment of a Dispute Settlement Facility.

Monitoring the Dutch commitments to source 100% responsible soy by 2015 was one of the activities under the EA. In South America, the soy observatory OSAS prepared land use guidance maps and made proposals for alternative sustainable scenarios for soy expansion and cultivation. A specific challenge for soy has been the low market demand for certified soy and a lack of commitment by the industry and retail to buy certified soy.

Mineral extraction is a major threat to protected areas and valuable natural resources. Lobby and advocacy by local EA partners in the Philippines halted several large mining operations and improved the social and environmental performance of others. In DRC local partners were involved in the international campaign to save Virunga National Park from oil extraction, and local action in Uganda led to environmental improvements in the cement industry.

Ecosystems, People and Climate Change

The Alliance also sought to reduce the impacts of external climate shocks and safeguard livelihoods through ecosystem based climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Ecosystem-based adaptation involves a wide range of activities, including protecting and restoring the connectivity of green infrastructure in the landscape, preserving genetic diversity, and managing grasslands and rangelands in a sustainable way. By training local CSO's in ecosystem-based adaptation measures, these measures are now in place for a total of more than 525,000 hectares in the Philippines, Bolivia, Argentina and Paraguay.

Capacity building and lobby and advocacy

An explicit intervention strategy was strengthening the capacity of EA partners through a continuous and interactive process. The most valued capacity strengthening strategies were 'learning by doing', along with national networking to exchange ideas and knowledge and take collaborative action. Multi-stakeholder dialogues involving government, the private sector and civil society have been successful. The CSO partners found new tools that were particularly important for strengthening their bargaining position in advocacy-related work and scaling up their activities.

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