How to create an enabling environment to upscale Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA)?
By Marai El Fassi, Angha Wasnik, Chelsea Jones, Jes Weigelt
Insights from a side-event on how to improve donor-funded projects to create an enabling environment for upscaling EbA, organized back-to-back with the Global Soil Week (GSW) 2019 by the IKI-funded “Climate-SDG Integration Project” implemented in Guatemala and India.
Nature-based solutions are increasingly recognized as providing “crucial response(s) to climate change and sustainable development at the scale and pace that is needed,” also being proposed as the overarching theme during the upcoming UN Climate Summit in September 2019.
In this context, the side-event offered a platform to discuss and exchange experiences on the current thinking on mainstreaming and upscaling Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA). The side-event built on the four days of discussions at the Global Soil Week on ‘creating an enabling environment for climate resilient agriculture in Africa’. The Global Soil Week was organised by TMG Research and partners in Nairobi. At the side-event, the lessons learned during the Global Soil Week were discussed with a small group of colleagues representing globally leading organizations in EbA implementation, such as IUCN, UNDP, WWF, and GIZ. In addition, the workshop counted on the participation of representatives from project partners, WOTR (India) and ADIMI (Guatemala). The discussions focused on how the lessons during the Global Soil Week could be integrated into project planning and implementation to allow project investments to be sustained over time and scaled up beyond their initial implementation and funding period.
How to address the missing middle?
The side-event built on the observation that up-scaling of EbA continues to be a challenge and that only few EbA projects are sustained once project funding ceases. Jes Weigelt, Head of Programs at TMG Research, emphasized: “There is a significant missing middle between often highly progressive policies at the national level and successful projects on the ground.” It remains a challenge to connect both levels, to create an enabling environment that would allow project investments to sustain and scale. Against this backdrop, the side-event addressed the question of “what needs to happen in the limited timeframe of donor funded projects to create the institutional enabling environment that allows for later upscaling?” As was stated at the event, upscaling EbA needs to go beyond mainstreaming the concept into policies at different levels. We need to address the missing middle to connect policies with successful projects.
Build on the political, institutional, and organizational structures in place to sustain and upscale EbA initiatives over time. “The communities should be in the driver seat in all initiatives. We should understand us more as facilitators in this process”, claimed IUCN Regional Coordinator Charles Oluchina when giving his input on current actions and challenges on EbA mainstreaming. The local communities are the major stakeholders of natural resource management projects. It is important to recognise existing local knowledge in managing natural resources and integrate it into project design.
The need for participatory and inclusive processes was brought forth as a key message for sustaining and upscaling of EbA. It was highlighted that the internal project logic needs to recognise existing governance structures to facilitate community empowerment and create ownership among the local stakeholders. It is key to identify and analyse the governance structures in place to understand the interests, roles and responsibilities of the different stakeholders in the project area. To that end, participants argued that projects need to provide for adequate time and budget right from the beginning.
Building evidence on EbA effectiveness. The discussants argued that projects need to integrate evidence building even before implementation starts about the ecological, social, and economic conditions, so that the effectiveness of EbA after a certain timeframe can be traced. The current discourse on EbA recognises that more evidence building of EbA effectiveness in different ecosystems, regions, and contexts is needed. However, building solid baselines and post-project evaluations is often not included in project design. It requires solid evidence on EbA effectiveness to enable actors to recognize the benefits of EbA.
Facilitating financial incentives to communities. The discussants argued that there is a need to develop a “business case” for EbA that includes financial incentives to the communities applying nature-based solutions. As a lack of financial mechanisms to sustain EbA efforts after phasing out of a funding period is often observed. As Alexander Erlewein (GIZ) pointed out “Is there a direct benefit for the community, that will be the driver for them to continue EbA practices?”
“Focus on lessons rather than replicating action”
It was pointed out that an enabling environment can be created from the bottom up. It requires working with local change agents and offering time and space to develop responses locally, as well as giving time for social innovations to emerge. These emerging processes need to find a policy environment that supports them. The case was made to build on these locally driven processes to bridge the large implementation gap that characterizes many rural development policies. Investments in ecosystem restoration should be reoriented to address the enabling environment itself, instead of replicating actions only, if these investments are to make a lasting impact.
A forthcoming policy brief will further elaborate on the insights and recommendations from the participants.
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