Environmental Change Institute, Smith School & The Nature Conservancy
8A. NbS for sustainable food production, water security and resilienceRead full session summary
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Session 8A, NbS for sustainable food production, water security and resilience, strengthened the connection between NbS for water and food security, illustrating how NbS seek to enhance water storage, supply and quality to support agricultural production and livelihoods, including practices such as agroforestry and regenerative agriculture that can also enhance biodiversity.
Nandita Basu and Susan Chomba began by giving overviews of the considerations around NbS for water and food security, respectively. Basu spoke about ‘solutionscapes’ and the co-benefits and tradeoffs of using NbS for water security and water quality, for example stressing the importance of spatially-targeted restoration of wetlands for excess nutrient retention, and that impacts are location specific: something that is a co-benefit in one place, may be a tradeoff in another location. Susan emphasised how it is impossible to solve climate change and biodiversity loss without changing our food systems, and that we must understand the impacts of NbS on food production in different cases and contexts. Focusing on landscape restoration and agroforestry in Africa, she gave examples of different ways NbS could interact with food production, on the one hand potentially contributing to soil health and water availability for crops, and on the other hand potentially competing for land and water.
We then heard about two case studies of programmes being implemented involving NbS for food and water security, and how these are taking holistic approaches to ensure successful outcomes. Mauricio Castro Schmitz described a programme for scaling up regenerative agriculture across Latin America, which works in an integrated manner at landscape scales, creating multi-stakeholder platforms to increase adoption of NbS different interlinked production systems and foodscapes. He explained that almost 40% of land in Latin America is used for livestock and that most of it is degraded and highly inefficient, pointing to a high potential for using regenerative agriculture practices to increase ecosystem service provisioning, while increasing yields. Sophie Tremolet introduced a project using NbS for water security in Norfolk, UK, which uses a water fund model to bring stakeholders together to deliver a sustainable water strategy and address inter-year variability in a water-stressed county. The initiative clarifies the need to develop priority investment plans that are complementary to grey infrastructure investments, to identify multiple sources of revenue, and for disseminating learning from one farmer to another.
Next, we heard examples of ways that Official Development Assistance (ODA) and international climate finance from governments can help to protect, restore and sustainably manage nature. Ina Porras presented some exciting new programmes the UK government is funding in developing countries, including reversing environmental degradation in Africa and Asia, facilitating just rural transitions through repurposing harmful subsidies, and scaling NbS in least developed countries with a focus on a diversity of ecosystems beyond planting trees. Importantly, she also told us about how a new ‘do no harm’ clause is ensuring that all of UK’s bilateral international development assistance does not undermine climate and biodiversity goals. James Allen highlighted that farmers must be part of the discussion on food system NbS, and hoped for greater representation of farmers at future NbS conferences.
This session benefited from a rich discussion in which panellists agreed on the need to provide financial support and incentives for farmers, as there are upfront costs associated with transitions to regenerative agriculture and that their returns on investment can take a few years to materialise. In Africa, climate adaptation, food security and water security take precedence in terms of local priorities, over climate mitigation and biodiversity, so it is necessary to create incentives for the delivery of co-benefits, while also tackling the drivers of agricultural expansion, which are often consumption patterns in wealthier countries (eg. for cocoa). Health and poverty reduction can often be good entry points for successful conservation interventions (eg. air and water pollution), and so more research is needed on the interactions between poverty, health, climate and biodiversity.
- NbS can be positive for food production and water security, but need to be aware of trade-offs.
- Spatially and temporally explicit approaches necessary to quantify benefits and risks of NbS.
- Intensive high-input practices must shift to regenerative agriculture.
- Governance structures are needed to enable collaboration and mobilise funding at required scale.
- More research is needed on interactions between poverty, climate and nature.
- There is a role for diplomatic channels – e.g. Foreign Commonwealth Development Office has pledged to spend £3 billion by 2025 on international climate finance towards measures “that protect and restore nature and biodiversity”.
Co-Director of the Smith School Water Programme, University of Oxford
Dustin is Associate Professor of global water policy at University of Waterloo and Research Fellow at the University of Oxford. Dr Garrick has twenty years of experience in water and environmental management and governance with a focus on property rights, institutions and markets. In this work, he is interested in the evolution of conflict and cooperation over water and other shared natural resources in the context of climate change and biodiversity loss. This work seeks to advance collective action theory and contribute to our understanding of common pool resource governance.
Professor and University Research Chair, Environmental Sciences, University of WaterlooNature-based Solutions for water
Dr. Nandita Basu is a Professor of Global Water Sustainability and Ecohydrology, jointly appointed between the Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Waterloo. She is an Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Hydrology, Director of the Collaborative Water Program at the University of Waterloo, and an Earth Leadership Fellow. She is an environmental engineer, who uses data science, process modelling and remote sensing to explore how climate, land use, and management impacts surface and groundwater quality across agricultural, urban and forested landscapes, and from watershed to the regional and global scales.
Director of Vital Landscapes for Africa, World Resources InstituteTurning Nature Based Solutions on their Head
Dr Susan Chomba is the Director of Vital Landscapes at the World Resources Institute (WRI) Africa, based in Nairobi. She leads WRI’s work on forest protection and conservation, food systems transformation and governance in Africa. She is a scientist with extensive research and development experience in Africa. Susan is a global ambassador for the Race to zero and Resilience under the UN High Level Champions for Climate Action. She was named one of Global Landscapes Forum’s ‘16 Women Restoring the Earth’ in 2021 and top 25 badass women by GreenBiz in 2022 for her work on food and nature.
Water Security Director, Europe, The Nature ConservancyInvesting in nature for water security in Norfolk, Eastern England
Sophie Trémolet is Europe Freshwater Director, based in London in the United Kingdom. She leads the development and implementation of a coordinated European Freshwater Program which works on critical freshwater challenges affecting the health of rivers and associated freshwater systems in Europe. Key objectives include increasing the resilience of watersheds through investing in nature-based solutions, restoring and protecting rivers and siting renewable energy siting strategically to avoid impact from hydropower development. Sophie holds a double Masters in international affairs and economic development from Columbia University and Sciences-Po in Paris.
Mauricio Castro Schmitz
Regenerative Agriculture Director for The Nature Conservancy in Latin AmericaLong-term viability of agriculture through NbS
Mauricio currently serves as TNC’s Regenerative Agriculture Director for Latin America, leading the Conservancy’s Regenerative Ranching and Agriculture (R2A) strategy in the region. Mauricio earned his Bachelor and Master of Science in Tropical Forestry and Natural Resource Management. He has dedicated his career to conservation issues beyond forest conservation and management, devoted to contributing solutions to the conservation and agriculture crisis. He has also worked in conservation planning and strategy development and served as chairman of the Forest Certification Council's (FSC) international Board of Directors.
Economics, Climate and Environment Adviser at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)Investing in Nature for Water and Food Security
Ina has worked for over 25 years in environmental and development economics, engaging with multidisciplinary teams across all levels of governance, from local communities to governments, private sector, multilaterals and international donors in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. She has direct experience with instruments such as environmental valuation and assessments, natural capital accounting, environmental fiscal reform and payments for ecosystem services. She is especially interested in the design of fair and inclusive local solutions to nature and climate challenges. With FCDO, she works on embedding nature in ODA and in the design and implementation of new and ambitious nature ICF programming.
Global Climate Adaptation Director at The Nature Conservancy
Daniel is the Global Director of Climate Adaptation at The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Prior to TNC, this Venezuelan-native was Senior Adaptation Advisor at the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), leading the National Adaptation Planning (NAP) processes in Colombia and Peru through the NAP Global Network. Daniel was both the regional lead for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the thematic lead on vertical integration (multi-level governance). Prior to joining IISD, Daniel was a senior adviser in Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience at Oxfam GB.
Executive Director at Olab
James set up Olab in 2011, a Brazilian consultancy that advises companies and NGOs on risk management, social investment and communication for sustainability. He works with partners to find long-lasting solutions to complex social and environmental issues, by hosting dialogues that help individuals and organizations to work together. James works with governments, companies from different sectors (agriculture, mining, construction, food), multilateral organizations, non-profits and academia. He am interested in the real-life challenges of facilitation - purpose, space, flow, form - as well as its more subtle arts. Before Olab, James worked as the Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator for CARE, Brazil.