Poor countries to gain from major research into how nature’s riches can drive growth and cut poverty
This week researchers from all corners of the globe will come together to discuss ways of tapping into Nature's 'treasure chest' to reduce poverty, deliver sustainable growth and improve the lives of people in the most vulnerable communities.
An innovative and imaginative workshop, being held at the University of Edinburgh (4-6 October), is making use of video and internet technology to bring these researchers together as part of the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) Programme.
ESPA was launched in December 2009 under the auspices of the Living with Environmental Change partnership with £40 million (US$63.5 million) of investment from the UK's Department for International Development, Natural Environment Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for researchers in developing countries to learn about ESPA so they can submit proposals in the coming weeks,” says the initiative’s director Paul van Gardingen who is based at the University of Edinburgh.
“ESPA will build important bridges between research communities in South America, Africa and Asia that will enable them to collaborate and share knowledge in new, exciting ways. Their new research partnerships will provide governments with the critical information they need to green their economies and reduce environmental degradation.”
The workshop in Edinburgh has been organised to enable maximum participation for the lowest cost as researchers, journalists and others will be able to participate via a live video link. This not only saves money but reduces the carbon footprint for the event.
Over the next seven years, ESPA will bring natural, social and political scientists together to do innovative research that enables poor nations to harness nature to improve the health, wealth and wellbeing of their poorest communities.
Nature provides many goods and services that improve lives and livelihoods and help communities to adapt to the impacts of climate change:
- Forests and other environments store large amounts of carbon in their soil and vegetation and so help to limit climate change, and they also maintain clean water supplies and protect communities from flooding
- Wild insects provide a pollination service for many major food crops that is worth over US$100 billion per year.
- Plants are the source of many traditional medicines that could be developed into commercial drugs for global markets.
More research is needed to understand how poor countries can take advantage of Nature's provisions to deliver benefits to citizens in a sustainable way,” says Andrew Watkinson, director of the Living with Environmental Change partnership. “ESPA aims to benefit these communities by offering practical help in adapting to climate change and helping them to get the most from their local environments.”
Among those who will benefit from the project are South Asian farmers facing changing monsoon patterns and Chinese villagers whose lands are at risk of being turned to desert. Also benefiting will be Africans threatened by drought and South Americans who live on the edges of shrinking rain forests.
ESPA will train experts from developing countries to cultivate new land management techniques and develop flood resistant infrastructure. It will encourage research into possible future carbon trading, which may one day enable industrialised countries to pay for forests to be maintained, helping to prevent further carbon dioxide being released.
A central aspect of ESPA's design is to ensure that the research it supports is relevant and has real impact on the way governments and other decision makers manage the natural resources available to them.
For details of the workshop on 4-6 October see http://www.nesc.ac.uk/esi/events/1109/
A programme is available at: http://www.nesc.ac.uk/esi/events/1109/espa-workshop-agenda.pdf
To register your interest in ESPA visit http://www.esi.ac.uk/espa/user/register
To watch the webstream visit http://www.esi.ac.uk/espa/webcast or follow #espa1 on Twitter.
For the ESPA ‘Announcement of Opportunity’ with details of how to express an intention to apply for funding, see http://www.nerc.ac.uk/research/programmes/espa/events/ao4.asp
Typical ESPA projects could include research on how natural environments can affect or prevent the emergence and spread of new diseases, or on how poor communities could benefit from carbon markets that may one day see other countries pay for tropical nations to maintain their forests to help limit climate change.
The largest share of ESPA funds will support big consortium projects that bring together top researchers from various disciplines from sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, China and Amazonia.
ESPA will disburse £40 million over seven years and encourages applications from consortia of North-South and South-South partners. The deadline for expressions of interest is 8 December 2010 and for bids themselves is 19 January 2011.
The University of Edinburgh with their partners the Environmental Change Institute (University of Oxford), the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London, the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and Technical Assistance to NGOs (TANGO) will coordinate ESPA to build a vibrant well-connected community and ensure that ESPA delivers research excellence with impact.
As well as providing funds, the UK Department for International Development, Natural Environment Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council will play a key decision-making role.
ESPA is accredited under Living with Environmental Change, which is a partnership of 22 organisations that fund, carry out and use environmental research, including the Research Councils, government departments, devolved administrations and delivery agencies. For more details see www.lwec.org.uk
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