EbA Evidence and Policy: China

IIED is working with the Farmers’ Seed Network, based at the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, to learn from participatory plant breeding and community supported agriculture in Southwest China and develop recommendations to mainstream EbA within climate policy in China.

July 2015 - December 2022
Xiaoting Hou Jones

 Xiaoting Hou Jones was a senior researcher in the biodiversity team of IIED's Natural Resources research group until March 2024

Ecosystem-based adaptation
A programme of work focused on people using biodiversity and ecosystem services to adapt to climate change and promote sustainable development
Two women wearing traditional gowns stand in a maize field

Naxi women in a maize field (Photo: coyright Qiubi)

Ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) involves people using biodiversity and ecosystem services to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and promote sustainable development.

Between 2015 and 2022, IIED, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) have jointly implemented a project called 'Ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation: strengthening the evidence and informing policy' (EbA Evidence and Policy).

Working with local partners in 12 countries, the project aims to gather practical evidence and develop country-specific policy guidance on EbA, and to promote EbA at international level. More information and all the case study sites are available via the main project page

What are we doing in China?

IIED and the Farmers' Seed Network (FSN) at the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy (CCAP) are working with local communities, provincial governments in Southwest China and the Ministry of Agriculture to gain policy insights from a project that used EbA to help local farming communities to adapt to extreme weather conditions (especially drought) caused by climate change. 

Established in 2013, the FSN is a pioneer in the application of action research methods for the sustainable management of agro-biodiversity, natural resources and landscapes. It works in more than 30 communities in 10 provinces spanning across North, East and Southwest China and collaborates with public research institutions and gene banks on technology transfer and seed exchange.

FSN's participatory plant breeding and community supported agriculture project was implemented from 2000 to 2016 in the mountain communities in Yunnan Province and Guangxi Province in Southwest China. Project activities targeted ethnic mountain communities – especially 11 villages in Guangxi Province, and seven in Yunnan Province. 

The project aimed to conserve improved crop varieties – especially maize, wheat, rice, and soybeans – tailored to local conditions (especially drought) using local landraces. It also aimed to conserve crop diversity and resilient landraces for food security and climate adaptation.

It worked to link local and formal seed systems through: direct collaboration on participatory plant breeding; raising awareness on the need to conserve landraces for adaptation within formal agricultural research systems; and improving the policy support available for genetically diverse local seed systems and securing farmers’ rights to benefit from these. The project also promoted climate resilient and nutrition sensitive agroecological farming practices by improving links to urban markets.

IIED and CCAP used the EbA Evidence and Policy project’s Framework for Assessing EbA Effectiveness to consult with communities, NGOs, and national and local government staff on their perception of EbA effectiveness. The findings will be combined with those from the 11 other countries to help show climate change policymakers when and why EbA is effective.

Learning from the Chinese participatory plant breeding project demonstrates that EbA can be an effective, financially viable and inclusive way of addressing climate change. But experience also shows that a range of implementation challenges remain. Read more about the learning and recommendations to overcome challenges in the IIED Briefing Reducing climate risk and poverty: why China needs ecosystem-based adaptation

Informing policy

In China the central government is placing increasing emphasis on the resilience of ecosystems and combating climate change, in addition to the long-term priority of poverty alleviation. CCAP is working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and Provincial governments in Yunan and Guangxi provinces to build linkages between government’s strategies on protecting ecosystems, poverty alleviation and climate change. 

Updates from FSN at CCAP


We contributed to official parallel events on nature, climate and poverty alleviation during the CBD COP 15. Our case study was included in COP 15’s ‘100 +_Biodiversity Positive Practices and Actions Around the World’. We also contributed a case study to the CAN-UK International NbS working group report entitled: ‘Nature-based solutions in action: lessons from the frontline’ and participated in the launch event as well as events during COP 26 as part of the Resilience Hub and Development and Climate Day

We shared experiences and lessons learned in China at the Community-based Adaptation (CBA15) conference in June.

 We continued to support local farmers to implement EbA based on their traditional knowledge and close collaboration with scientists through enhancing their networks, providing targeted training and strengthening local communities’ voice in key national policy dialogues. We continued to engage with national and sub-national governments to mainstream EbA into their polices and plans.


We launched the report "Seeds: Global Challenges and Chinese Realities" and held the opening ceremony in Beijing of our photography exhibition about traditional farming culture. Under the theme of "Sowing Diversity, Harvesting Security”, the event also included lectures and was broadcasted widely. More than 120 participants, including farmers, researchers, government officials, representatives from social organizations, the media and the general public from across China.

The event was held with support from the Office of the Executive Committee of the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15). Ning Liu, Chief Negotiator of the Office of the Executive Committee of CBD-COP15, spoke at the event about the need to seek development opportunities from nature conservation, and of the role that farmers play in biodiversity conservation, the sustainable use of natural resources, access to genetic resources, and climate change adaptation.

We contributed to ‘EbA stories of change’ sharing experiences of how the implementation of EbA contributed to community resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic. We also contributed to a Flickr album showcasing examples from several countries.


We worked closely with local government to increase their understanding of EbA approaches. In Qinghai Province, with support from the province’s Poverty Alleviation Bureau and the Women's Federation, we ran two exchange and training workshops in August and October, which were attended by more than 100 government officials. In Hebei Province, with support from the She County Agricultural Bureau, we hosted the FSN’s 7th annual workshop in Wangjinzhuang Village, with participation from local government officials.

CCAP is collaborating closely with UNEP International Ecosystem Management Partnership (IEMP) in China to disseminate research results and support policy advocacy activities. A joint policy dialogue between the EbA Evidence and Policy project and IEMP is planned for this year. 

In January 2018, CCAP organised the fifth annual farmers’ network meeting on seeds and the 9th conservation agriculture conference. The project findings are shared at those meetings and the participants discussed the importance of EbA in the agriculture sector. 

In January 2017, CCAP organised the fourth annual farmers’ network meeting on seeds. Representatives from local communities, government, research institutions and NGOs shared project and research progress, discussed national and international policy context, and planned for further activities to support participatory plant breeding including its role in climate change adaptation. 

In December 2017, CCAP organised a policy dialogue in Beijing to strategize ways to mainstream and increase investment in participatory plant breeding for improving local seed varieties and strengthen the resilience of agriculture ecosystem and local communities. 

In November 2016, CCAP participated in the ‘Voice of Maize’ event in Mexico where community representatives, researchers and NGOs from Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru, US and Canada discussed the importance of genetically diverse local seed systems including its important roles in climate change adaptation. 

Additional resources

Video: Nature-based solutions, from local to global (February 2021)

Storymap: Ecosystem-based adaptation and green recovery: building back better from COVID-19 (2020), Friends of EBA

Photos and video: How has ecosystem-based adaptation helped communities respond to COVID-19? (2020)

Nature-based solutions to climate change adaptation, Hannah Reid, Charlotte Hicks, Xiaoting Hou Jones, Valerie Kapos, Ali Raza Rizvi, Sylvia Wicander (2019), IIED Briefing | en español | 中文

Is ecosystem-based adaptation effective? Perceptions and lessons learned from 13 project sites, Hannah Reid, Xiaoting Hou Jones, Ina Porras, Charlotte Hicks, Sylvia Wicander, Nathalie Seddon, Val Kapos, Ali R Rizvi, Dilys Roe (2019), Research report | en español | 中文

Ecosystem-based adaptation: question-based guidance for assessing effectiveness, Hannah Reid, Nathalie Seddon, Edmund Barrow, Charlotte Hicks, Xiaoting Hou- Jones, Ali Raza Rizvi, Dilys Roe, Sylvia Wicander (2017), IIED


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