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Landscape management for wildlife conservation

(22 February 2019)

During December and January, I collaborated with UNDP for the evaluation of the GEF project “landscapes and wildlife”, which is executed by the Ministry of Environment of Ecuador and the Wildlife Conservation Society. The project was innovative because it is essentially the first GEF project in the continent that fully focuses on wildlife conservation. Moreover, this conservation is done through landscape management: instead of targeting any individual species or specific areas, the project works with an integrated landscape management approach, that includes protected and non-protected areas as well as agricultural zones. The project wants to collaborate with farmer communities and forest dwellers so that the entire territory will become a safe habitat for emblematic and vulnerable species such as the Andean condor, spectacled bear, jaguar and manatee.

In general, the project was very successful with many positive outcomes such as the establishment of three new conservation and sustainable use areas (ACUS) and the declaration of the largest Ramsar wetland in the country. Collaboration with local communities generated positive experiences through their projects to raise small animals as a protein source aiming at reducing their interaction with natural wildlife.

I was  most impressed with the paradigm-change around the management of human-wildlife conflicts. Close to protected areas and with increasing management effectiveness, the abundance of wildlife that interacts with agriculture is increasing. Particularly in the Andes, there are many cases of Andean bears that have feasted on maize fields or attached young cattle. The traditional way to manage these conflicts is to consider the wildlife as the problem and to take measures to capture, transfer or even eliminate the ‘problematic’ animal. The current project, however, applied a fully different approach that focused on the humans instead of wildlife. It tried to avoid human-wildlife interactions through better agricultural practice. These were quite simple measures such as drinking points so that cattle did not have to walk a long way to find water from the river (and then can be attacked by bear) or improved spatial planning of maize fields to complicate access for bears. With this, conflicts were practically reduced to zero. This has given me an important lesson: conservation can be very easy if we learn to co-exist with nature instead of seeing it as a problem.

A long period in Canada, working on climate change adaptation in the developing world

(15 October 2018)

From mid 2016 until recently, I had the privilege to spend two years in Canada working for the International Development Research Centre. IDRC is a unique institute: it is part of the Canadian international development effort, focusing fully on the support to researchers in developing countries to do academic-level development research. I was invited to lead and further build up their global Climate Change program in three continents. The research we supported targeted the analysis of complex socio-environmental systems and the identifications of barriers to and opportunities for adaptation solutions. This covered various themes, ranging from integrated watershed management to adaptive city planning, from integrated climate smart agriculture to mitigating heat stress and from disaster risk reduction to adaptation finance. This was done all over Latin America and the Caribbean, South and South-East Asia and in West, East and Southern Africa. In total, our team of 20 managed a portfolio of almost 100M CA$ from Canadian, UK and Dutch ODA funding. In this period, I learned a lot about the global development challenges in relation to climate adaptation and I got a much better understanding of the African and South Asian context; areas that I had only visited marginally before. I am particularly proud that we managed to mobilize funds to relaunch the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), now fully managed by institutions from the global South. But most of all, I enjoyed to work with dozens of passionate researchers from all over the world and see how they developed top-class socioeconomic, policy and environmental research.

(here more on IDRC and here more on CDKN)

We published a new book on páramos, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change

(4 January 2016)

During 2014 and 2015, I collaborated with the project "Páramo Communities", lead by IUCN. I supported the organizations who implemented the project (Tropenbos, Instituto Alexander von Humboldt, Ecopar, Randi Randi and the Mountain Institute) to design a methodology for the participatory analysis of the vulnerability and capacities of páramo communities to adapt to a changing climate. I also collaborated during the data generation and processing. This study, executed in Colombia, Ecuador and Perú, was recently published and I had the privilege to edit the book. The digital version can be downloaded here aquí. It includes a presentation of the (potential) effect of climate change at the level of rural communities, the perceptions of these communities of the phenomenon, an assessment of their vulnerability and  capacities to adapt, both at individually and collectively. It also includes a brief policy and level context analysis. I hope you like it!

(here more about the "paramo communities" project)