Sheraton Hotel, Ha Noi, Viet Nam – 24-25th July
Nature-Based Solutions (NBS), defined as the use of natural processes and/or elements to increase ecosystem health of human-altered systems, have strong potential to achieve the triple goal of reducing damage to ecosystems, meeting increasing demands and enhancing resilience to climate change in Asia’s agricultural sector. Primary purposes of NBS can be production, structural engineering (green infrastructure (GI)), bioremediation, or conservation. Although certain practices that fall within this definition have long been utilised by farmers, there is an advantage to bringing them under the umbrella of NBS, together with innovative measures which are emerging from other sectors like urban planning and design, where the concept of GI is more commonly applied.
Natural ecosystems are multifunctional, and their processes and elements are therefore excellent at providing multiple benefits. Riparian buffer zones, a conserved strip of vegetation between a stream or river and adjacent agricultural fields, for example, can filter pollution from agricultural runoff and subsurface flow, protect river banks from erosion. Additionally, they can increase resilience against climate change by decreasing the impact of floods or even droughts and high temperatures (mostly through the provision of shelter and shading by trees), and providing tree-based produce which can diversify the food and income of rural communities.
From the 24-25th July 2019, ICEM with the Government of Vietnam and FAO, convened a regional workshop “Potential for applying Nature-Based Solutions and Green Infrastructure in Asia’s agriculture”, with the aim to exchange knowledge and experience on challenges and opportunities with current and potential NBS in the agricultural sector. The workshop is part of the FAO funded project “Identifying Green Infrastructure and Nature-Based Solutions for More Resilient Rural Communities”. As part of the project, ICEM is undertaking a comprehensive research to take stock of existing NBS in the agricultural sector and formulate a framework for classification, analysis and planning of NBS.
The workshop was opened with a statement from Dr. Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy, Director General of the Department of Science, Technology and the Environment, at the Ministry of Agriculture and Development (MARD) in Vietnam who spoke of exciting times ahead in the region for NBS.
“Prepare to be challenged, prepare to be inspired”
Following this, representatives from Viet Nam, Indonesia, Nepal, Myanmar and Lao PDR presented NBS case studies across various landscapes in the region. There were also presentations from ICEM experts on evolving trends in Asia’s agricultural sector and from FAO on their ongoing support to NBS in the region. Some important issues and questions raised at the workshop include:
- To what level conservation should be the primary objective of NBS (with the assumption that conservation and environmental improvement measures will in turn provide livelihood and quality of life improvements to communities), as opposed to a primary economic and livelihood improvement measures within the parameters of sustainability.
- Whether NBS is replacement for industrialised monoculture, or whether it can it work alongside these systems
- Emphasis on effects of agricultural chemicals as a major problem to the agro-ecological zones in the region – vital to find solutions to mitigate this.
- Importance of incorporating both a spatial and temporal scale into NBS: problems need to be addressed both on-farm, off-farm and at landscape level by various stakeholders. NBS also requires short, medium and long term implementation and monitoring, which may extend beyond traditional project cycles.
- Importance of establishing a baseline and indicators to measure and monitor NBS ecosystem functions and effectiveness.
- Importance of establishing policy drivers and incentives for NBS. This includes comprehensive economic costing of NBS to establish clear evidence of benefits to decision makers. The objective is to try and have NBS recognized in national agriculture plans and to set out the main principles and guidance – but especially through policies for specific ecozones/regions.
- Also important to establish commercial viability and profitability to be attractive to the private sector and farmers.
- Central focus on communities and farmers within initiatives, e.g. by considering how NBS solutions will link to markets and have social and economic co-benefits.
The workshop is an important step in expanding NBS in the region, and is well timed with the upcoming Asia-Pacific Climate Week in September 2019 which will support implementation of member countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The workshop strongly made the case for including NBS into the NDCs as an effective investment for the future.