Scientists and decision makers coproduce information for action

The South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and SwedBio have collaborated since 2011, supporting decision makers in Africa with state of the art information on biodiversity and ecosystem services in a variety of policy, decision making and implementation contexts. This collaboration has significantly impacted South Africa’s water resource planning by identifying South Africa’s Strategic Water Source Areas (SWSA) through ongoing multi-stakeholder dialogues and knowledge coproduction processes. This work has had good uptake in various planning processes, for example in the National Water Resource Strategy, the World Wildlife Fund-South Africa’s ongoing campaign on SWSA and a foundation for the Centre For Environmental Right’s (CER) litigation.

The CSIR team also responded to the need for better indicators of how ecosystems support livelihoods at national scale and progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), by exploring alternative and easily accessible data such as survey data. The team developed indicators showing nature’s contribution to poverty reduction through income generation, and formal job creation from nature-based sectors. Efforts also focused on building a community of practice of Southern Africa researchers and practitioners on mainstreaming ecosystem services into decision making-processes e.g. National development planning. They did this through various training and workshops.

 

Scaling up to Africa: creating a community of practice

In the current collaboration with SwedBio, the CSIR team has scaled up their efforts and turned their attention to the broader African region. Information on how ecosystems support human wellbeing is scattered and unevenly distributed in Africa, with large gaps in data and few connections amongst experts. The lack of capacity and resources, means that African issues are not only underrepresented in global ecosystem assessments such as the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and other international science-policy assessments such as the Global Environmental Outlook (GEO), but also in other important policy processes which govern Africa’s resources.

The collaboration aims to enhance the work of the IPBES Technical Support Unit for the Africa Region, through better understanding of the tools and knowledge that is needed to enhance the sustainable management of Africa’s resources in support of human wellbeing. The knowledge co-produced in the IPBES regional assessment for Africa, the Land Degradation and Restoration Assessment and associated Summaries for Policy Makers, is tailored toward helping African governments and institutions develop strategies to meet the sustainability and conservation goals set out in the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and Sustainable Development Goals, in line with the aspirations articulated in the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

 

A multi-faceted collaboration

In addition to contributing to the IPBES assessments, the project has been collating available data on ecosystem services, biodiversity, and human wellbeing, and has created a spatial database of African case studies. The team also highlights critical intersectional issues where combinations of gender, poverty, rights and access influence who benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services, and the importance of power and politics in these processes. Another prioritised component is providing training and capacity building amongst ecosystem assessment practitioners in Africa to enable their meaningful participation in the IPBES Africa regional assessment, supporting the use of this knowledge in planning and decision-making processes.

One of the highlights of the collaboration was convening an African regional dialogue on application of the “IPBES guideline for assessing multiple values of nature and its benefits” in El Jadida, Morocco aligned with the 3rd African Congress for Conservation Biology. This workshop was one of three regional values dialogues that occurred globally. A video that stemmed from the workshop can be viewed here.

Through these ongoing activities a community of practice has developed which will support the uptake of insights and recommendations in various assessment and planning processes designed to safeguard Africa’s unique ecosystems and nature’s contributions to people.

 

On the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research

The CSIR is one of the leading scientific and technology research, development and implementation organisations in Africa. In a long and fruitful partnership, SwedBio has supported the CSIR to co-develop knowledge and action for the management of social-ecological systems and ecosystem services in the southern African region.

 

For more information, contact:

Nadia Sitas (NSitas@csir.co.za), Vanessa Masterson (vanessa.masterson@su.se)