CEESP members to present workshop at the International Society of Ethnobiology Congress

08 May 2012 | News story
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Exploring the linkages between biodiversity, rural food systems and institutions within diverse landscapes. Panels & Side Event

    • Iain Davidson-Hunt, Centre for Community-based Resource Management, U. of Manitoba & CEESP, IUCN
    • Michel Pimbert, International Institute for Environment & Development & CEESP, IUCN
    • Lawrence Baya, Sustainable Use and Livelihoods (SULi), CEESP & SSC, IUCN

Workshop Background

Although much work focuses on agricultural systems within conventional food security research the role of biodiversity in supporting sustainable food systems has been neglected. In many rural areas biodiversity at the species level contributes to rural food systems in the form of food products; these food products are components of local trade and extra-local trade networks. Biodiversity, at the level of land/seascapes, also contributes to rural food systems. Landscape patchiness provides a range of ecosystem services from watershed protection to species that may only be used at certain times (seasons / hunger periods) or for specific reasons (medicines, housing materials). Such multifunctional landscapes also enhance genetic diversity by providing habitats for “wild” relatives of domesticated species. Intersecting with these ecological characteristics of biodiversity and rural food systems are the institutions at multiple levels that enhance or constrain access to biodiversity.

The work of the International Institute of Environment and Development and IUCN (IUCN Resolution 3.017) has recognized the importance of using a food sovereignty framework to understand institutional characteristics of rural food systems. In particular, this work has focused on how local organizations sustain biodiversity important for food and agriculture at the genetic, species, ecosystem and landscape levels. Rural actors and organizations, and the social institutions they create, are key for the adaptive management of rural food systems along with the biodiversity they utilize and the landscapes in which they are embedded. Rural organizations also mediate processes that are vitally important in ensuring the resilience of rural food systems and landscapes in the face of uncertainty and change generated, for example, by climate change. Rural organizations and the multi-level networks they form are potentially important for the governance of food systems and their associated biodiversity rich landscapes.

Due to its focus on agricultural productivity conventional food security policy and programmes have not considered the range of threats to sustainable rural food systems. An ecological approach to food systems emphasizes that biodiversity is important at multiple levels from that of genes to landscapes and not just agricultural plots and fields. Institutional frameworks, like that of food sovereignty, highlight that living in the midst of biodiversity does not increase rural food security if a multi-level institutional framework is not in place to prevent processes of enclosure. In building an understanding of rural food systems as complex, multi-level social-ecological systems we can begin to understand how conservation policies can enable or hinder the adaptive capacities of rural actors and networks in fostering sustainable rural food systems and landscapes.

Such dynamics are of particular interest to IUCN, as conservation policy has tended to hinder the adaptive capacity of rural actors and networks in creating sustainable rural food systems. In the past such negative outcomes were rooted in a perverse feedback loop between conservation and development as seen from the perspective of rural communities. Industrial development can lead to the extirpation of a species utilized by rural people as a component of their food system— a clear bad from the perspective of rural actors. The perverse outcome, in relation to conservation policy, occurs when the population of a species diminishes and is placed on a threatened or endangered species list. This can result in legislative restrictions on its use or increase the demand for large protected areas leading to the exclusion of people from entire landscape or ecological patches that provided specific contributions to their food system. As recognized in IUCN resolution 4.039 the use of biodiversity by rural actors requires a more coordinated discussion between those interested in species survival and protected areas. It is important to begin talking about how conservation policy can enable the adaptive capacity of rural actors in forging sustainable rural food systems.

Introduction to Proposed Workshop

Our workshop will bring together contributions from the Centre for Community-based Resource Management, the International Institute for Environment and Development and the Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Initiative of IUCN. It will highlight linkages between biodiversity, rural food systems and institutions from a diversity of rural landscapes. Through two linked panel sessions and a facilitated side event we aim to highlight the contribution of multiple levels of biodiversity and institutions to food security, discuss the role of conservation policy and facilitate networking of people and organizations interested in the new thematic directions of IUCN regarding food security and sustainable livelihoods.

The side event has two purposes: (1) introduce congress participants to the new proposed programme area of the IUCN Global Programme 2013-2016 regarding ecosystems & food security; and, (2) introduce congress participants to the new cross-commission specialist group of CEESP and the Species Survival Commission regarding Sustainable Use & Livelihoods (SULi). As these will be two areas CEESP will be working on following the approval of the work programme at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in September of this year to be held at Jeju, Korea, the workshop will provide an opportunity to connect with current CEESP members working on these issues and identify others with research or projects in these areas to consider becoming members of CEESP.


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