Infrastructure solutions using nature

Water security is vital for economic growth and poverty reduction, yet investments in water infrastructure are often contested by many stakeholders.

Volta Basin, West Africa

With grant funding from the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme, the University of Nairobi hosted a project design workshop in November 2010 for the WISE-UP proposal recently submitted. Water Infrastructure Solutions from Ecosystem services that Underpin Poverty reduction (WISE-UP) is a multi-institutional and multi-discipline proposal designed to optimize the benefits from water infrastructure development, using portfolios of both built and natural infrastructure to support ecosystem services for poverty reduction.

Navigating through competing interests, power relations and politics surrounding water is not easy, highlighting the complex socio-ecological world in which we have to make decisions. Ecosystem services are integral to outcomes from water infrastructure development, and they need to be linked more clearly into water infrastructure planning and investment as part of broader development options.

"River basins themselves are natural infrastructure", said Professor Eric Odada from the University of Nairobi, "the challenge we have is how to ensure we do not loose or impact heavily on the regulating, provisioning, supporting, and cultural ecosystem services river basins provide, whilst maintaining the need to provide energy, food, water supply, and landscapes and habitats which work for people and nature".

The workshop provided the opportunity to work with stakeholders for three case study basins; the Volta in West Africa, the Tana in East Africa and the Vaigai in Tamil Nadu State in India. The aim was to identify a shared vision for the project and case studies, to identify project outcomes and pathways to achieving them, as well as a workplan for developing the full proposal.

The proposal was submitted to the ESPA programme in January 2011. ESPA aims to deliver high quality research that will deliver improved understanding of how ecosystems function, the services they provide, the full value of these services, and their potential role in achieving sustainable poverty reduction. ESPA research will provide the evidence and tools to enable decision makers and end-users to manage ecosystems sustainably and in a way that contributes to poverty reduction.

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Work area: 
Disaster Risk Reduction
Social Policy
East and Southern Africa
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