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Nature-based solutions in action: Lessons from the frontline - Harnessing nature to address the triple emergency of poverty, climate change and biodiversity loss

The world is facing a triple emergency of climate change, nature loss, and rising poverty and inequality. These interdependent emergencies do not just represent three pressing challenges to humanity; they are interconnected in their causes and consequences, but therefore also in their solutions.

As the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates what was already a ‘triple emergency’, we urgently need holistic approaches and solutions that work on these interdependencies.

The world has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fundamentally shift the course of human development to secure a lasting, prosperous, safe and just future for all. 2021 offers a potential turning point. This year, leaders will make crucial decisions across global processes, addressing climate change, biodiversity loss and sustainable development.

We need to see greater ambition to act at this year’s many major international meetings, including the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Glasgow, Scotland; the UN Food Systems Summit in Rome, Italy; the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15 of the CBD) planned for Kunming, China; the UN General Assembly, as well as other major meetings. The decisions made this year will shape the next decade of action for climate, nature and people.

Decision makers across government, business and communities are increasingly recognising that naturebased solutions (NbS) can contribute to addressing the crises. Defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits , high quality NbS involve working with, through, and for nature, people and climate. NbS offer a cost-effective approach that can deliver multiple benefits when done well.

NbS now regularly feature in international and national policies and plans, world leaders are increasingly making NbS commitments, and experts across many fields are highlighting the approach’s credibility. Many have also raised concerns, particularly about the potential for NbS to be used by businesses or nations to replace or delay the deep decarbonisation of our economies that we know is urgently needed; that the approach could be seen as the commoditisation of nature; and that without adequate standards and safeguards activities done in the name of NbS could harm people and nature. So how do we use the positive commitments to NbS to drive action that works for people, nature and climate?

This report is intended to present real-life evidence of how high quality NbS can deliver positive outcomes for climate, nature and people. It highlights common success factors to ensure that NbS are implemented well for the benefit of people, nature and climate.

The 13 case studies in this report have been contributed by environment, development and local community organisations. They show NbS in action in a wide range of contexts, from a Farmers’ Seed Network in China that supports agroecology by conserving traditional seeds, to large-scale watershed management in glacial mountain ecosystems in Peru and managing flood risk in the UK.

Nature-based solutions in action: Lessons from the frontline - Harnessing nature to address the triple emergency of poverty, climate change and biodiversity loss Have a look at the case studies:

  1. China: community-based seed banks and agroecology practices p.13 The solutions implemented focus on agroecology practices that increase biodiversity on farms, and community-based collective actions
  2. Ethiopia: farmer-managed forest landscape restoration p.16
  3. Ghana: farmer-managed and community-based dryland restoration p.19 As a result of the project, the communities had restored 718 hectares of degraded land using FMNR and these were protected by the enforcement of community by-laws .
  4. Kenya: community-based mangrove forest restoration p.22
  5. Mali: community-based dryland restoration p.25 The project worked with 2,672 rural households affected by poverty and food insecurity. At the start of the intervention, 86% of the project population were living below the poverty line53 and 20% were below the calorie line.54,55 Project participants included 30% of women, who are significantly more affected by poverty and environmental degradation than men because of their limited opportunities to access and control productive resources and markets
  6. Peru: sustainable watershed management in glacial mountain ecosystems p.29 Restored and better-managed water resources and glacier ecosystems have helped to reduce the risk of landslides and flash floods for more than 70,000 people living downstream.
  7. Ethiopia: an Eco-regional approach to ecosystem conservation and livelihoods in the Bale eco-region p.32 The regenerated forests have helped to recharge ground water, including springs, and reduce flash flooding, land degradation and soil erosion. World Vision Ethiopia also supported farmers to establish nurseries and plant both native species and commercially viable tree species to supplement their income
  8. Cambodia: increasing rice profitability to reduce forest and wetland clearance p.36
  9. The Greater Gola Landscape, Sierra Leone and Liberia: forest conservation for nature, climate and people p.39
  10. Kenya: transforming lives and land with sand dams and climate-smart agriculture p.42 Sand dams enhance the resilience of the marginal environment and increase the adaptive capacity of drylands. They raise groundwater levels, enabling vegetation regrowth, reducing soil erosion, reversing land degradation and increasing the productivity of the land. Once the sand dams are built, nature does the rest!
  11. Pakistan: mangrove protection in the Indus Delta p.45
  12. Sudan: community-based land and water management p.49   Overgrazing has been reduced, which helps reduce the degradation and desertification of rangelands. Forests have been restored, and farmland and rangeland have become more productive through restoration and agroforestry practices. In Wadi El Ku, earth dams and crescent terraces help recharge underground water and increase the survival rates of trees and shrubs planted on the banks of wadis. Those trees and shrubs in turn help to stabilise banks, combat land degradation and desertification and further recharge underground water, creating a virtuous circle. In Kabkabiya, Practical Action supported the repair of 29 hand pumps, the improvement of 12 wells and the upgrading or construction of 17 boreholes (seven of which are now equipped with solar pumping systems). Farmers have also been trained to operate pumps and sustainably manage water resources to adapt to climate change.
  13. UK: coastal managed realignment

Further reading

ABOUT: British Overseas NGOs for Development (BOND) is United Kingdom's broadest network of voluntary organizations working in international development. Founded in 1993, has now over 340 members, and is officially recognized by the UK Government's Department for International Development. Its aim is to improve UK's contribution to international development by promoting the exchange of experience, ideas and information amongst its members or with other UK bodies, specially managing training, advocacy and information services.  

NbS