Ecosystems: the Path out of Poverty
An international programme to help the world’s poorest people benefit from their natural resources.
Some of the world's poorest communities live in South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, China and the Amazon. In these four regions, the new Living With Environmental Change-accredited Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) initiative will put in place projects that will enable the natural environment to be harnessed profitably but sustainably, providing the basis for improved quality of life and a more secure future for millions of people.
Clean water, food and fuel are just three of the benefits that natural ecosystems provide. But whilst such services are essential for us all, in countless poor communities around the globe they also represent vital sources of income.
Unfortunately, they have often been harnessed at a heavy environmental price, with deforestation and soil degradation just two examples of outcomes which actually threaten the income sources many poor people rely on.
“We want to reverse that trend and ensure ecosystems are managed in a way that underpins rather than undermines better living standards” says Professor Paul van Gardingen, who is leading the seven-year initiative. “We aim to link together political, social and natural sciences and use them to pinpoint effective ways of pulling people out of the poverty trap”.
Working with policy-makers and communities, ESPA will develop projects that focus on issues ranging from better management of water systems to the role that financial incentives can play in encouraging farmers to manage their land more sustainably. “We need to act now,” Professor van Gardingen says. “Climate change will only add to the danger that delicate but crucial ecosystems are in”.