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EcoAdapt project: Lessons Learned from the Analysis of Socio-Ecological Dynamics

EcoAdapt project aims at supporting local organizations to develop strategies for Climate Change Adaptation in 3 countries: Bolivia, Argentina, Chile. See their study on Socio-Ecological Dynamics.
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The EcoAdapt project aims at supporting local organizations to develop strategies for Climate Change (CC) adaptation in 3 territories: the Chiquitano Model Forest (BMCh) in Bolivia, the Jujuy Model Forest (BMJ) in Argentina, the Model Forest of Araucarias de Alto Malleco (BMAAM) in Chile.

In this EcoAdapt context, “analysing dynamics of socio-ecological systems” are: to develop information and knowledge about the interaction between ecosystem and human society; to define the drivers that explain those evolutions and; to propose some representation (conceptual models) of the functioning of the Socio-Ecological System (SES) that pave the way for the following modelling and scenario building phase of the project.

This report presents the participatory modelling activities: the methods and the results obtained in the 3 project territories. It synthesizes three specific reports developed in each Model Forest: Rixen et al, 2013 in the Argentinian BMJ; Aguilar et al, 2013 in the Bolivian BMCh; and Vilugrón et al, 2013 in the Chilean BMAAM.

Methodology: PARDI in combination with complementary methodological tools

Figure 1 from report (p.9): Analytical framework of the socio-ecological systems dynamics

To put into practice this overall analytical framework, we decided to rely on existing methods that organize and facilitate the systemic analysis of these different elements. We especially consider that, with some adjustments, the ARDI (Actors Resources Dynamics Interactions) method developed by Etienne and colleagues (2011) could be used as the main methodological reference. In a complementary and articulated way accounting for the experience and skills of the MF staff or Civil Society Organizations (CSO: BMJ in Argentina, FCBC in Bolivia, BMAAM and SEPADE in Chile), other methodological tools were mobilized and partially used for more punctual contributions enriching the analysis. The Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation (OSPC) served in Bolivia (Salinas et al., 2013) and the Resilience Assessment approach provided guidelines to draw historical profiles in the three cases.

ARDI consists in a step-by-step method of participatory modelling. Each step corresponds to a specific objective. To better adjust the method to the research-action context, we added a preliminary step to the original ARDI method, the Problematic elicitation, thereby renaming the method PARDI. This initial P step aims to define the key problematic / issue that stakeholders share and want to tackle. Participatory definition and formulation of the Problem, aims at facilitating the mobilization of the actors during the process, assuming that a SES modelling that does not focus on a common/shared issue, will not generate stakeholders’ interest and might thus hinder participation.

See pages 9-12 in the report to understand more how the PARDI method was being used.

Discussion on the results

Drivers of changes, specific threats and climate change variable

As stated in the general conceptual framework (Figure 1), dynamics of social-ecological systems are not only driven by climate change but also by other factors. In the project sites, different drivers of SES have been identified such as agricultural market demand and price of products, demography, etc. (Table 7). These drivers can evolve in a continuous way (such as gradual demographic increase), or create specific shocks (price crisis). Moreover, some specifics threats can be identified that could change drastically the structure of functioning of the SES, such as new infrastructures development (e.g. the new irrigation channel in Jujuy may increase drastically pressure on water availability, or the project for a new dam in BMAAM), or political changes that may affect the socio-system.

Thus, the relative importance of climate change as a key driver of local SES seems to be different according to the MF. In BMCh and BMJ, climate change variables (such as change of pattern of water precipitation) are leading or can lead to severe socio-economic problems in the area.

Table 7. Drivers of change in SES in project sites, specific threats and relative importance of CC in the system

Spatial configuration of ressources and actors in territories

The configuration of actors and resources distribution change the dynamic of SES and the possible orientation to respond to CC issues. In particular two factors, the asymmetries of resources and power between actors of the different parts of the watershed (upper, middle and lower parts) as well as the asymmetry among actors inside each part are key elements when building an adaptation strategy.

For example, in the BMJ, SES functioning and dynamics analysis shows that there is an important asymmetry between upper part of watershed (very low population density, no public or private representative organizations) and the lower part of watershed (high population density, economic and social activities and power …). The power of actors of the upper part is very limited, as their direct influence on the lower part of watershed is inexistent. Thus, the local decisions are weighted on securing the situation of actors of the lower part of the watershed.

BMCh offers another configuration where upper, middle and lower part of the watershed are similar in terms of population density, but where powerful upstream actors have direct and important influence on the resource (though land use and micro dams). With clear economic and power asymmetries between actors of upper, middle and lower part of watersheds, the collective management of resources is more tricky and require important conciliation process (as any can imply on the others).

Further cross analysis of the configuration of the actors and resources distribution will provide interesting insights to the reflexion on the building process of adaption to CC and its implication regarding equity.

See links below to each of the case study analysis; Chile, Bolivia and Argentina which this cross site analysis is based upon. (Spanish versions)

See also report to the right for more details.

The learning process during the implementation process activities

In line with the general objective of EcoAdapt, an important factor to be considered in the implementation of the activities is the contribution to learning processes, for which different lessons could be learnt.

Firstly, we can highlight the importance of cross site learning for researchers in the implementation of the process. Indeed, as the implementation on each site followed the same pattern (P – AR – DI – PARDI), the implementation of one step in a project site was useful to the other sites. Except for the initial step of the formulation of a shared problematic, the different steps of the process were implemented first in Bolivia, then in Argentina or Chile. Cross learning occurs at different steps of the implementation. At the beginning of the field research and the training on method dedicated to MF staff, a first lesson was derived in Bolivia where the difficulty to develop a full training during the Synthesis workshop emerged and was confirmed during Chile BMAAM synthesis Workshop. Thus in BMJ, the format of the training was adapted. At the stage of the model construction, the models developed in Argentina were mobilized to facilitate the early stage definition of the other models’ construction. In particular, the final test of the model validation workshop format in Bolivia was used to define the Chilean workshop and adjust Argentinean Workshops. Moreover, in the overall approach for the building of the Model, raising from experience of the Argentina case, the pre-construction of the model based firstly on the interaction between local responsible of model building (student or consultant), MF staff and researcher was generalized to the project sites. This process of cross site learning that facilitates the fine-tuning of the process was facilitated through regular meetings between researchers in charge of monitoring and support of the task in each research site.

Secondly, we can highlight also an in-site learning process from MF staff and with local stakeholders according to a learning-by-sharing process. At the beginning of the implementation of the task, two main challenges were 1) to develop learning process on the method of conceptual model building (using PARDI method) and 2) develop sound models that enable further understanding of the region by MF staff and local stakeholders to set the base for scenario building. Working with teams that consist with 1 or 2 MF staff and a specific person in charge, facilitates the learning process about PARDI method in the MF staff, which alone cannot fully manage the method and if necessary use it for other issue. In many cases, the knowledge of the MF staff was already important but the main interest of the PARDI conceptual method were to integrate this knowledge (in the model), and to share the integrated knowledge with local stakeholders (case of BMJ), or to facilitate collective learning process during workshops (case of BMCh and BMAAM).

Although some evidence of learning process can be identified from experience, a more systematic measure of learning process during the implementation process of EcoAdapt could be achieved. A specific interview dedicated to MF staff and on Stakeholders’ participant to workshop could help to grasp more specifically what they consider they have learned from the experience (at each step of the EcoAdapt Process). This has to be integrated in EcoAdapt M&E strategy.

Table 6 from report (p.39); Characteristics of implementation context of the analysis of socio-ecological dynamics and participatory forms adopted

Conclusion and further steps

The analysis of the dynamics of SES enables clear formulation of the problem which in turn can mobilize local stakeholders to further develop collective action and collective reflexion on adaption to climate change. Moreover, the important actors for using and managing water were identified and their decision rules on the way they interact with resources were evidenced. Conceptual models were built in each territory that enable to present the interaction between actors and resources, and further prepare scenario building and simulation modelling for designing an adaptation strategy.

Regarding the methodological process, we have been able to test the application of the PARDI method in different sites, which benefited from cross sites learning process as well as learning-by-sharingamong the local stakeholders and the Model Forest staff. Moreover, regarding the collaboration process in the project, these activities have strengthened the relationships between researchers’ team and MF though the adjustment of the methodology and co-construction of models.

The process enabled to organize existing information and filling some information gaps, as well as to identify new information gaps. Further activities can be developed to further fill these gaps, to better understand and compare different situations accross project areas regarding stakeholder dynamics and possible evolutions in a context of climate change.

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