Multi-Focal Area

Soil conservation in the 21st century: why we need smart agricultural intensification

Gerard Govers, Roel Merckx, Bas van Wesemael, and Kristof Van Oost

Soil erosion severely threatens the soil resource and the sustainability of agriculture. After decades of research, this problem still persists, despite the fact that adequate technical solutions now exist for most situations. This begs the question as to why soil conservation is not more rapidly and more generally implemented. Studies show that the implementation of soil conservation measures depends on a multitude of factors but it is also clear that rapid change in agricultural systems only happens when a clear economic incentive is present for the farmer. Conservation measures are often more or less cost-neutral, which explains why they are often less generally adopted than expected. This needs to be accounted for when developing a strategy on how we may achieve effective soil conservation in the Global South, where agriculture will fundamentally change in the next century. In this paper we argue that smart intensification is a necessary component of such a strategy. Smart intensification will not only allow for soil conservation to be made more economical, but will also allow for significant gains to be made in terms of soil organic carbon storage, water efficiency and biodiversity, while at the same time lowering the overall erosion risk. While smart intensification as such will not lead to adequate soil conservation, it will facilitate it and, at the same time, allow for the farmers of the Global South to be offered a more viable future.

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Guidelines for Embedding Resilience, Adaptation and Transformation (RAPTA) into GEF Projects

The Resilience, Adaptation Pathways and Transformation Assessment (RAPTA) framework is an approach to embed resilience concepts in development projects so they can better achieve their goals, and deliver durable outcomes in the face of socio-economic uncertainty and rapid environmental change. The Resilience Framework guides participatory assessment of current social-ecological systems, and helps identify measures that can improve their condition in the future. It uses an adaptive learning approach which facilitates refi nement of interventions over time, to improve their effectiveness as conditions continue to change.

How can the Resilience Framework be applied?
The Resilience Framework encourages project developers to think about a system’s capacity to cope with both anticipated and unexpected shocks and stresses, and to determine whether incremental adaptation is required, or whether more fundamental transformational change of the system is needed to achieve long-term sustainability. Resilience thinking helps to focus efforts where interventions will be most effective; it considers multiple temporal and spatial scales,
drivers of change, vulnerabilities and possible thresholds or system tipping points. Project developers are encouraged to work with stakeholders to evaluate:
1. Resilience of what? What are the valued products and services delivered by the system?
2. Resilience to what? What hazards or shocks could impact the system’s capacity to deliver those products and services?
3. Key Determinants? What are the controlling variables of resilience in the system?
4. Points of Infl uence? How can the project affect those key determinants?
5. Project Effectiveness? How will the outcomes of the project be monitored, and lessons applied?

The Resilience guidelines comprise seven modules. Each module provides step- by-step guidance to the user. Much of the material will be familiar to experienced project planners. The framework applies adaptive management during implementation, uses results from monitoring and assessment to revise strategies, and tests hypotheses underlying the project design.

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The RAPTA Guidelines

RAPTA is a unique tool to help project designers and planners build the ideas of resilience, adaptation and transformation into their projects from the start, to ensure outcomes that are practicable, valuable and sustainable through time and change. This report offers practical advice to planners, project managers, policy makers, donors, farmers, researchers and other stakeholders on how to do this. This version of the guidelines was developed especially for meeting challenges around the future security of agriculture but applies equally well to planning for climate change adaptation, urban development, disaster management, biodiversity conservation and other vital fields.

RAPTA offers a fresh dimension to the familiar task of project planning and development – one which allows for rapid social, physical and environmental change in an uncertain world – leading to projects which deliver better results, more durably, reliably and consistently. It seeks to accommodate the rate, magnitude and novelty of the changes we face and the fact that, for these challenges, there are no “off the shelf” solutions. It promotes a structured approach to learning that enables constant improvement and adaptation to change.

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STAP guidance on multifocal area projects

STAP developed guidelines for the design of multi-focal area projects based on the principles of resilience. These principles focus on: participation and system thinking (e.g. participation of stakeholders to gain a complete understanding of the problem and responses; slow variables that monitor the interactions between social and ecological dynamics); system structure (e.g. the connectivity of the various elements in a system); experimentation and learning (e.g. encourage experimentation and learning for the purposes of adaptive management, monitoring and iteration). The matrix in the attached paper delves into these elements. 

For further information about the guidelines, please contact Guadalupe Duron (

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Human well-being impacts of terrestrial protected areas

Andrew S Pullin, Mukdarut Bangpan, Sarah Dalrymple, Kelly Dickson, Neal R Haddaway, John R Healey, Hanan Hauari, Neal Hockley, Julia P G Jones, Teri Knight, Carol Vigurs, and Sandy Oliver

Establishing Protected Areas (PAs) is among the most common conservation interventions. Protecting areas from the threats posed by human activity will by definition inhibit some human actions. However, adverse impacts could be balanced by maintaining ecosystem services or introducing new livelihood options. Consequently there is an ongoing debate on whether the net impact of PAs on human well-being at local or regional scales is positive or negative. We report here on a systematic review of evidence for impacts on human well-being arising from the establishment and maintenance of terrestrial PAs.

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Experimental Project Designs in the Global Environment Facility

Designing projects to create evidence and catalyze investments to secure global environmental benefits The portfolio of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) should be based on the best evidence of what works to generate global environmental benefits. The GEF, however, should do more than simply act as a consumer of evidence. As one of the largest multilateral donors for environmental programs, the GEF should be a leader in the production of evidence. With multi-nation investments in common environmental policies and programs, the GEF is uniquely placed to generate credible evidence about improving the performance of environmental programs. Such evidence would not only increase the returns to GEF investments, but it can also catalyze broader investments and actions by making the connection between environmental investments and the effects of investments clearer to external audiences. This advisory document describes one important way in which the GEF can leverage its project investments to generate more credible evidence about what works and under what conditions: experimental project designs. Experimental designs imply that entire projects, or components of projects, are designed with the intention of better understanding the causal relationships between actions and desired effects. Publication Date: May 2012 Authors: Paul J. Ferraro DOWNLOAD

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Benefits and Trade-Offs Between Energy Conservation and Releases of Unintentionally Produced Persistent Organic Pollutants

The report was commissioned following the request from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) to explore the relationship between management of unintentionally produced POPs and climate change mitigation strategies in GEF operations. Specifically, the report addresses whether the implementation of best available techniques and best environmental practices (BAT/BEP), in the context of the Stockholm Convention, has synergistic effects on GHG emissions, or whether there are tradeoffs. This report from STAP, while showing in many instances that co-benefits do occur also provides recommendations to the GEF, clearly demonstrating the need for careful consideration of Annex C sources that involve significant combustion for heat or energy generation or destruction of waste and gives some guiding principles for analysis of benefits and trade-offs. The report also cautions that some unresolved issues could benefit from further work that considers life cycle analyses. Finally, while this report offers succinct and well targeted advice to the GEF, it also suggests some next steps to take, and it is hoped that with the assistance of the STAP report the continued implementation of the UNFCCC and the Stockholm Convention will take place with increased benefits to both conventions in pursuing the aim of a sustainable future.

Publication Date: July 2009 Authors: Siegmund Böhmer, William Carroll, Emmanuel Fiani, Hans Hartenstein and Ute Karl DOWNLOAD

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STAP Screen - 3132

Title: SFM Sustainable Land Management of the Upper Watersheds of South Western Haiti


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STAP Screen - 4964

Title: ARCTIC Environment Project (Financial Mechanism for Environmental Rehabilitation in Arctic)


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Title: Fifth Operational Phase of the GEF Small Grants Program in Ecuador


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