Ecosystem Governance

What do we do?

The Ecosystem Governance programme supports individuals and organisations to manage ecosystems sustainably and to share the benefits equitably. We do this by enhancing their capacities in planning, decision-making, monitoring and facilitating change processes involving multiple stakeholders in ever-changing natural and institutional environments. Building upon an extensive knowledge network in Wageningen University we have access to the latest insights in the natural resources management domain and know-how to facilitate capacity development processes for the embedding of institutional innovation.

We address urgent issues

Ecosystem degradation and an unfair access to natural resources for the bottom billion in this world are priority items on the international agenda. Uncertainties of the effects of climate change, global food, fuel and fibre (dwindling timber supplies) crises, and the effect of men-made disasters render these priorities all the more important. We address these priorities at all levels, from multiple angles and with multiple stakeholders: from International Convention’s COP to village meetings, from a technical advisory to a curriculum development capacity, from community user groups to the board room of multinational companies.

Why ecosystem governance?

Addressing ecosystem degradation requires understanding of both the biophysical and the social dimension of the system. We have learnt that an holistic or integrated approach to natural resources management (and development for that matter) is key in both understanding and counteracting the degradation of ecosystems.

This is more easily said than done. Ecosystem boundaries rarely coincide with administrative boundaries; government departments, civil society organisations and also private sector tend to work along sectorial lines, often bound in limited space, limited disciplinary knowledge, fixed organisational mandates, fixed value propositions. Planning, decision-making and management are constrained by these limitations.

We have identified governance as the domain with the biggest scope for innovation and change: to jointly develop mechanisms to improve upon equitable decision-making and sustainable management, mechanisms for stakeholders to become able to look beyond boundaries, beyond their direct mandate, beyond the value they feel comfortable with, beyond their disciplinary knowledge.

We have an integrated perspective

To us an ecosystem governance approach offers opportunities to make a real impact in making natural resources management and rural development sustainable by:

  • Developing capacity to design integrated approaches for natural resources management and rural development;
  • Helping our partners to define innovative governance mechanisms (policy making, institutional development, capacity building) to apply such integrated approaches;
  • Assisting our partners in translating international conventions and protocols in regional, national and local governance innovation agendas;
  • Promoting integrated natural resource management principles such as facilitating multi-stakeholder processes, managing competing claims on natural resources, creating learning environments, applying multiple scale approaches.

We combine our strengths

We combine technical and scientific expertise and knowledge in agriculture, forestry, biodiversity, water and fisheries management and aquaculture with our expertise in facilitation of innovation and change processes (including conflict and disaster management and reduction), value chain development and adaptive agriculture. Where necessary we draw on the expertise of our colleagues in other units of Wageningen UR.

Our current specific focus

  1. Fish for food – fish is globally in increasing demand and in many developing countries the cheapest source of protein. That combination threatens both freshwater and marine fish stocks. A growing aquaculture sector may bring relief but does not totally resolve conflicts resulting from ecosystem degradation and non-equitable access to available resources. The wise use of fish stocks can contribute to improved food security provided governance mechanisms affecting the sector are improved.
  2. Climate change governance – climate change presents a complex thread to the world. Innovative and integrated approaches in agriculture as well as natural resources management are required for stakeholders to be able to adapt to changing climatic conditions.
  3. Water stewardship – from river catchments and its specific wetlands and coastal zones a multiple stakeholder engagement in the management of water resources is key to sustain agricultural development in tandem with biodiversity values.
  4. Learning landscapes – bringing people together to identify, learn and implement good practices to manage multi-functional landscapes in an negotiated optimal balance of ecological, social and economic benefits.