by Maria Potouroglou, GRID-Arendal
One destination, one goal: To integrate Ecosystem Services into Coastal and Marine Planning in the fictitious country of Bakul.
Where: Kona, Hawaii
When: 5-10 March 2017
What if in the blink of an eye you were at the tropical Republic of Bakul?
This is what tempted us, 22 participants from Hawaii, US Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, American Samoa, Germany and Norway, to come together for an exciting 5-day workshop. Through a series of exercises, case studies, group work, field visits, role playing, presentations and reflections, we learned about ecosystem services, became familiar with tools and methods for assessing and valuing them, identified entry points to key decision-making, and finally designed a targeted communication strategy.
Day 1: Getting familiar with Bakul Country — learning about the most important ecosystems and ecosystem services for the economy of Bakul.
On the first day, we explored Bakul starting from Hanku, the capital city and World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and the beautiful beach promenade, which hosts lots of restaurants and hotels. Then we continued with Indare province, which is known for its wild natural beauty, Coroné River and its delta, the Nelam wetlands with extensive mangroves and seagrass meadows. Last stop was the Bakul Barrier Reef, an outstanding ecosystem that stretches for almost 1,000 km. Unfortunately, we “arrived” in Bakul at very difficult times for the country, which has faced a very long dry season, followed by a cyclone that hit the coast and widely damaged tourism-related infrastructure, finished by the worst flooding in Hanku.
Day 2: Understanding the conditions, trends, drivers and stakeholders related to change in ecosystem services.
The 5-year development plan of the country prioritises the promotion of palm oil production, promotion of fish and shrimp exports, and tourism development, including hotel and port infrastructure. The recent catastrophic events had raised some concerns on whether this plan should be revised in order to better take into account environmental and social impacts. Our role had been revealed! Ta da…We were all employed at consultancies with one common task: To identify the links between ecosystem services and the development plan objectives.
Day 3: Understanding stakeholders’ positions and relationships, conflicts or alliances, and linking institutional/cultural governance with incentive frameworks.
After we conducted an ecosystem services assessment and identified the drivers of change and the stakeholders behind each one of these drivers, the Development Committee decided to organise a stakeholder workshop. They invited representatives from different groups to present their opinion on the current situation, including the Fishing Cooperative, the Federation of Indigenous People of Bakul and the Cooperative of Tourism Operators among others.
Day 4: Meeting the stakeholders
We visited Four Seasons Resort in Kona and Kiholo Fish Pond to reflect on how an ecosystem service assessment/evaluation, based on different prioritised ecosystem services and linked to different development goals, can support the conservation of the ecosystems.
Day 5: Exploring economic evaluation methods and their opportunities or risks, and identifying best policy options.
It had become apparent that all the consultancies involved had done a great job linking development goals and ecosystem services, and by day 5 everyone in Bakul was talking about the importance of nature in everyday life. Our final and most important task was to set up an implementation strategy and working plan, which would outline the tasks, stakeholder involvement, responsibilities and actions, as well as financial resources.
The good news had finally arrived! After a very intensive, but very enjoyable 5-day workshop, all consultancies had succeeded. After identifying the most suitable policy options, the Governess of Bakul had revised the Development Plan so that the ecosystem services would be sustained and the needs of the people and all stakeholders would be met most effectively.
Don’t miss the opportunity. You could be next!