The Ecosystem Alliance was a five-year partnership between IUCN NL, Both ENDS and Wetlands International. The programme ‘Empowering People and Nature’ ran from 2011 to 2015 and was funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Header photo: Paraguay River upstream of Corumba, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil (Photo by Tamara Mohr)

Goal of the Ecosystem Alliance

The three alliance partners were committed to the sustainable use, conservation and restoration of ecosystems on which people depend for their livelihoods in countries in Africa, Asia and South America.

The goal of this programme was to work with nature to improve the livelihoods of people living in poverty and to build an inclusive economy create an inclusive economy through participatory and responsible management of ecosystems. We did this by facilitating and strengthening national and international civil society organisation networks. This enabled communities to better participate in and influence the sustainable management of ecosystems.

Moreover, improving women’s rights and strengthening their voice in decision-making was an important part of the programme.

Approach of the Ecosystem Alliance

The programme worked on three general themes:

  1. Ecosystems and livelihoods;
  2. Greening the economy;
  3. Ecosystems, people and climate change.

With this approach, we focused on strengthening the knowledge and capacities of civil society organisations to lobby governments and other players within value chains such as soy, palm oil, biomass and mining commodities. More ambitious and greener policies were adopted and more sustainable business models were developed.

Impact of the Ecosystem Alliance

1. Ecosystems and livelihoods

In collaboration with local and national civil society organisations, we encouraged local communities to use their land sustainably.

Together with these organisations, we increased knowledge among communities, local governments and private landowners about the link between ecosystem services and local livelihoods, resulting in greater engagement among these groups.

Influencing local, national and international policies has led to 77 changes in policy and legislation on ecosystems and livelihoods. The work of the Ecosystem Alliance partner organisations also influenced 33 global and regional agreements.

2. Greening the economy

The programme focused on various value chains such as soy, palm oil, biomass and mining commodities. The programme mainly focused on Dutch and European companies with a large ecological footprint.

The work of the programme resulted in thirteen agreements with companies, industry associations, NGOs and governments on sustainable trade and practices.

3. Ecosystems, people and climate change

By protecting and enhancing existing ecosystems, including in the coastal areas of Benin and the Great Lakes in Uganda, we secured livelihoods and combated the effects of climate change. 23 of the programme’s projects were used to develop climate policies and 13 of our recommendations were incorporated into global climate policies.

In addition, we have increased the capacity of our partners to mitigate the negative effects of climate change through ecosystem-based adaptation in several countries, and applied this knowledge at the landscape level in, for example, the Philippines and Bolivia.

Positive effects clearly visible

The livelihoods of 120,000 households in 570 communities have improved and 1.5 million hectares of land are now under better management. In addition, the capacity of 340 NGOs was strengthened and 38 companies took sustainability measures. Some examples of positive impacts and results achieved by the Ecosystem Alliance:

  • In Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, IUCN NL helped with product diversification and processing of value-added products to ensure more sustainable agriculture and improve access to local or national markets.  IUCN NL helped 3,570 farmers with natural management of their areas through the application of integrated tree planting on their cocoa farms. In addition to natural gains, 90% of the group of farmers reported improved cocoa yields.

  • In Argentina, the EA partners lobbied effectively to prevent the passage of a bill to privatise delta areas and to stop the illegal cultivation of rice and soy in about 500,000 ha of the Entre Rios province.

  • In Indonesia and the Philippines, revitalized community natural resources institutions and mechanisms contributed to protect local and indigenous land uses. These include village forests (hutan desa) and community-based forest management in Indonesia and sustainable development and protection plans for Ancestral Domains in the Philippines.
  • We also supported regional, national and global lobby work in support of Indigenous Peoples’ and Community Conserved Territories and Areas (ICCAs). The development of Community Resource Management Areas (CREMAs) in Ghana in particular has given local communities control over their natural resources.

  • In Uganda, an agreement was made between local communities, governments and a cement factory to limit the environmental impact of cement extraction as much as possible and to compensate the inhabitants for the (environmental) damage suffered.

  • In Western Uganda, we supported local communities to resist the negative effects of oil exploration. To make way for oil extraction, the communities had to leave their land, while their livelihoods depended largely on the agriculture they practised there. Our support has allowed the communities to have their say and to be compensated for losing their land by being given new farmland.

  • In addition, a payment for ecosystem services system has been established for a 37,000 hectare catchment area of the Cagayan de Oro River in the Philippines. With the support of the Ecosystem Alliance, local civil society created some crucial conditions, making local communities throughout the basin less vulnerable to climate change.