Is it just all about ‘making the right noises’, or can they make a real difference?

I was completely overwhelmed by (ok, I admit it, I was initially actually deterred from reading) the intimidatingly humongous ‘kitchen sink’ tract at the beginning of the Wikipedia article defining ‘ecosystem services‘ (which is a widely used term used to describe this whole field) which seems to include just about everything to do with conservation and environmental issues.

Thankfully, this talk by Jennifer Morris of Conservation International seems to do a much more helpful job of introducing the rest of us to the interface between business and big environmental initiatives.

The talk, given on April 06, 2011 was called Effective Models for Sustainable Growth.

It was part of the Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders seminar series which is hosted by ecorner, Stanford University’s Entrepreneurship Corner, which is supported by the Stanford Technology Ventures Program

According to that Wikipedia article, experts currently recognize four categories of ecosystem services: The following lists represent samples of each:

Provisioning services

• food (including seafood and game), crops, wild foods, and spices

• water

• minerals (including diatomite)

• pharmaceuticals, biochemicals, and industrial products

• energy (hydropower, biomass fuels)

Regulating services

• carbon sequestration and climate regulation

• waste decomposition and detoxification

• purification of water and air

• crop pollination

• pest and disease control

Supporting services

• nutrient dispersal and cycling

• seed dispersal

• Primary production

Cultural services

• cultural, intellectual and spiritual inspiration

• recreational experiences (including ecotourism)

• scientific discovery

To give you a more detailed insight into their projects, here’s a recent Conservation International press release from the 2nd of November:

CI joins partnership to improve food supply, ecosystem health and human development

“Landscapes for people, food, and nature” launches as new international initiative to team expertise in biodiversity conservation, agriculture and agroforestry

An international group of multilateral and non-profit organizations launched a new initiative today to promote successful approaches to agricultural landscape management that seek to meet goals for food production, ecosystem health and human wellbeing while simultaneously helping to address the impacts of climate change.

The Landscapes for People, Food, and Nature Initiative (LPFN) is a three year collaborative effort co-organized by Conservation International, Biodiversity International, EcoAgriculture Partners, Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, International Partnership for the Satoyama Initiative, United Nations Environment Programme, World Agroforestry Center and United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies.

The Initiative will advance new pathways for sustainable development of rural landscapes by:

    • Sharing and assessing experience, progress, and challenges in adopting ecoagriculture worldwide;
    • Understanding how ecoagriculture approaches could be adopted more widely and effectively to support food production, conservation, and rural livelihoods;
    • Showcasing tools and methods that can help farmers, community groups, private business, governments, and others implement and support ecoagriculture on the ground;
    • Developing plans and action agendas to support innovators and develop ecoagriculture landscapes at a globally significant scale; and
    • Implementing these plans through policy advocacy, pilot programs, new investments, and grassroots action.

Conservation International’s commitment to the LPFN Initiative is driven by the consensus emerging that many current production systems for food, forest and fish products are unsustainable for people and nature, and threaten the long-term supply of food and fiber.

“Identifying landscape strategies that combine conservation of natural areas with implementation of sustainable production practices to increase food production and maintain flow of ecosystem services is essential to our mission.

Our core strengths in biodiversity conservation will complement the wide range of agriculture, agroforestry and other expert capacity in this initiative.”

John Buchanan, Senior Director and Lead for the Conservation International’s Food Security Initiative

Yet from sustainable livestock management in South Africa to emerging efforts to improve fish farming in Cambodia, people are working together in landscapes to find better ways to meet current and future demands for food and fiber while also protecting nature’s services and local livelihoods.

Farmers, policymakers, food companies, conservation agencies and grassroots organizations in all parts of the world are generating innovations to meet the challenge, though today these approaches are being practiced on a limited scale.

Since over two-thirds of the world’s land area is shaped by cropland, planted pastures, or other agricultural practices, it is critical to scale up such integrated systems to combat both hunger and environmental degradation.

Over the next three years, the LPFN Initiative will work in three phases:

1. A Global Review to synthesizing the evidence base and key perspectives for integrated farming landscapes.

2. A series of Dialogues will be kicked off with an international forum in March 2012 in Nairobi, Kenya.  This series will bring together farmers, governments, NGOs, donors and the private sector to learn from the Global Review and put the knowledge sharing into practice to alleviate food insecurity, poverty and ecosystem degradation.

3. Action and Advocacy through 2014 to promote the policy, investment, capacity building and research agendas developed through the Global Review and Dialogue series.