Implementing cross-sectoral negotiations to coordinate Nam Xong livelihoods, ecosystem services and agricultural intensification - funded by WLE
The project will facilitate a participatory process to coordinate development investments framed by the water food and energy nexus and develop systems learning of Lao PDR decision-makers. The process facilitates the discovery of water food and energy interactions and a robust foundation for decisions that address gender specific livelihood, ecological and economic tradeoffs arising from proposed Nam Xong River basin water and land development investments. The participatory process will investigate, evaluate and coordinate proposed or impending development interventions and investment decisions; will be conducted with diverse and potentially competing agencies at three governance levels, and focus on the gender specific tradeoffs between livelihoods and ecosystem services in the Nam Xong. In preparation of this proposal, stakeholders in Lao PDR were consulted regarding prioritization of research for development initiatives. The National Economic Research Institute (NERI) and the Department of Water Resources (DWR) have identified the Nam Xong as a river basin where competing and diverse water and land demands occur and are likely to continue and decisions across governance levels are often non-coordinated. The cross-sectoral analysis and joint evaluation of livelihood and ecosystem services is a unique feature of the participatory decision support process we propose to conduct in the Nam Xong. This project is led by the Mekong Region Futures Institute in partnership with the National Economic Research Institute, Ministry of Planning and Investment (Lao PDR) and the Department of Water Resources, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (Lao PDR).
The primary project outputs are a cross-sectoral participatory planning process; a data set of Nam Xong household livelihoods; plausible future visions for the Nam Xong; a user-friendly dynamic simulation model (incl. manual); assessment and reporting of Nam Xong gender specific livelihood, poverty and ecological system tradeoffs likely to occur as a result of intended development interventions; analysis of tradeoffs in the water food and energy nexus; a mapping exercise that locates development interventions that align with ecological attributes and community needs and aspirations; an evaluation of decision-maker systems learning; and trained MPI and DWR staff to provide integrated decision support and conduct cross-sectoral planning.
The project will achieve three main outcomes. First, the participatory process will improve DWR and NERI decision-makers’ understanding of livelihood, ecological and economic tradeoffs arising from proposed development interventions in the Nam Xong River basin. We anticipate that improved systems learning will be expressed as increased inter-agency consultation and coordinated policy designs that better account for diverse and competing cross-sectoral interests. The dividend of improved coordination is maximized social dividends and minimized negative tradeoffs between livelihoods and ecosystem services in the Nam Xong. Second, a cohort of trained MPI and DWR staff will be able to independently conduct integrated decision support and cross sectoral planning for Lao PDR agencies. Third, the aim of evaluating research for development outcomes is to build a plausible case that scientific evidence and explanation developed by the research team are correlated with policy and decision-makers’ learning. An elaborated monitoring and evaluation method will be used to detect research output-policy outcome interactions, focused on decision-maker learning.
Integrating the interactions between river management, agricultural productivity, ecosystem services, land use change and livelihood status into cross-sectoral negotiations is an acute knowledge gap when designing development interventions in the Mekong region. Policy decisions are currently geared to single sector, agency specific objectives. Although policy outcomes can approximate single sector objectives, adverse and unforeseen social, ecological and economic consequences can emerge for other sectors. Failure to treat individual sectors
Integrating the interactions between river management, agricultural productivity, ecosystem services, land use change and livelihood status into cross-sectoral negotiations is an acute knowledge gap when designing development interventions in the Mekong region. Policy decisions are currently geared to single sector, agency specific objectives. Although policy outcomes can approximate single sector objectives, adverse and unforeseen social, ecological and economic consequences can emerge for other sectors. Failure to treat individual sectors as part of a coupled social and ecological system compromises overall system performance, generating unaccounted externalities and distributional disparities. Recent evidence from Mekong case studies indicates that sectoral coordination framed by the water food and energy nexus combined with improved systems thinking remedy institutional impediments and bridge prevailing science-policy boundaries.