When I first got the call asking me to take on the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Program (BIO), I had been looking for a way to refocus my work on biodiversity at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). I was intrigued by the opportunity to explore the implications of ecosystem services for our work as a development bank and decided to make a leap of faith. At the time, I had been travelling in Haiti where it is evident everywhere that livelihoods, rural and urban alike, depend on better management of the goods and services provided by ecosystems. Our mission was to find ways to make the concept of natural capital, one of the measures of the Region’s wealth much like human capital, permeate both public policies and investments using the IDB’s work to demonstrate how it could be done.
Working in developing the program in 2012 got us to join forces with Resources for the Future (RFF) on a review of environmental policy effectiveness in Latin America and the Caribbean. Our work towards the launch of BIO in 2013 brought together a broad spectrum of professionals, economists, transport, sanitation, agriculture and energy specialists across the Bank to lay the foundation for what ended up being a small and focused program aimed at integrating natural capital in economic sector work. And our first year of implementation has convinced me that we are on the right track. We now have a creative and energetic team in the Environment, Rural Development Disaster Risk Management Division (INE/RND) made up of specialists on environmental governance and economics, integrated coastal management, forest policy, payment for environmental services and more. Our extended family includes our private sector department Structured Corporate Financing (SCF) all infrastructure divisions as well as climate change, our Gender and Diversity team, as well as the teams in our Knowledge and Learning and External Relations Departments. And we partner with renowned organizations working at the forefront of natural capital issues like Resources for the Future (RFF), Natural Capital Project (NatCap), the World Wild Fund (WWF), the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), the Nature Conservancy (TNC), National Geographic, Conservation International (CI), Latin American and Caribbean Environmental Economic Program (LACEEP), Instituto Humboldt, and the Center for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES).
The main idea of this blog is to provide a forum for people working on the cusp of mainstreaming natural capital in development. Our own work in BIO is coming up with promising findings on subjects as varied as measuring the benefits of various clean-up options of a lake in Paraguay, examining whether the fisheries value of freshwater rivers in the Amazon can be taken into account in hydropower planning and how can small farmers in Uruguay contribute to erosion control and carbon sequestration. And there are promising developments from partners all over the Region. This blog convenes specialists from both IDB and the organizations we partner with. So that in the coming weeks you will see posts taking us on a virtual trek through one of Latin America’s most unique ecosystems. It’s not in the Amazonian rainforest like you might think; discussing how can we contribute to a transition to more sustainable cattle ranching techniques; showcasing how countries such as Barbados are evolving towards using coastal ecosystems as part of the solution for controlling beach erosion. You’ll read a great story on how Primer Minister Christie in the Bahamas gave the Bank the challenge to help him assess the natural capital trade-offs for future development scenarios of Andros Island, the largest island in the archipelago; and how a bank in Honduras is developing “green credits” for the cocoa farmers. And there’s much more to come.
So welcome to all, stay tuned and join the conversation because this promises to take us at the forefront of current thinking about natural capital and sustainable development!
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Title: Uros Fishermen, by Vadim Gran, ©CC BY-NC-ND 2.0,
Text: Mangroves, by Hans Johson, ©CC BY 2.0