On 21–22 May 2019, the South-South Knowledge Exchange Workshop on Ecosystem-based Adaptation was successfully organised as the closing event of the Global Environment Facility (GEF)-funded ‘Ecosystem-based Adaptation through South-South Cooperation (EbA South)’ project. The workshop was attended by approximately 70 representatives from 11 countries, including the EbA South pilot countries – Mauritania, Nepal and Seychelles, 5 international agencies, including UN Environment Programme and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as well as Chinese scientists and researchers. It was organised by the UN Environment Programme - International Ecosystem Management Partnership (UNEP-IEMP), as the project management unit within the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences (IGSNRR, CAS).

The EbA South project was officially launched in Beijing, China, in April 2013. Implemented by the UN Environment Programme and executed by the National Development and Reform Commission of China (NDRC), through the IGSNRR, CAS, the project is reaching completion in 2019. EbA South is considered a first mover in catalysing global and regional collaboration to build climate resilience in developing countries through ecosystem-based approach, and seeks to increase institutional capacities, knowledge mobilisation, and the transfer of appropriate adaptation technologies to the three pilot countries within the framework of South-South Cooperation.

The workshop showcased its key deliverables produced during the past six years, highlighting the knowledge products that would leave ‘legacy’ for future EbA initiatives. These include the EbA planning tool “ALivE—Adaptation, Livelihoods and Ecosystems” (developed in partnership with IISD and IUCN), EbA handbook for mountain, dryland, and coastal ecosystems (developed in partnership with IIED), reference guide for EbA research, and resource guide for EbA in education curriculum. In addition, key results from a range of capacity building events were shared. Among these, the high-level forum for promoting South-South Cooperation on Climate Change, initiated by the EbA South, has been widely recognised and, consequently, taken up as a standing policy mechanism carried forward by the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General.

The pilot country teams also presented the main results of the EbA interventions implemented within the strong science base and long-term research programmes, under cooperation between the governments and national academic institutions. These include the establishment of multi-use greenbelt using indigenous drought-resilient and soil-stabilising species on the degraded arid/semi-arid land to combat desertification in Mauritania; restoration of mangroves and coastal wetlands to buffer against flooding and secure coastal livelihoodsin Seychelles; and large-scale plantation of climate-resilient seedlings for reforestation, enrichment and/or household agroforestry for livelihoods improvement in Nepal. The focus on the transfer of knowledge from Chinese researchers to the pilot countries, as an important distinguishing feature of the project, was also highlighted. 

Based on the initiation and substantial foundation from the EbA South, replication and upscaling of EbA initiatives are being realised. In Nepal, a new EbA project is under development with consideration to implement at the EbA South intervention sites. In Mauritania, 6-7 new projects are being designed building on practices and lessons from the EbA South, as the first EbA project in the country. Opportunities to engage private sector in EbA initiatives in each country’s context were also discussed, e.g. mangrove rehabilitation from hotels and tourism-related businesses who are the major money-making sectors in the Seychelles as well as other SIDs. 

Apart from the project results, the workshop also provided a platform to exchange experience and lessons from other practitioners and scientists from a wider EbA community. The panel discussions on South-South Cooperation on EbA; medium and long-term ecological, hydrological and socio-economic effects of EbA; and  mainstreaming EbA into relevant national policies, strategies and legislation also yielded fruitful ideas and wisdom that would benefit future EbA actions and opportunities. The lessons from the EbA South pilot countries can be applicable in other countries since the challenges are similar elsewhere. In this regard, de-risking is significant for proposal for private finance and private-public partnership is necessary. Besides, for typical projects with duration of 4-5 years, certain benefits from EbA interventions would be concretely realised even in decades ahead. Thus, it is important to have both short- and long-term goals in the project design and in the plan to attract private funding. For the latter, valuation of cost and benefit from investment in 1 hectare within 1 year, for example, in economic term would be instrumental. Another observation was on the strength of the EbA South, i.e. on science-based long-term monitoring, which should complement other EbA initiatives e.g. the GIZ’s Global Project EbA, which focuses on EbA mainstreaming.

Prof. Linxiu Zhang, Director of UNEP-IEMP, delivered the closing remarks for the session, expressing her gratitude for the wealth of exchanges facilitated by the workshop and the support tendered by its participants. In addition, she encouraged the partnerships built throughout the journey be continued and collaboration expanded from the legacy that the project has planted the seeds on. “Climate change continues, and so adaptation needs to continue.”