IPSI Case Studies Workshop in Japan

Urato Islands, Japan Photo: Akane Minohara, University of Tokyo

From June 24th to 26th, the IPSI Secretariat, in collaboration with the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), held a special case study workshop centered on the theme of “Enhancing knowledge for better management of Socio-Ecological Production Landscapes and Seascapes (SEPLS).”  As part of this workshop, authors from various countries and organizations gathered at the United Nations University headquarters in Tokyo, presenting case study papers and engaging in intensive discussions over three days on the challenges and potential outcomes of work in SEPLS, with a particular focus on the tools and approaches used by and with local communities. In addition to serving as a platform for authors and participants to share and review selected cases, the workshop was also used to facilitate publication of a case study compilation, including a synthesis paper, to provide useful knowledge and lessons learned.

One common assessment that emerged during discussion sessions after the case study presentations was the need to focus not just on conservation activities, but also on work towards creating a culture of shared community governance, integrating efforts into sustainable lifestyles. Ms. Akane Minohara and Mr. Robert Blasiak from the University of Tokyo shared their research regarding socio-ecological linkages in Japan’s Urato Islands, noting that strong community bonds (such as a culture of gift giving), intimate knowledge of terrestrial and marine systems, and cultural richness enabled the community to develop robust and resilient responses to challenges faced after the Great East Japan Earthquake.  This case study highlighted a specific role for SEPLS in enhancing community resilience and disaster risk reduction, but more generally the authors spoke to the importance of building social capital and translating lessons learned for application elsewhere.

Another point of discussion that arose was the issue of how to build trust with communities and to make sure fieldwork conducted would “give something back” to the communities studied.  Ms. Diana Salvemini, UNDP, presented the landscape strategy approach of the COMDEKS Programme and its work to build on the capacities of community organizations to take collective action for adaptive landscape management in pursuit of social and ecological resilience.  Ms. Salvemini used the case of the Datcha-Bozburun Peninsula in Turkey as an example of a successful on-the-ground effort by the local community to maintain and revitalize SEPLS. She explained how a landscape strategy can be used to monitor and measure results of several projects and create synergies between activities, potentially changing the governance culture and enabling long-term engagement at the local level.

During the workshop, it was noted that more studies are needed on the consolidation of traditional knowledge as part of SEPL socio-ecological assessment and management strategy implementation. Dr. Jung-Thai Chao of SWAN International presented a unique SEPL case in Hualien, Taiwan, where an ancient practice was revived, using small green leaf hoppers, normally viewed as pests, to harvest a high-priced honey-flavored black tea in an eco-friendly manner.  By interviewing relevant stakeholders and collecting information on the socio-economic effects of this eco-friendly farming practice versus conventional tea harvesting practices, Dr. Jung-Thai was able to demonstrate that such eco-friendly practices not only generated a higher economic return for the community but also conserved local biodiversity.

The workshop was held as part of the process of producing the publication of a “Satoyama Initiative Thematic Review”, including write-ups of the case studies presented and a synthesis paper aimed at bringing together the various projects and extracting lessons learned. The publication is planned to be launched by the end of 2015.

Additional information can be found on the IPSI website.

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