How does governance mediate links between ecosystem services and poverty alleviation? Results from a systematic mapping and thematic synthesis of literature.

Fiona Nunan, Mary Menton, Constance McDermott, Mark Huxham, Kate Schreckenberg

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Abstract

Many efforts to improve the sustainable management of renewable natural resources in low- and middle-income countries seek to achieve ‘win-win’ outcomes – improved ecosystem health and improved livelihoods. Yet achieving such win-win outcomes is challenging, since many variables affect the potential for synergies. These variables include the quality and performance of governance. We conducted a systematic mapping of the literature and a thematic synthesis to identify how governance mediates relationships between ecosystem services and poverty alleviation. The systematic mapping focused on identifying which components of governance are studied and how much attention each
geographic region and natural resource has received. We found that the literature is ‘clumped’, with some governance components, geographic areas and sectors studied well, and others poorly. The thematic synthesis drew on 191 papers and found very little literature that looked at the three areas of governance, ecosystem health/services and poverty alleviation/livelihoods together in detail, with little evidence of interdisciplinary investigation. Much of the research instead focuses on either governance itself or governance and livelihoods or governance and ecosystem health/services. Three key analytical themes were identified in response to the research question, which are that: locally owned and inclusive governance increases the potential for ecosystem services to deliver on improved livelihoods; there are often multiple governance structures and systems in place making causality difficult to trace, though such multiplicity creates opportunities for improved governance, ecosystem
health and livelihoods as well as challenges; and, appropriate and adequate incentives are needed for governance to mediate positive links between ecosystem services and poverty alleviation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWORLD DEVELOPMENT
Volume146
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 30 May 2021

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