Indicators from the UNU

Posted in: Comment, New Publications

The UN University has issued a report on resilience in socio-ecological production landscape indicators (SEPLs) that were developed between Bioversity International and the United Nations University's Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS).

The report begins by defining the terminology of SEPLs, resilience, and the existing gap that this set of inclusive indicators has helped to bridge.  Then, the principles for developing the indicators are introduced, and finally the four groupings of indicators are described in detail.  These are ...

  • Ecosystems protection and the maintenance of biodiversity;
  • Agricultural biodiversity;
  • Knowledge, learning and innovation;
  • Social equity and infrastructure.

This is what it says under Knowledge, learning and innovation

[These] are the means of building resilience.  Communities strengthen resilience by experimenting, innovating, and learning within and between different knowledge systems, cultures, and age groups. Adaptation strategies may be novel or old, but generally build on bio-cultural or traditional knowledge.  This knowledge is specific to the locations and cultures of given social-ecological interactions. It is embodied in resource use customs, agricultural traditions, local languages, cultural values, and social institutions.  Many communities are losing their knowledge of local resources, biodiversity and the historical events that have shaped the landscape.  The maintenance of this knowledge increasingly depends on the ability of elders, parents and the younger generations in a community to document and share it. The role of young people in valuing traditional knowledge and assimilating it with the new knowledge acquired in urban centres and schools is crucial, but often underestimated.  Under the knowledge, learning and innovation category [there are] eight indicators along with short descriptions ... .

Innovation in agricultural biodiversity management for improved resilience and sustainability

Do community members improve, develop and adopt new agricultural biodiversity management practices to adapt to changing conditions, e.g. climate change, population pressure, resource degradation?

Access and exchange of agricultural biodiversity

Are individuals within and between communities connected through institutions and networks for the exchange of agricultural biodiversity, e.g.seed exchange networks, local markets and animal and seed fairs?

Transmission of traditional knowledge from elders, parents and peers to the young people in a community

Is the knowledge of key concepts and practices about land, water, biological resources and cosmology transmitted between different age groups?

Cultural traditions related to biodiversity

Are cultural traditions related to biodiversity maintenance and use continued by young people, e.g. festivals, rituals, songs, etc.?

Number of generations interacting with the landscape

How many generations interact with the landscape for subsistence and income?

Practices of documentation and exchange of local knowledge

Are community-based institutions and systems for documentation, exchange and acquisition of externally-sourced knowledge in place? E.g. existence of traditional knowledge registers, resource classification systems, and community biodiversity registers, farmer field schools

Use of local terminology or indigenous languages

Do community members use local terminology related to land and (the use of) biodiversity, and, if applicable, do they speak the local dialect or language?

Women’s knowledge about biodiversity and its use

Are women’s knowledge, experiences and skills recognized as central to practices that strengthen resilience?


Now, clearly this report was not meant for use in places like the UK.  However, a useful question is whether there are ideas in here that might fit the sort of concerns we have.  Well, ...


Posted in: Comment, New Publications


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  • Thanks for the link that reminds one of the diversity of research activity and advocacy related to such basic concepts as resilience and adaptation. Would that policy-makers heeded UNU advocacy! I will pass the post to a colleague who is proposing to set up in Poland an Innovation and Adaptation Research Centre that would no doubt add to the diversity of literature though in the Polish language.