Catherine Benson Wahlén is the Research and Learning Specialist for the Biodiversity Results and Integrated Development Gains (BRIDGE) project, which promotes biodiversity integration in USAID programming. In her role at BRIDGE, Catherine has written case studies on biodiversity integration in Honduras and Mozambique and promoted the intersections of biodiversity programming with democracy, human rights and governance and sustainable landscapes. Catherine has a PhD in environmental governance from the University of Michigan, a Masters of Environmental Science from Yale University and BAs in Biology and Environmental Policy from Colby College.
Integrating Biodiversity and Sustainable Landscapes for Greater Impact: Considerations for Programming
Integrating biodiversity and sustainable landscapes objectives in development programming can increase the sustainability of interventions, amplify results and reduce costs. ‘Integrating Biodiversity and Sustainable Landscapes in USAID Programming’ highlights these and other key considerations for USAID staff and development practitioners interested in connections between biodiversity and sustainable landscapes priorities.
Programs that bring together biodiversity and sustainable landscapes focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from land use while also protecting biodiversity hotspots. Activities often promote sustainable forest management through policy development or building countries' capacity to address biodiversity threats. Better forest management and healthier forests can also protect communities from climate change impacts, improve human health and create jobs. At USAID, integrated programming does not always mean co-funded programming—biodiversity activities can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and sustainable landscapes activities can also conserve biodiversity. However, activities that are co-funded must be designed and implemented within USAID’s guidelines for each funding stream, including the Biodiversity Code.
The ‘Integrating Biodiversity and Sustainable Landscapes in USAID Programming’ resource presents key considerations for integrating funding and/or objectives and describes specific funding parameters. The resource also outlines approaches and tools used to design, implement and evaluate integrated biodiversity and sustainable landscapes programming and highlights interventions with high potential for integration. For example, promoting inclusive and accountable governance can support the ability of governments and communities to manage their natural resources, including tackling threats to deforestation and mitigating emissions. The USAID/Cambodia Greening Prey Lang activity, for instance, is advocating for and supporting governance reforms to support sustainable land management and biodiversity conservation. The Protecting Ecosystems and Restoring Forests in Malawi (PERFORM) activity has built the capacities and capabilities of government partners and other stakeholders to implement institutional and technical arrangements for Malawi’s REDD+ readiness activities and natural resource management.
Best Practices for Integrated Programming
When making integration decisions, design teams should use best practices to build enabling conditions for integration. Experiences in Honduras and Mozambique have shown the importance of strong leadership and staff support for integration throughout conceptualization, design and implementation. Additional best practices include:
- developing a clear definition of and vision for integration that is shared across a mission, a project, an activity or a team;
- establishing a well-defined organizational structure to facilitate norms and work across offices or sectors; and
- promoting a culture of adaptive management.
Teams should also consider the value of multidisciplinary design and implementation teams, which can provide more holistic perspectives and expertise. Integrated theories of change and custom indicators to track progress can also increase clarity and cohesion in the integration process. As in all projects and activities, knowledge management best practices strengthen staff’s ability to learn, adapt and make evidence-based decisions.
The following questions can help USAID staff consider whether to pursue biodiversity and sustainable landscapes integration:
- Is an integrated approach consistent with both the intended objectives and the funding requirements of biodiversity and/or sustainable landscapes funding?
- Will integration promote collaboration?
- Does integration make financial sense?
- Will integration make the sum of an activity greater than its parts?
- Will integration lead to improved and/or measurable development impacts?
As cross-sectoral programming at USAID continues to evolve, current and completed examples of biodiversity and sustainable landscapes programming present opportunities to build evidence for and understanding of integration and its best practices.
Jennifer Kane is a Biodiversity and Natural Resources Specialist in USAID’s E3 Office of Forestry and Biodiversity. She leads USAID’s marine team and helps lead Agency efforts to integrate biodiversity considerations throughout USAID’s development programming. She has over a decade of experience in biodiversity, natural resources management and climate change, and particular expertise in making technical information actionable. Jenny holds a Master of Science in Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology and a Master of Public Policy in Environmental Policy from the University of Maryland College Park, a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California Santa Cruz and a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Visual Art from Brown University.