top of page
  • Writer's pictureTetraTech

Facilitating nature-based solutions by nurturing market systems-focused ecosystem services

Updated: Feb 13

MSD Hub editor's note (Michael Field, Senior Systems Specialist, Vikāra Institute):

This blog provides some important lessons about the challenges and opportunities to align incentives, including market, political, communal incentives and environmental to catalyze change. Of particular importance in these examples are how to apply systems thinking lenses in ways that generate climate change and conservation benefits, as well as market-based returns. One important example that is highlighted is the need to find or create brand value around the extra time/costs/norms related to changes in practices that are better for the natural landscape. Often without an extra margin, the attractiveness of key behavioral changes can whither once the project ends. As the blogs points out, focusing on the changes in the local system are critical for new patterns to emerge that solidify the integration of nature-based solutions into market, political and communal systems.


Photo Credits: USAID Greening Prey Lang

Understanding natural resource markets and the political economy of those markets is critical to protecting natural landscapes for future generations, and to feeding those future generations. This blog explores some of Tetra Tech’s recent work integrating environmentally sustainable market systems approaches with nature-based solutions, and highlights some key lessons learned.

Defining nature-based solutions: Nature-based solutions include economic “solutions that are inspired and supported by nature, which are cost-effective, and simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build resilience.”1 In a 2021 study in Latin America, UNDP found that “nature-based solutions (NbS) offer the potential to enhance the resilience of market systems while also achieving environmental goals. NbS can strengthen local market system resilience to benefit the economy, vulnerable households, and the environment, and ensure that the region is better prepared for future shocks and stresses.”2

Photo Credits: USAID Greening Prey Lang

Integrating nature-based solutions with market systems: In Northern Cambodia, farmers live and work in a unique forest and wetland landscape that is home to the last remaining populations of Cambodia’s national bird, the giant ibis. There are over 70 species in this fragile ecosystem that are at threat of extinction. Across this landscape deforestation, poaching, and habitat destruction threaten critical ecosystem services.

To address these threats and provide long-term livelihoods opportunities to farmers the USAID-funded Greening Prey Lang (GPL) project, in partnership with IBIS Rice and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), utilized a market systems approach to support a wildlife-friendly business model which combines organic rice production with farmer commitments to zero deforestation and wildlife poaching. In turn, participating IBIS Rice farmers receive a price premium of up to 70% above the standard market price for conventionally produced rice.

USAID GPL worked to expand this model through direct grants to local organizations which provided a suite of technical interventions that allowed for market linkages to pull climate and conservation benefits up through the value chain by offering preferential prices for organic products, and push market benefits down to farmers through local organizations offering access to information and services.

Photo Credits: USAID Greening Prey Lang

Market Systems and Localization: USAID GPL partnered with local grantees to support the development of agricultural cooperatives, community-based enterprises and village marketing networks for honey, cashew, rice and non-timber forest products. With a focus on local leadership and a commitment to localization, which included direct grants to 47 community-based organizations, USAID GPL facilitated systemic change in innovative, creative ways, from the ground up.

Market Systems and Scaling Up: These solutions were scaled up and expanded under other projects in Cambodia including USAID’s Morodok Baitang project. Tetra Tech has used similar approaches in other countries and projects in Africa including the Republic of Congo (in USAID’s Conservation through Economic Empowerment in the Republic of Congo or CEERC, project), and West Africa (in USAID’s West Africa Biodiversity and Low Emissions Development or WABiLED project), as well as in South America (USAID Peru ProBosques). In each of these projects, private sector engagement, public-private partnerships and government collaboration have been critical to achieve scale, scope and systemic change.

Lessons learned while implementing green market systems approaches:

  • Think and work politically, recognizing that all markets are political, and all politics are local.

  • Ask questions and observe; listen and think big but act small (think systemically but act locally), and act often (repetition can normalize systems changes).

  • Remain focused on systemic change and outcomes over outputs; don’t get distracted or discouraged by the slow pace of change. It takes time to build trust and create coalitions.

  • Remember to keep your average farmer in mind, and focus on their needs, their business models, and their livelihoods, which are often diversified and complex.

  • Determine what is keeping farming families and farm enterprises from benefiting more effectively from green market opportunities and focus on removing these barriers in collaboration and consultation with local actors.

  • Identify market opportunities to unlock the power of eco-friendly markets, and infuse the market system with these emerging opportunities.

  • Communities must decide on their own how to make these changes happen, and development partners embrace flexibility and local ingenuity.

With these tools in your toolbox, you are sure to reach the last mile on the long road to inclusive market systems change, with Nature-Based Solutions, private sector engagement and local ingenuity.

Photo Credits: USAID West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change Project

63 views0 comments


bottom of page