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Agriculture, water, and ecosystems: avoiding the costs of going too far


and institutions are built and maintained. High levels of knowledge and human capacity are considered critical to crafting the institutions and policies required for successful in- tegrated water management (see chapter 5 on policies and institutions). is chapter em- phasizes the need to raise awareness of the role of ecosystem services in societal well-being in both multifunctional agricultural systems and across landscapes and on the importance of maintaining the ecological and social processes that support these.

Assessing and nurturing multiple benefits

Improving awareness and understanding. Integrated approaches help to deal with the competing interests in water resources ey make it possible to share the multiple benefits and costs that are generated across a river basin and that are improved or degraded through agricultural interventions in the landscape.

Assessment of the multiple ecosystem services and the processes that support them is a key component of these approaches. Historically, decisions concerning ecosystem man- agement have tended to favor either conversion of ecosystems or management for a single ecosystem service, such as water supply or food production, often without consideration of the effects on such groups as the rural poor, women, and children (MEA 2005c). Many eco- system services do not have a price on the market and are often neglected in policymaking and decisionmaking. As we better understand the benefits provided by the entire array of ecosystem services, we also realize that some of the best response options will involve managing landscapes, including agriculture, for a broader array of services. at will entail taking greater account of social issues, such as gender-based roles and poverty, when mak- ing decisions about agriculture and water management (WRI and others 2005).

  • e Millennium Ecosystem Assessment has provided a major advance in under-

standing the links between the provision of ecosystem services and human well-being (www.maweb.org). Increased awareness is still needed on several different levels. e scientific knowledge of how ecosystem services contribute to human well-being within and between different sectors of society, and the role of water in sustaining these ser- vices, need to be improved. Dissemination of information on these issues and dialogue with stakeholders should be enhanced. Civil society organizations can help to ensure that appropriate consideration is given to the voices of individuals and social groups and to nonutilitarian values in decisionmaking. Minority groups and disadvantaged groups, such as indigenous people and women, in particular, need to be heard. Women play a critical and increasing role in agriculture in many parts of the developing world (Elder and Schmidt 2004).

Urbanization provides new challenges. For the first time in human history more people live in cities than in the rural areas. It has been estimated that the urban areas in the Baltic Sea region in northern Europe need an area of functioning ecosystems some 500 times the size of the cities themselves to generate the ecosystem services they depend on (Folke and others 1997). e green water needs for ecosystem services that support these cities are roughly 54 times larger than the blue water needs of households and industry (Jansson and others 1999). However, people who live in cities often become mentally

Historically, decisions concerning ecosystem management have tended to favor conversion of ecosystems or management for a single eco­ system service, such as food production


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