Reversing unsustainable use of natural and agro-resources and insufficient economic results as envisaged by the Convention on Biological Diversity requires rethinking of entire livelihood strategies in a systemic way. Quantitative systemic approaches are as yet rarely adopted but highly promising for livelihood innovation. This project combines available participatory methods for innovation with a toolkit of quantitative ecosystem simulation models in an approach for co-innovation by scientists and stakeholders. The approach is applied in three case study areas in Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay with varying degrees of human activity pressure to evaluate the added value of the quantitative systems outlook.

The detailed objectives of the proposed project are:

Interfacing scientific and local knowledge for innovation:

  • To develop a documented co-innovation approach based on concepts of social learning, action research and the basket of existing participatory methodologies, which also makes use of quantitative ecosystem simulation models.
  • To apply the co-innovation approach in three case studies in arid and semi-arid parts of Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay directly involving 45-90 farmers and other rural stakeholders for participatory development, testing and monitoring of innovations and their impact on livelihood objectives.
  • To evaluate the co-innovation approach by comparative analysis across the case studies in order to establish critical conditions, success and failure factors for using quantitative ecosystem tools for innovation.

Integrating scientific knowledge for ecosystem exploration:

  • To integrate in databases and ecosystem models socio-economic and agro-ecological knowledge on mixed and specialized crop/livestock farming systems in arid and semi-arid parts of Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay and describe their effects on natural and agro-resource use.
  • To use the databases and the ecosystem modeling toolkit to analyze opportunities and trade-offs of alternative livelihood strategies in terms of income generation and resource use, under different scenarios concerning regional demographic and economic drivers.

Capacity building for systemic thinking:

  • To train researchers in Latin America in integrated, socio-technical systems analysis which uses the databases and the ecosystem toolbox as part of participatory co-innovation approaches, and embed the approach in continent-wide development networks.