All Hands in: Stakeholder Engagement in BES Solution Fund Countries amid the Pandemic

March 11, 2022

Photo: UNDP

Biodiversity conservation and the sustainable management of ecosystem services cannot be achieved without the meaningful engagement of different stakeholders at various levels. This awareness is widely shared by the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Network (BES-Net) and partners in the countries.

The BES-Net team convened a virtual workshop on 23 February 2022 focusing on the implementation of tangible biodiversity solutions on the ground. The event brought together more than 30 participants from Kazakhstan, Trinidad and Tobago, Nigeria, and Kenya representing science, policy and practice communities that BES-Net works closely with. These four countries are the first to receive the BES Solution Fund, which acts as a catalyst to implement tangible, on-the-ground biodiversity solutions with close reference to the latest evidence produced by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The workshop provided participants with a greater understanding of engaging with diverse stakeholders, delving into innovative ideas and applying the Trialogue approach to enhance interaction among science, policy and practice communities.

During the workshop, representatives from the four countries reflected on the various ways they adapted the stakeholder engagement process during the COVID-19 pandemic, acknowledging persistent challenges but also exploring the opportunities and silver linings that emerged. Country teams also spent time looking at specific activities and their goals for stakeholders, building on the insights provided by the United Nations Development Programme and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization teams.

Counting on digital tools

Digital tools including WhatsApp, online conferences and webinars played a critical role in bringing together stakeholders during the pandemic, including policymakers and youth. The Kazakhstan team emphasized the need to strategically adapt various online interactions based on the target audience. They shared their experience in using distance learning strategies, skill-building and even online marketing for bee products.

In Trinidad and Tobago, technology is taken one step ahead with citizen science, helping bridge knowledge gaps. Smartphone apps and platforms such as iNaturalist are helping engage students and tapping into the enthusiasm of the youth to map existing pollinators. These initiatives inspired teams across the board to utilize technology in new and innovative ways to reach stakeholders.

Despite these successes, confronting the digital divide and less tech-savvy stakeholders proved challenging along with limited resources to support virtual engagement. Countries agreed that what needed greater focus was assessing the interest of stakeholders in a virtual setting and ensuring how policymakers interacted amid competing priorities.

Leaving no woman behind

The empowering of women to participate and amplify their active role as entrepreneurs, farmers and beekeepers faced a significant pushback during the pandemic. Deeply entrenched social norms, increase in care and domestic responsibilities and increase in domestic violence are among the factors that often made it difficult for women to engage – even in virtual settings. Participants from Kenya noted the need to engage women-led organizations, networks and civil society organizations for community and policy action and to adapt the time and opportunities for engagement, keeping in mind the increased burden on women.

Tapping into traditional and local knowledge

Working with indigenous peoples and local communities requires building trust and acknowledging how different perspectives can complement each other and contribute to advancing the biodiversity agenda. Local governments, farmers’ leaders, traditional leaders, non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations can be connecting links with indigenous peoples and local communities. Participants from Nigeria echoed the importance of building ownership among these stakeholders through community action committees that would offer feedback and inputs into the implementation of the BES Solution Fund’s activities.

With the workshop, participants reflected on each other’s lessons and learned from each other’s best practices. This workshop marks the first of a series of learning opportunities in 2022 for the BES Solution Fund countries. As implementation continues, the BES-Net team will endeavour to build greater bilateral relationships among teams and promote greater knowledge exchange and capacity building to pilot and scale up pollinator-friendly solutions.

Stay tuned for more!