Ecosystem-Based Planning Approach


Ecosystem-Based Planning Approach

For Public Servants and Local Self-Government Bodies

Nature is the biggest treasure shared among all nations – the ultimate source of all human life on Earth. The benefits provided by nature such as food, fresh water, medicinal resources, pollination, carbon storage, protection from natural disasters, and others are often referred to as ecosystem services. While ecosystem services are key to sustained livelihood and health, human activities often alter nature irreversibly. Thereby today, more than ever in human history, the consideration of ecosystem services in different sectors of economy and society is crucial for effective and ecosystem-friendly planning processes to secure the well-being of current and future generations. The “Integrating Ecosystem Services into Development Planning” guide is an important methodological tool to advance cross-sectoral integration of ecosystem services, applied in Armenia in the framework of IBiS programme by the joint initiative of the Public Administration Academy of the RA (PAARA) and GIZ on behalf of BMZ. To explore the overall framework of IES in Armenia, we talked to Meri Margaryan, Chief Specialist and Instructor at the Department of Training, Qualification Improvement and Research at the Public Administration Academy of RA (PAARA), and Alla Berberyan, Adviser at GIZ Armenia.

Text : IBiS    Photo : GIZ


Development plans and policies often take place at the expense of nature as well as people, whose livelihoods depend on nature. Recognizing how certain actions depend on or affect nature is vital for elaborating a sustainable development strategy, policy or plan. GIZ’s methodological guide and international training course “Integrating ecosystem services into development planning” (IES) aims to assist policymakers and development planners in various countries to create environmentally responsible strategic plans, which account for nature conservation and development needs. IES methodology is based on the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) – a global initiative focused on “making nature’s values visible.” Recognizing the wide range of benefits provided by ecosystems and biodiversity, demonstrating these values in economic terms, and using these values in decision-making to address local as well as global challenges such as climate change not only contributes to ecological but also economic well-being.

The IES methodology helps decision-makers to integrate the risks and opportunities related to ecosystem services into their development plans through a step-by-step approach. A development plan can range from a government policy or plan, spatial plan to a protected area management plan or community development plan. The IES approach is applicable to any sector with projects and programmes that are nature-based or reliant on nature. The approach can also be applied at any level across the country, but it is particularly relevant for local and regional levels.

The methodology of IES training consists of 6 steps, includes a fictitious case study, based on Harvard Case Methodology, and offers interactive practical work for practitioners. The reason for having a fictitious case study is that everybody can easily relate to the same context and use the same level of knowledge and information. The six steps of IES approach are: (a) defining the scope and setting the stage; (b) screening and prioritizing ecosystem services; (c) identifying conditions, trends, and trade-offs; (d) appraising the institutional and cultural framework; (e) preparing better decision-making; and (f) implementing change. Each of these steps includes (1) theoretical input, (2) an interactive exercise and group work, and (3) discussions for each step.



In 2018, in the framework of IBiS and as part of the Klaus Toepfer Fellowship Programme, the IES training course was contextualized and adapted to the Armenian context, mainly based on in-depth situation analysis and needs assessment with the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development (now Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure), the regional administration of Aragatsotn region and local self-government bodies. The development challenges and environmental issues particularly typical for Aragatsotn and Shirak regions as well as for the whole country were identified. As a result, the Armenian version of the training materials and the case study was introduced fully compatible with the socio-economic, environmental issues and the development challenges of the country. In the newly designed case study the fictitious country Ayas represents country-specific features of Armenia with names of the places sounding Armenian. An illustrative fictitious map depicting Ayas was created.

The trainers from PAARA and GIZ went through an intensive qualification enhancement programme in Georgia, where a group of potential trainers from the three South Caucasus countries gathered to expand their knowledge. The IES training course has a flexible format and can be adjusted between 3-5 days, depending on the target group. The contextualized training course was piloted for the heads of communities, administrative representatives of settlements, and local council members of Aragatsotn and Shirak regions. Around fifty-five participants took part in the sessions. As a result of the training, the communities identified their priority ecosystem services and, for instance, Tsaghkahovit community included environmental measures in the existing 5-year community development plan and the 2020 planned action plan.

One of the main advantages of IES is its wide applicability. “We want the participants not just to receive information but also make concrete steps in the development planning to address different issues. We, the trainers, act as facilitators. We only guide the participants to arrive at their own conclusions and to formulate their own action plan,” Ms. Margaryan explains.



The IES guide and the training highlight the complexity and interplay of human-nature interactions and their influence on each other. Sustainable pasture management in alpine and subalpine meadows can both contribute to biodiversity conservation as well as support local livelihoods through dairy cattle-breeding. “How does development impact and depend on ecosystem services and what are the possible trade-offs? These are the key questions to be considered in planning processes” says Ms. Berberyan. “In this context, trade-offs mean achieving a compromise between two competing or conflicting development and ecosystem conservation goals.”

The success of the IES approach and training relies on its institutionalization. In this regard, it is planned to integrate the IES into the training curricula for public servants and local self-government bodies, and to continue its implementation on a local level. Well-designed, tested, and optimized training tools play a major role in mainstreaming biodiversity and ecosystem services across the political agenda of local self-government bodies. This process however, will not happen overnight. Yet short- and long-term policy decisions will start taking into account different aspects, and development paradigms in Armenia will shift towards a more sustainable future.


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