While plot- and farm-level analyses have improved our understanding of socio-economic and ecological trade-offs and synergies, an analysis of these relationships at a higher scale is required to design policies to improve the sustainability of tropical transformation systems. The proposed project has two objectives: 1) to develop a comprehensive accounting framework to aggregate, synthesize, and link existing and future EFForTS data on socio-economic and ecosystem functions at the level of a local rural economy, and 2) to evaluate the effects of land-use change scenarios and policies (e.g. certifications schemes, land management regulations) on ecological and socio-economic functions and on the trade-offs between them.
In work package 1, we will establish an accounting framework based on the concept of Environmental and Social Accounting Matrices (ESAM). Social Accounting Matrices are square matrices that represent all transactions between economic agents in a given economy during a given time period and which have been extended to include ecosystem functions. For our purposes, the framework will be applied to a “local rural economy”, i.e. an area defined in functional economic terms. It will comprise key rural economic structures in our study region, typically one main village and a large-scale oil palm plantation including a palm oil processing plant. The ecosystem functions will be linked to detailed accounts of economic production, distinguishing not only the main crops (oil palm and rubber) but also different production technologies (smallholders vs. large-scale plantations, certified vs. uncertified plantations). We plan to integrate key ecosystem functions such as soil greenhouse gas emissions, carbon stocks, nutrient leaching, as well as aboveground and belowground biodiversity. Based on available EFForTS data, ESAMs will be assembled for local rural economies with distinct characteristics, for example with regard to agricultural production patterns (oil palm- vs. rubber-dominated economies) and/or demographic characteristics (autochthonous vs. transmigrant-dominated populations).
In work package 2, we will use the ESAMs to analyse land-use transformation system scenarios with a focus on the effects of relevant (hypothetical and real-world) policy measures aimed at mitigating the trade-offs between economic and ecosystem functions. This will be done by comparing ESAMs of different local rural economies, by applying multiplier analyses, or by using a combination of these two approaches. For the policies to be evaluated, we can build on previous evidence from EFForTS, for example the data collected on RSPO-certified smallholder oil palm plantations or on native tree-enrichment planting.
Thus, this project provides an integrated analysis of socio-economic and ecosystem functions, aggregated at the scale of the local rural economy. We extend the socio-economic analyses from the smallholder level to include large-scale plantations and link the plantation-based experiments to socio-economic and ecological outcomes.