Nature-based solutions (NbS) and Research, Development and Demonstration (RD&D) Nexus in Latin America and the Caribbean: compiling evidence for future

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This piece was developed together with Dr. Alejandra Martínez-Salinas, Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza, Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center, one of the speakers of the "Webinar  #2Collaborative RD&D for Nature-Based Solutions".The webinar is part of the Developing endogenous capacity of climate technology through collaborative RD&D webinar series organized by the CTCN. The recording of this webinar is available here.


Natural resources are the driving force for the sustainable future of our planet, sustaining our basic needs and driving economic growth. From the air we breathe to the water we drink and the food we consume, our lives are intricately intertwined with these vital resources' availability and responsible management.

Recognizing the profound influence of natural resources on our daily existence, it becomes evident that preserving and sustainably managing them is crucial for the welfare of both current and future generations. In contrast to the conventional 'gray' approach to infrastructure development, nature-based solutions (NbS) incorporate natural, green, and integrated infrastructure elements, offering a holistic and sustainable alternative.

Nature-based solutions depart from traditional gray infrastructure methods for addressing the biodiversity conservation crisis and climate risks. In Latin America and the Caribbean region, these solutions encompass activities like coral reef and mangrove restoration to bolster coastal resilience, utilizing upsloping vegetation to mitigate landslides, and establishing permeable green areas to recharge groundwater in water-scarce regions, offering additionally comprehensive approaches that not only reduce climate risks and promote biodiversity conservation but also provide various other benefits, including climate regulation, recreation, health, tourism, and food and water resources.

A nature-based solution investment can often benefit multiple sectors and communities simultaneously. Governments can find nature-based solutions appealing as they provide opportunities for the private sector to tap into new revenue streams, enhance the resilience of commercial endeavors, lower expenses, and bolster their reputation and purpose.

There are many organizations around the world that work to compile evidence of nature-based solutions and research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) for the future, such as Conservation International, Sustainable Harvest International, The Nature Conservancy, etc.

To help chart a pathway forward in Latin America and the Caribbean, CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center), an academic center for innovation and sustainable development in topics related to agriculture, management, conservation, and sustainable use of natural resources was established in Costa Rica.

Aiming to turn discoveries into significant and measurable impacts towards sustainable development, CATIE has been applying RD&D approaches to promote conservation and sustainable management of natural resources across Latin America and the Caribbean region for the last 50 years.

Most of CATIE’s projects utilize nature-based solutions, either on their own or in combination with gray infrastructure, to secure water supply, improve water quality, reduce landslide risk, or help manage urban, river, or coastal flooding and erosion. Nature-based solutions are most successful when they meet the needs of local communities. Projects focused on agricultural landscapes create resilient farming by generating knowledge and promoting nature-based solutions by developing innovative and sustainable agricultural practices and by providing evidence to inform policies. CATIE´s projects work in coordination with local partners and authorities to address pressing issues in need of resolution to successfully promote sustainable agriculture. Most of CATIE´s projects have a strong capacity-building component focused on transferring knowledge and capacities to local communities empowering them to achieve their long-term sustainability goals.

In Costa Rica, one of the most densely populated areas is the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM by its Spanish name), one of CATIE´s projects used GIS tools to create an Atlas of Ecosystem Services of the GAM, using different GIS techniques to show how the construction index contributes to green spaces, for example, to reduce temperature, especially in the greater metropolitan area.

The responsible management and preservation of natural resources are paramount for the well-being of current and future generations. And research institutions like CATIE continue to create more green cities by working with governments and communities. 

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