PUB or coffee shop: how to inform landscape watershed management?

Pubs and coffee shops are multi-layered watersheds of information flows. Is one more effective than the other for climate negotiations?


At a recent ‘shared learning’ event at the Bogor, Indonesia campus of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), we reviewed the different ways knowledge and understanding of watershed functions (and the roles of forests and trees in those) can best be linked to negotiations among stakeholders for real change and action. The choice focussed on PUB versus Coffee Shop.

Hydrologists of the world have worked for a decade or so on the PUB program: ‘predicting ungauged basins’. Realizing that intensively measured and monitored basins will always remain in a minority and that explicit ways are needed to make inferences for data-sparse environments, they tested how good current models really were when used beyond their calibration range. The answer was: not as good as we had hoped. It isn’t clear, however, whether this also means not good enough to be of any use at all.

An alternative to the PUB is the Coffee Shop. A key feature of the Rapid Hydrological Appraisal (RHA) method that ICRAF developed a decade ago is an explicit focus on three knowledge systems: local, public/policy and science. A good start in gaining local knowledge is to spend time in the coffee shops that are popular throughout Sumatra, Indonesia and where all aspects of life are discussed albeit mostly among men.

In many parts of the world, local people are convinced that forests, trees and rainfall are related in more than one way: forests and trees not only depend on rainfall but help to generate it. Scientists confronted with this perspective have always denied such effects or at best been ‘agnostic’, as it seemed impossible to find evidence in their data. New evidence on credible mechanisms for forest and tree effects on rainfall is, however, emerging. It could revolutionize current climate negotiations, which focus on greenhouse-gas emissions. A researcher who has picked up such ideas in the coffee shops, however, will not be taken seriously by the modellers unless he’s been to the pub with them and earned their trust and respect.

Lake Singkarak, Sumatra, Indonesia and some hydrological interactions. Source: Meine van Noordwijk

Lake Singkarak, Sumatra, Indonesia and some hydrological interactions. Source: Meine van Noordwijk

At the shared-learning seminar, we benefitted from the ten-year study of Kevin Jeanes that was the basis of his PhD thesis at the Australian National University, following up on ideas that emerged in the first RHA we ever did, keeping the focus on Lake Singkarak in West Sumatra. Kevin’s overall conclusions were in support of the ‘soil-based forest hydrology’ perspective, where it is changes in the infiltrability of the soil in response to land-use change, rather than changes in tree cover as such, that dominate responses at the level of stream flow. Restoration after compaction is a slow process and conserving existing forest is more effective than replanting degraded soils. New to his longer-term study is a more explicit consideration of spatial scale: comparing five nested scales, his research showed important shifts in relative emphasis on phenomena and explanatory factors between scales plus an expanded analysis of the comparative advantages and performance of social survey, data-based and model-based hydrological analyses under data-sparse conditions.

Dr Beria Leimona, senior ecosystem services scientist with the World Agroforestry Centre, gave an overview of the RHA experience, as recently summarized in a paper in the journal, Ecosystem Services. We now have ten prototypes of situations in which ‘payments for watershed services’ can be considered, with emerging similarity in the knowledge systems and the degrees of complexity of negotiations. The RHA procedure is sufficiently flexible and can be used where there are no coffee shops. It uses our in-house PUB model but does not expect the results to have a high degree of precision. Our PUB model (GenRiver but SWAT can also be used), however, helps with internal consistency of the soil-based forest hydrology under uncertain and variable rainfall that we use for looking at consequences of land-use change at various scales.

Dr Daniel Murdiyarso of the Center for International Forestry Research presented the five pillars that emerged in a recent meeting in Leuven, Belgium as a new synthesis on how forests interact with human wellbeing in landscapes: 1) influencing rainfall; 2) cooling the air; 3) modifying air flows (wind); 4) increasing infiltration; and 5) moderating floods. With attractive packaging, these five points will be shared with participants at the climate-change Conference of Parties in Paris next month.

Note: No preference for coffee shops or pubs was expressed herein…


Read more

Jeanes K, van Noordwijk M, Joshi L, Widayati A, Farida, Beria L. 2006. Rapid Hydrological Appraisal in the context of environmental service rewards. Bogor, Indonesia: World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Southeast Asia Regional Program;  Amsterdam: Samenwerking Internationale Instituten, Development Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Leimona B, Lusiana B, van Noordwijk M, Mulyoutami E, Ekadinata A, Amaruzaman S. 2015. Boundary work: knowledge co-production for negotiating payment for watershed services in Indonesia. Ecosystem Services 15:45–62.

Van Noordwijk M, Leimona B, Xing M, Tanika L, Namirembe S, Suprayogo D. 2015.Water-focused landscape management. In: Minang PA, van Noordwijk M, Freeman OE, Mbow C, de Leeuw J, Catacutan D, eds. Climate-smart landscapes: multifunctionality in practice. Nairobi: World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).

Van Noordwijk M, Lusiana B, Leimona B, Dewi S. Wulandari D. 2013. Negotiation-support toolkit for learning landscapes. Bogor, Indonesia: World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Southeast Asia Regional Program.



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This work is linked to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry'

Meine van Noordwijk

Meine van Noordwijk is a Distinguished Research Fellow at the World Agroforestry Centre. He joined the organization in 1993. Dr van Noordwijk guided the global integration of the Centre’s science and co-led ICRAF's global research program on environmental services. He also participated in a number of bilateral projects and is professor of agroforestry at Wageningen University, The Netherlands.

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