In line with its focus on applied Nexus solutions and helping the shift from Nexus Thinking to Nexus Doing, the REXUS project is advancing its 5 pilot demonstration projects in sites across Europe and Latin America. From the outset, REXUS is placing stakeholders, the agents of the system under study, at the very center. Their input used to define REXUS specific goals in these areas, depending on their needs, aspirations and the parameters of the system.
In the Nima river watershed, in Cauca Valley, Colombia, REXUS partner ETIFOR, and REXUS local coordinating partner CIAT, met on 11 January 2022 with the Municipality of Palmira, the area of application of the REXUS pilot. ETIFOR is a consultancy company specialised in ecosystem services economic valuation and it is one of the key partners supporting the project’s Work Package on Incorporating nature-based approaches into Nexus Solutions. At their meeting with the Environment Secretary of the municipality of Palmira, the REXUS partners presented the REXUS approach and how it can help address the region’s challenges, and most importantly, heard from the local stakeholders about their needs and expectations from the Nima-Cauca pilot.
The Nima watershed faces a particular Nexus challenge to increase water use efficiency in the intensive sugar cane cropping system, which occupies nearly 40% of the area. It also faces considerable threats for Andean Forest and paramo (alpine tundra ecosystems) areas from intensive livestock breeding in the highlands. To address these threats, REXUS is proposing to explore the use of Nature based Solutions. Potential options for the Nima pilot will be tailored to the Nima watershed area, after being assessed for their technical feasibility and effectiveness, their socioeconomic impacts and their degree of compatibility with the existing policy framework.
In the REXUS Pinios pilot, in Greece’s most productive agricultural area, REXUS pilot leader in Greece, the Soil and Water Resources Institute (SWRI) recently concluded a critical round of face-to-face meetings with a large number of local stakeholders. Monday 24 and Tuesday 25 January were devoted to consultations with rural municipal authorities, groups of farmers and farmers’ cooperatives. Nexus challenges are acute in Pinios, where agriculture accounts for more than 90% of water demand, while recently there is increased competition for resources for photovoltaic parks, small hydropower plants, as well as expansion of tourist facilities. SWRI, who have been operating for many years in the region, are extremely well-placed to understand the history and background of Nexus challenges in the region. A very promising sign, which also raises expectations for REXUS, is that stakeholders are already expressing the need to participate in problem definition, as well as their anxiety to resolve long-standing issues.
In all REXUS pilots, stakeholder engagement from the outset is key to aligning the pilot’s goals with the needs and aspirations of stakeholders. Establishing a common frame and language between REXUS and local stakeholders is a prerequisite for achieving impact, and so stakeholders are actively engaged in elaborating on their region’s Nexus challenges from their own perspective. There can be no real pathways for change ahead, unless stakeholders are aware of them from the outset and gradually come to own them and finally apply them as part of their everyday decision-making.