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 Sustainable livelihoods & resource use
Environmental economic valuation
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It is increasingly recognised that wetlands are part of larger natural systems and need to be managed as part of the larger river basin system. However, the significant contributions that wetland resources make to local livelihood economies are often not recognised in larger scale river basin planning and policy. Also often unrecognised are the values of the services that wetlands provide in maintaining natural systemic functions that are vital to human well-being. These include, for example, water purification, flood control, habitat provision. The MWBP directly addresses this through research and awareness raising activities to work with local and national stakeholders to identify and increase understanding of wetland values.

Primary research at the four countries' demonstration sites generates new information on economic values of wetland resources and ecosystem system services in those localities. The focus is on particular aquatic resources which are central to local wetland management issues. The economic value of these wetland resources is considered both in terms of absolute economic values that may have long gone unrecognised and unconsidered in provincial and national planning.

Importantly for poverty reduction, economic values of wetland resources also need to be considered in relative terms across different users and income groups. In the four countries of the Lower Mekong Basin, people in rural areas are highly dependent on wetland resources. Thus understanding the distribution of these economic values is key to contributing to poverty alleviation.

Developing economic instruments for resource management is one of the target uses for information on local economic values of wetland resources. (See also Policy Issues: Financing Mechanisms) At programme demonstration sites, exploration is undertaken of both financing mechanisms and potential economic incentives for improving and sustaining long-term wetland resource management.

Research on economic values of wetland resources contributes to programme activities to enhance understanding of economic and livelihood values at the four demonstration sites. In coordination with other demonstration site components, avenues for fostering awareness are to be sought with both local and national stakeholders, decision-makers.

Capacity building in environmental economic aspects of wetlands is incorporated into research, management plan development, communications efforts via field work involvement of resource users and government technical and decision-making staff. Training also involves awareness seminars on results from research efforts, as well as developing longer term training strategies to identify and establish training opportunities in understanding and applying environmental economics for a range of different stakeholders from local to national level, across government, NGOs, private sector, and academia.