Monday, November 29, 2010

The importance of people

Share some of the writings from different interesting courses in University over the years. Here's a summary from the course Governance of natural resource management, Dep. of  Urban and rural development, SLU dec 2008.


"We protect our forest better than government can. We have to. Government employers don't really have any interest in forests. It is a job for them. For us it is life

Agrawal tells us the story in the book Environmentality (2005), of how people change their minds about environmental issues in Kumaon. He call it "making the subjects", which is when people get involved in the decision making they become more aware. The investigation in Kumaon indicate a significance of awareness connected to the presence of a forest council. Villages which had not a forest council were less willing to protect their forests. Important institutions like this is similar to what Ostrom discuss in the Ostrom's theory on the common property and her eight principles.

But with this said, local management of natural resources does not guarantee sustainable development! Other circumstances such as lack of favourable policy environments, social capital and competence can interrupt such initiatives (Sandström, 2008). Agrawal adds to this that the creation of governmentalized localities and the opening of territorial and administrative spaces in which new regulatory communities can function are important for the decentralization of environmental regulation to the locality (often called community-based conservation). 

Today's modern nature conservation approach often;
  • give state officials (the experts) the prerogative to define what is valuable to conserve
  • establish and support institutions for nature conservatism
  • exclude other
  • focus on preserving biological values and down playing on other values; cultural, economical and spiritual

Instead, theories about community based governance means that the local people have;
  • Better knowledge of local conditions
  • Greater ability to enforce rules, monitor behaviour and verify actions
  • Better flexibility and adaptability to change rules according to changes in ecosystems
  • Higher sense of responsibility over the natural resource that surrounds the community

Socio-historical approach to natural resource management and
 Adaptive-governance of social-ecological systems

Agrawal shows in his book a continuously historical example and is so a good example to discuss in the Socio-historical approach to natural resource management, which tends to argue for the need of theoretical perspectives, in which the emergence of natural resource management arrangement is explained by historical narratives, networks and context (Sandström, 2008). 

From another point of view at the Kumaon case I can see that the theory Adaptive-governance of social-ecological systems (Folke, 2005) is in a way Agrawal's thoughts because this theory have its ground in the thought that we should improved understanding of the dynamic of the whole system, not detailed knowledge. A strategy for dealing with rapid change, reorganisation in that change and strategies for dealing with uncertainly and surprises is keywords in the adaptability governance. The governance should also be self-organizing meaning increases in complexity without being guided. This is somehow happening with the sanction rules in the Kumaon example, when the knowledge about who the monitoring person is, is a barrier initself for breaking the rules for others.

The Adaptive governance of social-ecological systems also give high trust to communites; society or community have a memory of knowledge about how to handle crises and change, and this knowledge is essential for that community, and have to be protected before it disperse in the next generation.  

Past crises is future policies.

In the Kumaon example and in Ostroms theory there are special rules for different areas, because of their history and special care, all places cannot be treated and governed in the same way. In a Socio-historical approach this is what happening when the rights and regulations emerged over time (Johnson, 2004). In the Adaptive governance approach, the scientist or expert is one of several actors and the system is based on multi-stakeholder. Co-management and flexibility is important. Also important is to have a leadership in the process that can build trust, make sense, manage conflicts, link actors, initiate partnership among actor groups, mobilise broad support for change, compile and generate knowledge.

The Adaptive governance theory is relatively new and is probably very good to have when dealing with effects of climate change in the future. In the other hand, you may have a ground like that in Common property theory or Agrawal's three points (see above) before applaying it. The adaptation for a society can also be found in Ostrom's second principle: rules should be based on local conditions. As a villager you can participate to change the rules (third principle), and the nestedness in different levels (principle eight) is near to the Adaptive management approach. Kumaon have some  in common to the Adaptive management approach, but Common property theory is even easier to compare to the case.

Agrawal talks about the phenomena as environmentality (inspired from the famous philosopher Foucault's later work on governmentality which refers to how to see on and think about environmental politics) in which he include (p 229 in Agrawal, 2005) parts of Foucaults thoughts about power;
  • formation of new expert knowledge's
  • the nature of power- efforts to regulate social practice
  • the type of institutions and regulatory practices that exist in a mutually productive relationship with social and ecological practices and can be seen as the historical expressions of contingent political relationship
  • the behaviors that regulations seek to change, which go hand in hand with the processes of self-formation and struggles between expert or authority based regulation and situated practices

Other cases of interest

The Kumaon case is very similar to the case in Kalix, North Sweden (Kustringen with help from Gaia Foundation); the citizens felt that they protect more, create employment, could do it cheaper, build competences, are together, rebuild ”by-laws” and are a resource for other. Agrawal is mention at least some of them, as more protection and that local community management is cheaper. In the case of Kalix, there was a lack of communication with higher incentives like the state and county administrative board but in the case of Kumaon is seems to have been different. In the Kalix example they created a one-to-one relationship between each forest council and state officials, they create unequalities between state and locality. Instead in Kumaon the villages get the rights to management the rules by themselves.

Only when villagers saw the forest as theirs and the condition of forest as depended on their actions would they begin to follow protectionist strategies (Agrawal, p 123).
Agrawal started some interesting thoughts about the communication in natural resource management. It is in the nature of various form of knowledge that is always potentially under dispute. Regulation always demands new knowledge (p 226). Beliefs and knowledge are developed through practice,
”environmental practice.. is the key link between the regulatory rule.. and the imagination that characterize particular subjects”
says Agrawal (p 167). We can never forget that it is people we deal with in the end- not institutions. Talking the role of the other is important even from the county administrative board to accually see the local residents. Community as a group of people with similar interest have something that connects them, and if we want to be the good communicator we have to find this connection. How the shaping of institutions, politics and subjectives plays a role in ecological practice needs a greater elaboration and analys. 


Agrawal, A. (2005). Environmentality. Technologies of Government and the Making of Subjects. Durham and London. Duke University Press.

Folke, C. Hahn, T. Olsson, P. and Norberg, J. (2005). Adaptive Governance of Socio- Ecological Systems. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, Vol. 30, Pp 441-473.

Johnson, C. (2004). Uncommon Ground: The ‘Poverty of History’ in Common Property Discourse. Development and Change 35(3) pp. 407-433. Blackwell Publishing. Oxford.

Ostrom, E. (1990). Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action pp. 90-102. Cambridge University Press, Cambrige

Sandström, Emil (2008) Reinventing the commons. Doctoral diss. Dept. of Urban and Rural Development, SLU. Acta Universitatis agriculturae Sueciae vol. 2008:48.

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