Beyond Territory and Scarcity: Exploring Conflicts over Natural Resource Management

Beyond Territory and Scarcity: Exploring Conflicts over Natural Resource Management

Beyond Territory and Scarcity: Exploring Conflicts over Natural Resource Management

Beyond Territory and Scarcity: Exploring Conflicts over Natural Resource Management

Synopsis

The attainment of sound and sustainable environmental management is one of humanity's greatest challenges this century, particularly in Africa, which is still heavily dependent on the exploitation of natural and agricultural resources and is faced with rapid population growth. Yet, this challenge should not be reduced to Malthusian parameters and the simple question of population growth and failing resources.
In this volume, ten anthropologists and geographers critically address traditional Malthusian discourses in essays that attempt to move "beyond territory and scarcity" by:
- Exploring alternatives to the strong natural determinism that reduces natural resource management to questions of territory and scarcity.
- Presenting material and methodologies that explore the different contexts in which social and cultural values intervene, and discovering more than "rational choice" in the agency of individuals.
- Examining the relevance of the different conceptions of territory for the ways in which people manage, or attempt to manage, natural resources.
- Placing their research within the framework of the developing discussion on policy and politics in natural resource management.
The studies are drawn from a range of sub-Saharan African countries: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Lesotho, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sudan.

Excerpt

Neo-Malthusian theories have been extremely influential in inspiring interpretations of conflicts on natural resource management. Most environmental programmes in the South still limit themselves to those resources that are fixed within delimited territories. Management becomes a matter of sharing finite resources among an increasing number of people. However, recent research in anthropology and geography suggests that territory as a bounded unit defining scarcity plays a contingent role in environmental management. People and key resources flow across boundaries. Local actors do not just undergo environmental changes passively; they are active agents able to mobilize natural and political resources far from the sites of conflict or management. Scarcity is moreover a relative concept. the same territory, landscape or resource can be perceived very differently by different people, and what has been interpreted as conflict over scarce resources often appears to be conflict of perspectives, over the definition of resource, and over the resource management rules.

A group of researchers at the Institute of Anthropology and the Institute of Geography, University of Copenhagen, organised an international seminar in Copenhagen on the 7–9th of November 2002 in order to explore further issues related to conflicts over natural resources, and to strengthen existing experience and expertise within the field of natural resource management. National and international researchers were invited to present case studies of conflicts over natural resource management where social, cultural and political dimensions were given full weight, and social actors and their strategies were foregrounded. At the seminar 11 papers were presented and nine are published in this volume. the editors have added an introduction to the volume, which is indebted to three days of stimulating exchanges that took place during the seminar.

The seminar was directed towards further developing interdisciplinary approaches to the study and analysis of environmental degradation and conflicts over resources. This is a theme that is central for the Danish University Consortium on Environment and Development (DUCED) and, in particular, for its focal program on Sustainable Land Use and Natural Resource Management (SLUSE) in which both the organizing institutes participate. Funding for DUCED-SLUSE was from the Danish International Development Agency (Danida). Within the funding period (1998–2006) the DUCED-SLUSE universities (University of Copenhagen, the Royal Veterinary & Agricultural University and Roskilde University) have worked to strengthen educational and research capacity internally, as well as in collaboration with partner-country universities in Malaysia, Thailand, South Africa, Swaziland and Botswana.

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