Academic journal article Journal of Ecological Anthropology

The Dimensions of Sustainability and the Neo-Entrepreneurial Adaptation Strategies in Reindeer Herding in Finland

Academic journal article Journal of Ecological Anthropology

The Dimensions of Sustainability and the Neo-Entrepreneurial Adaptation Strategies in Reindeer Herding in Finland

Article excerpt

Abstract

Current public discourse in Finland concerning reindeer herding has focused on the overgrazing problem and conflicts between herding and competitive forms of land use. Both herders and government administrators agree on the problems of herding, but conceptualize their causes differently. Administrators insist that sustainability in herding is reachable through bioeconomic management that unites biological metrics of sustainable systems with an economic efficiency calculus. However, we found that such policy erodes socio-cultural sustainability at the community level. It also encourages economic rationalization that leads to increased revenues but slower income growth, because it coexists with rising investment costs and decreasing producer prices caused by increased supply. Ecological sustainability is left unstable, because bioeconomic metrics focus only on partial environmental processes. This study sheds light on these intertwined trajectories by analyzing reindeer herders' efforts to reach both economic and ecological sustainability through neo-entrepreneurial strategies. The study was carried out by semi-structured interviews in 17 enterprises run by both Saami and Finnish reindeer herders. Interviews covered the working of both traditional herding and neo-enterprises and the consolidation of these efforts. The results show that the neo-entrepreneurial adaptation strategies enhance both economic and ecological sustainability, but create problems for socio-cultural sustainability.

Introduction

The purpose of this article is to analyze the sustainability of neo-entrepreneurial adaptation strategies of reindeer (Rangifer t. tarandus) herders in Finland. The secondary objective is to examine government management policies and their connections to the local adaptation. The main ethnography analyzes the emergence of entrepreneurial adaptation strategies among the reindeer herders in Finland. The studied enterprises have state authorization, hold a registered business name, or are corporate organizations like joint-stock companies. Here, these are called neo-enterprises in order to distinguish them from traditional operations. Whereas herders have traditionally butchered reindeer during round-ups in the field and sold whole carcasses or live reindeer directly to private individuals or large butchering companies, the neo-entrepreneurs use certified butchering facilities to process meat further into various products, which they themselves sell to end users, like restaurants. Usually the neo-enterprises also function independently of the traditional reindeer herding cooperatives (Figure 2 and Table 1).

Applying St. Martins (2001) ideas, we term the dominant ideology of reindeer management the "bioeconomics of herding." Its fundamental axioms are twofold. First, the biological component focuses on maximal sustainable yield metrics, related equilibrium assumptions and calculated optimum grazing pressures that, in theory, enable maximum renewal of reindeer pastures (Kumpula 2001; Riseth et al. 2004). Calving percentage and carcass weights are employed as complementary metrics of sustainable grazing pressure (Kumpula et al. 2004). Second, the common economic component, and a sign of exceeded ecological yield, has been the need for supplementary feeding that is considered an extra cost for herders. The paradigmatic maneuver is to select a few easily measured variables as the indicators of ecological and economic sustainability and assert that sustainability can be reached through the manipulation of these variables (cf. Mittarit porotalous 2003). However, though there have been recent attempts to broaden the bioeconomic perspective (Kumpula 2003; Kumpula et al. 2006; Kyllönen et al. 2006; Mattila 2006; Meristö et al. 2004), the socio-cultural sustainability of herding communities continues to be left out of the calculations. There is a persistent tendency to detach selected economic and ecological variables from a broader political, economic and ecological context (Jernsletten and Klokov 2002; Mittarit porotalous 2003). …

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