Off the press: Governance of natural resources


December 12, 2019
Select 2019 journal articles from PIM and partners on management of natural resources. These papers were supported by PIM as part of the work under Flagship 5: Governance of Natural Resources.

Designing for engagement: A Realist Synthesis Review of how context affects the outcomes of multi-stakeholder forums on land use and/or land-use change

Sarmiento Barletti, Juan Pablo; Larson, Anne M.; Hewlett, Christopher; and Delgado, Deborah. 2020. (Available online 22 November 2019). World Development 127 (March 2020).

This Realist Synthesis Review (RSR) examines the scholarly literature on multi-stakeholder forums (MSFs) set up to support efforts toward more sustainable land use. The authors focus on subnational MSFs that include at least one grassroots and one government actor. MSFs have been presented, especially by practitioners, as a panacea to address land-use change and support climate mitigation, such as through “landscape” or jurisdictional approaches. However, it is not clear that these initiatives are learning from past experience, particularly from research analyzing the effect of context on the ability of such approaches to reach their objectives. To address this gap, the academic literature was assessed using the RSR method to elucidate the key contextual variables affecting outcomes. In addition to analyzing context, this review identifies four common lessons learned for MSFs: the importance of commitment (to the people, the process and its goals); engaging the implementers (key middle level brokers and government officials who determine what happens on the ground); openness to learn from and listen to stakeholders; and having a design that is adaptive to this context, with time and resources to do so.

The contested terrain of land governance reform in Myanmar

Suhardiman, Diana; Kenney-Lazar, Miles; and Meinzen-Dick, Ruth. 2019. Critical Asian Studies.

State control of land plays a critical role in producing land dispossession throughout the Global South. In Myanmar, the state’s approach toward territorial expansion has driven the country’s system of land governance, resulting in widespread and systemic land grabbing. This article investigates ongoing land governance reforms as key terrains for contesting such abuses of power. Authors view reform processes as shaped by changing power-laden social relations among government, civil society, and international donor actors. Legal and regulatory reforms in Myanmar potentially act as sites of meaningful social change but in practice tend to maintain significant limitations in altering governance dynamics. Civil society organizations and their alliances in Myanmar have played an important role in opening up policy processes to a broader group of political actors. Yet, policies and legal frameworks still are often captured by elite actors, becoming trapped in path dependent power relations.

Experimental games for developing institutional capacity to manage common water infrastructure in India

Falk, Thomas; Kumar, Shalander; and Srigiri, Srinivasa. 2019. Agricultural Water Management.

Since the 1990s, India invested more than one billion USD in participatory watershed development. Amongst other interventions, the rehabilitation of small-scale water harvesting infrastructure is a main focus. Yet, many communities fail to maintain the structures.

In this study, Thomas Falk, Shalander Kumar, and Srinivasa Srigiri explore how experimental games closely framed to local conditions can help to better understand coordination challenges and develop institutional capacities related to managing small village reservoirs in Rajasthan, India. The authors played experimental games and had discussions with 300 water managers. The approach facilitated debate related to possible solutions and helped to better understand cooperation patterns. It also created a communication environment which encouraged the young, the less educated, and women to actively participate in decision making.

Learning from social–ecological crisis for legal resilience building: Multi-scale dynamics in the coffee rust epidemic

Libert Amico, Antoine; Ituarte-Lima, Claudia; and Elmqvist, Thomas. Sustainability Science. Article in press.

A recent coffee leaf rust epidemic has generated a severe fall in Coffea arabica production throughout Mexico and Central America. This paper analyzes the social–ecological crisis presented by the Hemileia vastatrix outbreak, with a focus on how global, regional and national dynamics interact with local processes in the Chiapas Sierra Madre of south-eastern Mexico, a biodiversity hotspot with a tradition of smallholder, shade-grown coffee production. The authors find that matching scales of law with agroforestry systems can be done through a variety of legal and policy instruments to contribute to resilience building. This matching of scales is vital to safeguarding biodiversity’s global benefits and the right of small-scale coffee farmers to a healthy and sustainable environment.

Property rights, intersectionality, and women's empowerment in Nepal

Pradhan, Rajendra; Meinzen-Dick, Ruth; and Theis, Sophie. Journal of Rural Studies. Article in press. 

Property is widely recognized as an important resource for empowering women. Many development policies worldwide therefore call for strengthening women's rights to property, especially to physical assets such as land and livestock. However, the relationship between property and women's empowerment is more complex than generally assumed because of the overlapping and dynamic nature of property rights.

This paper explores how property rights affect the empowerment of women at different stages of the life cycle and different social locations, ethnicities, household structures, and social classes, using the lens of intersectionality. The findings show that legal categories of property rights in Nepal fail to account for nuanced rights to assets shared within households. Rather than emphasize individual control over assets for women's empowerment, the social relations around property need to be considered to understand which rights women value. The paper makes recommendations for how research and development projects, especially in South Asia, can avoid misinterpreting asset and empowerment data by incorporating nuance around the concepts of property rights over the life cycle.

Toward a tenure-responsive approach to forest landscape restoration: A proposed tenure diagnostic for assessing restoration opportunities

McLain, Rebecca; Lawry, Steven; Guariguata, Manuel R.; and Reed, James. Land Use Policy. Article in press.

The Bonn Challenge, a voluntary global initiative launched in 2011, aims to bring up to 350 million hectares of degraded land into some level of restorative state by 2030. Pilot forest landscape restoration (FLR) efforts indicate that enhancing community and smallholder tenure rights is critical for achieving FLR’s desired joint environmental and social well-being objectives. The Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM) is a decision support tool that has become widely used in national and subnational FLR planning. Although ROAM is structured to encourage inclusion of tenure rights and governance analyses, the extent to which ROAM reports actually incorporate tenure issues is undocumented. In an attempt to bridge this gap, this paper reports the results of an analysis of the publicly accessible ROAM reports from eight countries in Africa and Latin America. The authors find that tenure and governance considerations are covered superficially in the reports and recommend design elements for a tenure diagnostic that should facilitate more robust tenure and land governance analyses.

Photo: Georgina Smith / CIAT