Integrated landscape approaches (ILAs) aim to holistically address threats related to forest degradation, loss of environmental services, food security, and climate change, embarking on negotiated outcomes of multi-stakeholder processes around common concern entry points. However, the politics of negotiated landscape governance still remain underexposed. This session aims to explore the interface between political ecology and ILAs both conceptually and empirically, addressing the question: how can political ecological insights into the politics and framing of human-nature interactions, diverging interests, power imbalances and inequalities in resource access and decision-making at landscape level be made functional to the operationalization of ILAs?
Chair: Dr Mirjam Ros-Tonen
Forests play a rapidly changing role in the livelihoods of rural people as they find themselves increasingly embedded in multifunctional landscapes, where trade-offs exist between competing land uses. Integrated landscape approaches (ILAs) are gaining ground to negotiate such trade-offs. Although power imbalances are increasingly acknowledged as a challenge to achieving negotiated outcomes in ILAs, the politics of negotiated landscape governance still remain underexposed in the literature. Based on a review of literature, this paper aims to explore whether and how synergy can be created between two seemingly contradictory approaches towards global challenges affecting landscapes, such as deforestation, biodiversity loss, climate change and food security. Whereas ILAs are based on a rather naïve assumption that landscape actors are on the same page in their determination to address these challenges, critical approaches such as political ecology take power imbalances and unequal access to natural resources as a starting point to analyze landscape dynamics. In this paper, we argue that both approaches are needed for integrated and inclusive landscape governance. Political ecology and critical studies more broadly provide insights into the politics and framing of human-nature interactions as well as the diverging interests, power imbalances and inequalities in resource access and decision-making at landscape level. We explore how these insights can be made functional to the operationalization of ILAs, thus contributing to both theory building and the operationalization of integrated landscape governance.
“Ecological-Economic Zoning” (ZEE) was regulated in Brazil as a territory planning tool aimed to organize the sustainable use of land and natural resources, through multi-stakeholder forums (MSFs) and other participation mechanisms. MSFs have gained global popularity as an innovative institutional reform in the governance of land use and forests. In territorial planning, the idea is to bring together diverse actors to advance “good governance” and “sustainable development” (e.g. Nolte et al. 2017). However, both territorial planning and MSFs constitute a double-edged sword: advancing certain goals, strengthening certain land use rights and benefiting certain actors can come at the expense of others. They can either challenge power asymmetries or merely reproduce them (e.g. Kohlepp 2002).
Based on 10 months of research, we comparatively analyze the multi-stakeholder commissions created for the ZEE of Acre and Mato Grosso, two Amazonian Brazilian States with very different characteristics and history. We delve into the influence of the national and regional context, and how power is exerted, distributed and shared between actors. We capture perceptions and collect empirical evidence from q-methodology and differentiated questionnaires. We reveal that land use planning MSFs have better chances to promote equitable power relations when they emerge from – and are nourished by – an historical context that embraces local movements, culture, identity and differences, rather than from technocratic top-down processes. Our ultimate goal is to offer a critical analysis and shed light on how to improve the equity of MSFs in decision-making around land use, forests and local people’s wellbeing.