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Research on the negotiation of natural resource management in Africa

Saturday 25 April 2009

African and European researchers collaborate to study natural resource management in Africa and try to understand the rapid restructuring of socio-ecological relations in Africa in the age of globalisation.

Langaa RPCIG has partnered with the University of Koln in Germany and the African Studies Centre at the University of Leiden in The Netherland in the research project: Mobility, Networks and Institutions and the Negotiation of Natural Resource Management in Contemporary Africa: Processes, Challenges and Prospects. Langaa is responsible for hosting one research training workshop, in addition to coordinating the Cameroonian arm of the research. Two Cameroonian PhD students are involved, Evelyne Tegomoh from the University of Buea and Christopher Tankou from the University of Dschang.

The research is being undertaken in six countries, matched in regional pairs: Cameroon and Nigeria, Tanzania and Kenya, Namibia and South Africa. The in-depth regional case studies will benefit from interdisciplinary approaches and feed into a comparative analysis.

Participating researchers investigate the relation between new patterns of mobility and natural resource management in savannah environments in Africa, in which increasing flows of people, ideas and capital are impacting the regulation of socio-ecological systems. Areas of inquiry include rural-rural migration of smallholder farmers, the establishment of large scale commercial farming enterprises by migrants reinvesting capital in rural areas, and new elites circulating between urban jobs and rural home-communities.

Mobile people – whether poor rural farmers, landless people, labour migrants, or urban-based elites – impact on environments. Often these three sets of people –discernible both as social groups and individual actors – compete for the same set of natural resources. They strive for property rights and sometimes coalesce with local elites, national pressure groups or international organisations to press for their ends.

Shifting patterns of mobility lead to a growing heterogeneity of resource users, dislocated forms of decision making, and institutional development engaging migrants, diasporas, administrations as well as locals in decisions on natural resource use. New coalitions but also new types of conflict have led to the emergence of entirely new forms of collective action within socio-ecological systems. These dynamics impact on natural resources significantly and result in altered soil structures, hydrological dynamics and vegetation patterns.

This research project aims to facilitate research and build capacities and partnerships around these complex issues. Collaboration among social scientists, agricultural scientists, political scientists, natural scientists and persons with a background in law enables a comprehensive approach.

The research is financed by the Volkswagen Foundation for a period of four years.