EADI/ISS Series | Digitalizing agriculture in Africa: promises and risks of an emerging trend by Fabio Gatti and Oane Visser

EADI/ISS Series | Digitalizing agriculture in Africa: promises and risks of an emerging trend by Fabio Gatti and Oane Visser

The potential of the digitalization of agriculture in Africa to contribute to food security, poverty reduction and environmental sustainability agendas is being increasingly claimed by international development actors, and reflects ...

EADI/ISS Series | The Battle is on: Civic Space & Land Rights by Barbara Oosters and Saskia van Veen

EADI/ISS Series | The Battle is on: Civic Space & Land Rights by Barbara Oosters and Saskia van Veen

Defenders of land rights all over the world struggle with shrinking civic space. The more that space for people to peacefully claim their land rights is restricted, the more intense ...

EADI/ISS Series | Resource Grabbing in a Changing Environment

By Adwoa Yeboah Gyapong, Amod Shah, Corinne Lamain, Elyse Mills, Natacha Bruna, Sergio Coronado and Yukari Sekine

We are living in an era where people’s daily lives are deeply intertwined with the impacts of global markets and the threats of climate change. Even good intentions for mitigating and adapting to climate change can jeopardise natural resources and rural livelihoods. Examples from Mozambique, Colombia, and the Eastern Himalayas show how local communities affected by resource grabbing engage in both overt and covert responses against dispossession and exploitation.


We are living in an era where people’s daily lives are deeply intertwined with the impacts of global markets and the threats of climate change. Even good intentions for mitigating and adapting to climate change can jeopardise natural resources and rural livelihoods. These seemingly abstract issues are becoming increasingly clear through both research and the role of the media, sparking questions such as: How do attempts to address climate change prevent farmers from working their lands, or negatively affect the livelihoods of forest users? Why are fishers organising themselves to resist interventions intended to protect marine areas? How do human rights groups and indigenous communities resist the state and powerful companies despite civil society space being increasingly limited?

The rapid rise in the scale and scope of the commodification and exploitation of natural resources can be linked to four broad, interlinked drivers: the expansion of the industrial food system; increasing privatisation of the commons; changes in governance mechanisms; and the growing prominence of climate mitigation and adaptation responses. Both local and global issues shape and complicate the dynamics of contemporary resource grabbing, many of which are still not fully understood – and will be explored further in our workshop on  “Resource grabbing: impacts and responses in an era of climate change” at the EADI/ISS General Conference 2020.

The social and environmental impacts of resource grabbing

Resource grabbing impacts can include limited access to resources, insecure livelihoods, diminishing ecological sustainability, and restricted participation and political incorporation, all of which are embedded in broader power dynamics. In some cases, governance instruments (e.g. labour laws) can further exacerbate the impacts of resource grabbing. Four examples illustrate these diverse impacts.

Conservation in global fisheries

Small-scale fishers globally are facing an overlap of existing and newer processes of exclusion. Existing forms of exclusion caused by industrialisation and privatisation in fisheries have more recently overlapped with exclusionary processes stemming from climate change mitigation and adaptation initiatives. Prominent examples include the increasing establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and blue carbon initiatives, which are presented as approaches to conserve and protect marine ecosystems. Such initiatives are often established close to the shallow coastal domains of small-scale fishers and involve the banning of fishing activities, leaving them with limited access to fisheries resources, territories and markets to sustain their livelihoods.

Climate funds in Mozambique

With 25% of its territory designated as conservation areas, Mozambique is the third-largest recipient of climate funds in Sub-Saharan Africa, having received approximately US$ 147.3 million in 2016. Most of these funds are directed to land-based conservation and climate change mitigation and adaptation projects. The Gilé National Reserve, a decade-old REDD+ project, combines such policies with the implementation of Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) in the reserve’s buffer zone. This has limited rural livelihood strategies and local people’s control over land and decision-making processes, due to restrictions placed on fishing, hunting, cattle rearing and gathering forest resources (e.g. charcoal, medicinal plants).

Mining in Colombia

Since the 2008 commodity-boom, open-pit coal mining in the Colombian Caribbean region of La Guajira has expanded rapidly, leading to intensified land and environmental conflicts between mining companies, the state, and the affected communities. Land previously used for agriculture and grazing livestock is no longer accessible. Both the landscape and the local economy are now dominated by mining, which has consumed more than 12,000 hectares of land and displaced 16 local villages.

Hydropower dams in the Eastern Himalayas 

In the Eastern Himalayas (North-East India and Nepal), numerous hydropower dams are being planned or are already being constructed. Many of these are funded through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), an internationally developed climate finance initiative aiming to stimulate the development of renewable energies. However, evidence suggests that dams contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions through the creation of reservoirs and changes in land-use. Large dams particularly disturb ecological systems, upstream and downstream river flows, and limit people’s access to riverside lands.

Political responses generated by resource grabs

Local people and communities affected by resource grabbing engage in both overt and covert responses against dispossession and exploitation. Overt responses include formal, organised actions, often by social movements. In contrast, covert responses may include everyday acts of resistance and adaptation through different livelihood strategies, such as migration or incorporation into projects. The dynamics of such political responses have implications for solidarity with and building alliances between affected groups, particularly those seeking social and environmental justice. Three examples illustrate these diverse responses.

Using legal tools in India and Colombia

Indigenous communities facing displacement stemming from hydropower and mining in India have effectively stalled land acquisition processes through court action.  These rulings have enforced existing laws mandating their prior consultation and consent. Similarly, in Colombia, more than ten popular consultation processes have been carried out at the provincial level since 2010. In each of them, large numbers of local people voted against the installation and expansion of mining or oil extraction projects. Legal battles have also taken place between companies, the state, and human rights defenders over the implementation of consultation results.

Scaling-up ‘agrarian climate justice’ struggles in Myanmar

The recent re-emergence of overt, organised resistance related to land, environment and climate mitigation issues in Myanmar has ranged from advocacy aiming to influence national-level land laws and policies that facilitate privatisation and concentration, to more localised resistance against large-scale oil palm concessions, mines and forest conservation initiatives that exclude small-scale farmers and forest users. Scaling up across struggles for agrarian climate justice has become imperative to counter elite power at national and regional levels. However, it sometimes triggers external threats, like repression, and ‘divide-and-rule’ strategies from above. Fault-lines within movements may also emerge, particularly due to competing political tendencies and legacies of ethnic conflicts.

Everyday strategies in Ghana

Farmworkers on an oil palm plantation in Ghana have engaged in covert strategies such as absenteeism, non-compliance to rules, and continuous production to resist exploitation. Workers on farms near the plantation occasionally use company vehicles on their own farms, while they absent themselves from plantation work. Casual workers use various tactics to obtain paid medical leave, while others do shoddy work, knowing there are few monitoring supervisors.  Through these everyday individual responses, workers can maintain a small supply of staple foods (e.g. corn and cassava), earn extra income, and rest.  However, their everyday actions also restrict their upward workplace mobility, such as moving from casual to permanent contracts, and productive autonomy on their own farms in terms of scale and crop choices.


This article is part of a series launched by the EADI (European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes) and the ISS in preparation for the 2020 EADI/ISS General Conference “Solidarity, Peace and Social Justice”. It was also published on the EADI blog.

About the authors:

Adwoa Yeboah Gyapong, Amod Shah, Corinne Lamain, Elyse Mills, Natacha Bruna, Sergio Coronado and Yukari Sekine are all PhD researchers in the Political Ecology research group at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS).


Image Credit: Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

EADI/ISS Series | Re-Politizing the European Aid Debate by Iliana Olivié and Aitor Pérez

EADI/ISS Series | Re-Politizing the European Aid Debate by Iliana Olivié and Aitor Pérez

Aid or, at least, its narrative, is increasingly politicised. This is happening in a period of emerging populist and/or nationalist movements in Europe. Maybe counter-intuitively, nationalism or populism does not ...

EADI/ISS Series | Rethinking Empowerment and Accountability in ‘Difficult Settings’ by John Gaventa

EADI/ISS Series | Rethinking Empowerment and Accountability in ‘Difficult Settings’ by John Gaventa

Over the last two decades, development has been replete with theories and interventions focusing on ‘empowerment and accountability’, and how these could contribute to a range of outcomes, be they ...

EADI/ISS Series | Bridging EU- & Postdevelopment Studies: Four Avenues by Sarah Delputte and Jan Orbie

Postdevelopment debates are relatively new to scholars studying the EU’s Development Policy. However, bridging EU development and post-development can help us to think about (normative) alternatives to EU development, both generally and concretely, argue Sarah Delputte and Jan Orbie. The EU provides a relevant and practical setting within which concrete alternatives to development aid can be considered. In line with Julia Schöneberg’s plea for practical postdevelopment, the focus on the EU can contribute to making more concrete how policies and approaches should be changed. 


In February 2019, we pushed ourselves out of our comfort zones to participate in a panel on “Re-thinking, Re-defining, Re-positioning: “Development” and the Question of “Alternatives”, convened by Julia Schöneberg at the Development Days Conference in Helsinki, in a first attempt to look at EU development policy from a postdevelopment perspective. As scholars studying the EU’s Development Policy we usually try to take a critical approach towards EU Development. However, and perhaps embarrassingly, postdevelopment debates were new to us.

Back home from this very interesting experience, discussions in our research center’s reading group on postdevelopment continued for some months until we found it was time to invite Julia Schöneberg to our university for a full-day workshop on bridging EU- & Postdevelopment. For this occasion, we structured our insights into four potential avenues for bridging EU- & Postdevelopment Studies, departing from our own EU Development perspective: 

1. Munition

EU development scholars know the EU’s development policies very well. We are aware of the EU’s development history and evolutions, its complex institutional setting, its ideational and internal divisions and debates, various programmes, different budgetary instruments, trends in aid flows etc. In sum: we know EU development inside-out. Moreover, we have already problematized various aspects of it, e.g. securitization, marketization, incoherencies, coordination fetish, bodybuilder image, from different empirical and theoretical perspectives. We also have access to experts and scholars working on EU development policy. Our expertise can enrich the perspectives of postdevelopment scholars for whom EU development policy could be considered a ‘goldmine’. Hence the idea of providing postdevelopment scholars with ‘extra munition’ for their critiques. It can strengthen and substantiate postdevelopment critiques. 

2. Infusion

Postdevelopment ideas have been floating around since at least the mid-1990s. However, they seem not to have reached the EU development studies community. Via EADI and other networks, postdevelopment thinking can get ‘infused’ within the EU development studies community. We can at least provoke a debate on whether development policy should be necessary. In doing so, we can make clear that radical arguments against development policy are not necessarily ‘reactionary populist’ but can also be skeptical and geared to ‘radical democracy’. We can clarify that the real challenge – underlying many more superficial challenges that are often noted in EU development studies – lays in the problematic conception of development (aid) itself. This opens up a new research agenda that should interest scholars currently working on EU development/aid, because it provides a novel way to analyze changes and challenges to EU development policy and to link this with current debates such as the rise of populism. It also allows to do more comparative and detailed research on different visions in development policy within Europe (PlEUriverse).

Graph1-Bridgring-EU..

3. Another Europe is possible

Bridging EU development and post-development can help us to think about (normative) alternatives to EU development, both generally and concretely. In general, it can foster thinking about different imaginaries of ‘another Europe’ and about which role(s) the EU could/should play towards the so-called ‘developing countries’. This would be in line with a 2016 call by Ian Manners, Richard Whitman and others to allow for more dissident voices in theorising Europe.

There have been longstanding debates on the EU’s role in the world, not only from mainstream and policy- oriented corners (e.g. civilian power Europe) but also from critical Scholars (e.g. Galtung in 1973) which can (and should) be updated taking a postdevelopment context into account. Although there is a broad recognition within scholarship and policy circles that the EU is a ‘post-modern’ construct, this has not coincided with pleas for a ‘postdevelopment’ policy. More concretely, the interaction between EU and postdevelopment studies could involve a translation of ‘alternatives to development’ in the EU’s institutional context and policy making.

While postdevelopment has given much thought to such alternatives, Aram Ziai’s statement of 2004 still seems to hold true: “Admittedly, little thought is given to how development institutions could contribute to the flourishing of these alternatives, but to expect that from postdevelopment would certainly go too far.” In line with Julia Schöneberg’s plea for practical postdevelopment, the focus on the EU can thus contribute to making more concrete how policies and approaches should be changed. The EU provides a relevant and practical setting within which concrete alternatives to development aid can be considered. Because of the EU’s nature as a multi-level, fragmented and compartmentalized thing, policymaking in the EU arguably contains many access points for critical debates –– including discussions on general postdevelopment roles and on practical alternatives. The EU also provides a relevant platform to discuss solutions for injustices in the global governance framework such as the World Bank and the WTO.

4. PlEUriverse

Taking postdevelopment thinking seriously, we should also acknowledge the diversity of views on ‘development’ within Europe. Whereas the underlying Eurocentric, modernist and colonial paradigm may be the same, there are various ways in which member states and civil society actors have conceived development (policy). For instance, the ‘Nordics’ or ‘like-minded’ have always played an interesting role in development debates. The rejection of monolithical thinking on ‘EU development’ should allow for more detailed and complexity-sensitive research that delves into the different cultural, historical and political economy backgrounds of different EU views on development.

Beyond the diversity in view on ‘development policy’ narrowly speaking, this also connects to wider critiques of development within the EU which have gained more traction since the Euro-crisis and austerity policies, such as commons and degrowth. Whereas the postdevelopment literature has pointed to this ‘bridge’, many studies seem to generalise the ‘western’ and ‘European’ thinking to such an extent that 2nd order differences remain unnoticed. Paying more attention to the ‘PlEUriverse’ is not only academically interesting but also normatively important, as it will point to spaces and agents where change may be possible.

Graph2-Bridging-EU...

With sharing these reflections on bridging EU- and postdevelopment we also hope to inspire and encourage EU Development, Postdevelopment and all other interested scholars to join the seed panel on “Views on the EU as a development actor in conversation with postdevelopment” that the EADI Working Groups on “The European Union as a Development Actor” and “Post- and Decolonial Perspectives on Development” are organizing at the EADI General Conference in The Hague (29 June-2 July 2020).


This article is part of a series launched by the EADI (European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes) and the ISS in preparation for the 2020 EADI/ISS General Conference “Solidarity, Peace and Social Justice”. It was also published on the EADI blog.

About the authors:

Medewerkers Centrum voor EU StudiesSarah Delputte is Post-Doctoral Assistant at the Centre for EU Studies (CEUS), and a lecturer at the Department of Political Science at Ghent University. Her teaching and research interest concerns the EU’s development policies and its interlinkages with other external policy fields, as well as its interregional relations with Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP). She is a co-convener of the of the EADI working group on the EU as a development actor.janorbie_foto6

Jan Orbie is an Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science and Director of the Centre for EU Studies (CEUS) at Ghent University (Belgium). His research focuses on EU external relations, in particular the external trade, social, development, humanitarian aid and democracy promotion policies of the EU.

 


Image Credit: Nicolas Raymond