Tag Archives: conservation social science

Livelihood landscapes – disentangling occupational diversity for natural resource management

A special contribution from Josh Cinner, from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (see previous posts on his work here and here) and Örjan Bodin from the Stockholm Resilience Centre on their recent paper, Livelihood diversification in tropical coastal communities: a network-based approach to analyzing ‘livelihood landscapes’, which appeared in the August 11, 2010 issue of PLoS ONE, and is available free online.  They write:

In many developing countries, an individual household will often engage in a range of economic sectors, such as fishing, farming, and tourism. These diverse ‘livelihood portfolios’ are thought to help to spread risk and make households more resilient to shocks in a particular sector. Whether and how local people engage in multiple occupations has important implications for how people use and manage natural resources and is of particular relevance to people involved in managing natural resources. But for scientists, donors, and policy makers, unraveling the complexity of livelihoods in developing countries has been extremely challenging.

In our recent paper in PLoS ONE, we developed a novel method for exploring complex household livelihood portfolios.  We used a network-based approach to examine how the role of natural resource-based occupations changes along spectra of socioeconomic development and population density in 27 communities across 5 western Indian Ocean countries (see Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Kenyan livelihood landscape maps at various scales of social organization: a) Shela, Kenya; b) an aggregation of peri-urban sites in Kenya; c) an aggregation of rural sites in Kenya; d) all sites in Kenya.

In Figure 1 the links between occupations are indicated by arrows. The size of a node indicates the relative involvement in that occupational sector (larger node means more people are involved). The direction of the arrows indicates the priority of ranking. Thus an arrow into an occupation indicates that the occupation was ranked lower than the occupation the arrow came from. The thickness of the arrows corresponds to the proportion of households being engaged in the, by themselves, higher ranked occupation that are also engaged in the lower ranked occupation. The proportion of the node that is shaded represents the proportion of people that ranked that occupation as a primary occupation.

We found:

  • an increase in household-level specialization with development for most (but not all) occupational sectors, including fishing and farming, but that at the community-level, economies remained diversified.
  • We also found that households in less developed communities often share a common occupation, whereas that patterns is less pronounced in more developed communities. This may have important implications for how people both perceive and solve conflicts over natural resources.

Finally, our network-based approach to exploring livelihood portfolios can be utilized for many more types of analyses conducted at varying scales, ranging from small villages to states and regions.

WWF seeks conservation social scientist

Coral reef conservation scientist Helen Fox is seeking a post-doctoral social scientist to work with her and environmental social scientist Arun Agarwal at WWF.  She writes:

We seek a highly motivated researcher early in his/her career to join our team. The successful applicant will have strong statistical skills, international field experience, and a passion for policy-relevant conservation science. (The official announcement is below and attached.)

The post-doc will join the science program at WWF here in Washington, DC. S/he will work with me, Helen Fox (WWF-US), Arun Agrawal (U. Michigan), and colleagues around the world to evaluate the ecological and social impacts of marine protected areas (MPAs) and other conservation interventions. This exciting portfolio is part of the emerging WWF Conservation Impact Initiative, which seeks to catalyze rigorous evaluation of conservation interventions and, thus, provide the scientific evidence for more effective conservation policy and practice.

The application deadline is August 13 for a fall start date. All applications should be submitted via the WWF website: www.worldwildlife.org/who/careers/jobs.html.

Josh Cinner, Anna Tsing, and the Meadowlands

Three different takes on thinking about people and nature:

1) A profile of our colleague Josh Cinner in Science (a conservation social scientist):

Now a senior research fellow at James Cook University (JCU) in Townsville, Australia, Cinner studies how coral reefs and people interact in a vast swath of the Southern Hemisphere. “People often have trouble understanding why a social scientist is involved because they think it’s the realm of the marine biologists,” he says. But it makes sense in the context of coral reefs, which are host to dozens of species of fish that provide food and income for nearby villages. “You don’t manage fish. Fish swim and they do their own thing. You manage people. Managing ecosystems is really about managing people and understanding what motivates them and their behaviors.”

Cinner and [Tim] McClanahan have found that different places felt different effects of coral bleaching based on how much people depended on fish and tourism for a living and how flexible the local people were. In Madagascar, rigid taboos govern when people can fish and what gear they can use. “This actually leads to a bit of rigidity and stifles how people are able to adapt,” Cinner says. In Kenya, some people are so desperately poor that when the reefs are in trouble, they just fish harder in the same places. But in the wealthier Seychelles, people have boats that can take them farther out, to target fish that don’t live on the reefs.

These observations have led to ideas about how to protect reefs, and the people who depend on them, during coral-bleaching events. For example, if coral die and algae take over, it’s much harder for coral to get reestablished. But if the reef hosts plenty of parrotfish — which graze on algae and keep the reef clean — the coral will be more likely to come back. Spearfishing particularly targets parrotfish, so one strategy might be to buy back spearfishing gear from Kenyan fishermen to protect parrotfish and make a reef more resilient to climate change, while leaving fishermen with other means to fish.

Cinner wants to extend this work to Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, looking for other ways to help people and coral reefs survive climate change. Working in so many cultures is challenging, he says. “I sometimes have to go through four different languages to remember the word. I might say it in Swahili, Portuguese, and Spanish, and then realize I’m trying to speak Malagasy or something.” He says it’s also tough being away from home so much of the time; last year, he was outside of Australia for about 150 days. But all that is outweighed by the excitement of his research. “You never know what’s going to happen when you step off a bus into a dusty place you’ve never been,” Cinner says. “That feeling never really goes away no matter how many times you do it. It’s almost always worked out for me.”

3) The anthropology blog Savage Minds mentions well-known anthropologist Anna Tsing‘s discussion of the need for alternatives to Actor-Network Theory (which has been discussed on Resilience Science a few times). Savage Minds author Kerim Friedman writes:

Anna Tsing’s current research (or at least what she focused on in her talk) is about mushrooms, focusing on the ways in which mushroom cultivation reuses damaged (“blasted”) landscapes. Drawing on the work of Deborah Bird Rose, she emphasized the way in which these practices allow for a kind of “recuperation” for all the species inhabiting the landscape. She also talked about “multi-species anthropology” as an alternative to Actor-Network Theory. She argued that whereas ANT is useful for inanimate technologies which are animated by their interaction with humans, it is less useful for species which are already alive. Obviously, not all living organisms are relevant to every study, so once again the question of scale is important, and must be determined ethnographically. (See Juno’s Savage Minds review of When Species Meet.)

3) Geoff Manaugh of BLDGBLOG writes about two books on New Jersey’s Meadowlands, a feral landscape within greater New York City.  He writes:

“Just five miles west of New York City,” the back cover of Sullivan’s book reads, are the Meadowlands: “this vilified, half-developed, half-untamed, much dumped-on, and sometimes odiferous tract of swampland is home to rare birds and missing bodies, tranquil marshes and a major sports arena, burning garbage dumps and corporate headquarters, the remains of the original Penn Station, and maybe, just maybe, of the late Jimmy Hoffa.” It is “mysterious ground that is not yet guidebooked,” Sullivan writes inside, “where European landscape painters once set up their easels to paint the quiet tidal estuaries and old cedar swamps,” but where, now, “there are real hills in the Meadowlands and there are garbage hills. The real hills are outnumbered by the garbage hills.”

Lutz’s book describes the region as a “32-square-mile stretch of sweeping wilderness that evokes morbid fantasies of Mafia hits and buried remains.” As Lutz explained in a 2008 interview with Photoshelter, “When I first saw the Meadowlands I was completely blown away at this vast open space with the Manhattan skyline in the distance. It was this space that existed between spaces, somewhere between urban and suburban all the while made up of swamps, towns and intersecting highways. None of it made any sense to me, still doesn’t.”

All told, the area has become, Sullivan writes, “through negligence, through exploitation, and through its own chaotic persistence, explorable again.”