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Waterscape and land commons changes, in semi-arid area, creating multiple crises for pastoral communities and natural resources management, Amboseli, Kenya.

Arthur Bostvironnois

University of Lyon, France

This presentation focuses on the changes across time and space of two key commons for pastoralists in a semi-arid area, water, and land. The main aim of this work is to understand how changes of the water system (i.e., the waterscape or the spatio-temporal distribution of water plus governance and access) have impacted local livelihoods and ultimately land system in Group Ranches situated around Amboseli National Park – ANP – and inhabited by Maasai pastoralist. Amboseli ecosystem (the ANP and the surrounding rangelands) shelters many wild emblematic species of the East-African savannahs. It is thus a conservation hotspot with a myriad of policies and actors which create hybrid governance of the commons. Challenges experienced by a majority of Maasai, the most vulnerable, due to crisis (e.g., climatic, political, cultural, economic –due to covid-19 recently-, and so on) are leading (i) to a critique of the collective ownership related to inequalities, injustices, authority abuses, and thus (ii) to the end of the commons through changing rules, institutions, knowledge. In this context, we are questioning how changes of the waterscape (i.e., water infrastructures, policies, access, and usage) reveal changes in land representations, practices, and therefore tenure? To answer this question, an ethnographic approach was designed, using open and semi-directive interviews, mapping workshops, and role-playing games, targeting the Maasai agropastoralists, government officials, and NGO workers. The information collected on the socio-hydrological cycle, are showing that changes of waterscape and other key elements were accompanied by inequalities and are therefore contributing to an end of the collectively-owned land. Moreover, based on the understanding of the historical and contemporary challenges in managing the commons, an RPG will be built to favor social learning and the production of creative scenarios for managing the natural resources under a hybrid management scheme in the future.

Changement du paysage aquatique et des terres communes dans les zones semi-arides, créant de multiples crises pour les communautés pastorales et la gestion des ressources naturelles, Amboseli, Kenya

Arthur Bostvironnois

Université de Lyon, France

Cette présentation se concentre sur les changements dans le temps et l’espace de deux biens communs clés pour les pasteurs dans une zone semi-aride, l’eau et la terre. L’objectif principal de ce travail est de comprendre comment les changements du système d’eau (c’est-à-dire le paysage aquatique ou la distribution spatio-temporelle de l’eau ainsi que la gouvernance et l’accès) ont eu un impact sur les moyens de subsistance locaux et, finalement, le système foncier dans les ranchs du groupe situés autour du parc national d’Amboseli – ANP – et habité par un pasteur masaï. L’écosystème d’Amboseli (l’ANP et les parcours environnants) abrite de nombreuses espèces sauvages emblématiques des savanes d’Afrique de l’Est. C’est donc un hotspot de conservation avec une myriade de politiques et d’acteurs qui créent une gouvernance hybride des communs. Les défis rencontrés par une majorité de Masaï, les plus vulnérables, en raison de la crise (par exemple, climatique, politique, culturelle, économique – en raison de la convoitise -19 récemment-, etc.) conduisent (i) à une critique de la propriété collective liés aux inégalités, aux injustices, aux abus d’autorité, et donc (ii) à la fin des communs à travers l’évolution des règles, des institutions, des connaissances. Dans ce contexte, nous nous demandons comment les changements du paysage aquatique (c’est-à-dire les infrastructures, les politiques, l’accès et l’utilisation de l’eau) révèlent des changements dans les représentations, les pratiques et donc le régime foncier? Pour répondre à cette question, une approche ethnographique a été conçue, utilisant des entretiens ouverts et semi-directifs, des ateliers de cartographie et des jeux de rôle, ciblant les agropasteurs maasaï, les fonctionnaires et les travailleurs des ONG. Les informations collectées sur le cycle socio-hydrologique montrent que les changements du paysage aquatique et d’autres éléments clés s’accompagnent d’inégalités et contribuent donc à la fin des terres détenues collectivement. De plus, basé sur la compréhension des défis historiques et contemporains de la gestion des biens communs, un RPG sera construit pour favoriser l’apprentissage social et la production de scénarios créatifs pour la gestion des ressources naturelles dans le cadre d’un système de gestion hybride à l’avenir.

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10 Responses

  1. Hello, Arthur,
    Thank you for the presentation. It’s always great to get feedback from the field in this freshness!

    In your presentation, I have the feeling that the landscape is becoming more and more complex. And I was wondering if it’s an optical effect (there were a lot of elements in the 17th Century part, but they weren’t mentioned) or if there’s really an accumulation effect? Do you have any information other than the actors for this early period?

    Looking at this complexification of the map over time I wondered if it was an illustration of a phenomenon that J. Linton (in “what is water”) calls a shift towards modern water? “Modern water is an intellectual achievement . Modern water reduces all water to this essential substance, this homogenous chemical compound, both spatially and temporally” (p.18).In Pyrénée this leads us to consider the transfer of water management and control from local authorities (herders?) to the State as a characteristic of modern water. Would that describe the dynamics you observe in the field?

    1. Hi Etienne,

      Thanks for this comment. As an answer I would say that I have very few information for the early period in the 17th century apart from local actors narratives. The accumulation effect is real at every period then new infrastructures have been built and are still partly used today.

      For the second question I would say that it is a good illustration of the phenomenon described by J. Linton. The shift from the first period when the water was managed by local actors to a “conservationnist” authority and tourism is a true characteristic of modern water.

  2. Role-playing games can be important for resolving collective action conflicts. What was the outcome of the games mentioned towards the end of this presentation?

  3. Excellent presentation. You mentioned that your team conducted surveys. I wonder if there is any information in the survey that you can use to measure the level of inequality across households/communities?

    1. Hi Liao,

      Thanks for your comment. This presentation is only partly showing the work I have been setting up in the area. I am currently analyzing my data on three systems with different housholds, practices, actors and narratives. In these three systems, I am analyzing the inequalities, rules of acces and power in place in terms of water uses.

      These results will for sure be presented in future publications.

    1. Hi Bryan,

      This is a very good question. The answer depends mostly on the age, sex and financial situation of every people questionned. The “old and rich people” with a lot of livestock would like to govern land and water as a commons but the youngest with low income and small livestock would like to get their own share to sell the land or to realize agriculture by drilling a borehole. Still it who be interesting to gather these people to create some scenario on the future managment system.

  4. I enjoyed your presentation. I have a few questions about the concept of waterscape? How is it different from watershed? Is it watershed + social-ecological systems? How do you define the waterscape in your study area? Is it defined by the watershed boundaries? Do you decide what the waterscape is? Or is it your informants who decide what the boundaries of the waterscape is? Or are there no physical boundaries to the waterscape? Obviously I should read the Swyngedouw paper, but I am also interested in your take on the concept of waterscape.

    1. Hi Mark,

      As an answer I would say that: The “waterscape” can be considered as “partly natural and partly social, bringing together a multiplicity of historical-geographic processes and relationships (Swyngedouw, 1999); “watercapes” are a form of socio-nature (Latour, 1993) ”. The “waterscape” is a spatial and temporal representation of the complexity of social and biophysical interactions. In addition, and in our case, the environments produced are specific historical results of socio-biophysical processes. “Most social processes and socio-ecological conditions (cities, agricultural or industrial production systems, etc.) are invariably supported and organized by a combination of social processes on the one hand (such as capital / labor relations and forms work organization) and metabolic and ecological processes (ie the biological, chemical or physical transformation of natural resources), complementary organized by a series of interdependent technologies) on the other hand ”(Swyngedouw, 2009). It is also necessary to understand the existence of new considerations in man / nature and science / society approaches which have moved away from contrasting “scientific” and “local” knowledge, in order to consider knowledge as excluded (Haraway 1988, Goldman 2007, Nightingale 2016). It is certainly a question of considering the power relations between local actors, scientists and foreigners. Conservation is rooted in a “Western” neoliberal paradigm. Beyond the preservation of wildlife and habitat, a park must produce something (tourism, money, research, etc.) through an “hybrid governance” (Brockington & Duffy 2010). Therefore, the driving forces involved are economic, political, historical (for example, the creation of Amboseli National Park), geographic and defined on the knowledge structure as well as a complex posture put in place by this hybrid governance.

      The consideration of these plural epistemologies and ontologies creates different knowledge systems and “watercape” which requires a mixed methodology to obtain a global understanding of local issues that fit into global mechanisms.

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