Understanding Interdependencies: Stakeholder Identification and Negotiation as a Precondition to Collective Natural Resource Management

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"The complex and subtle nature of the bio-physical interdependencies at play in determining many natural resource management problems are circumstances complicating improved natural resource management. What happens at one point in time or in one part of the landscape affects and is affected by what happens at other times or parts of the landscape. Some of these temporal and spatial interdependencies are immediately visible while others, such as the relationship between landscape diversity and structure, and the occurrence of specific crop pests and diseases (Altieri 1987; Barrett 1992), are more complex and subtle. "However, these are not the only factors at play. Particularly in hillside regions, agricultural landscapes are fragmented among numerous individual decisionmakers. Thus, even if recognising the biophysical interdependencies related to a specific natural resource management problem, effectively managing these requires the individual farmer to coordinate his or her resource management with that of neighbouring farmers. "This brings a second set of interdependencies into play, namely the social and economic interdependencies which exist between individual landscape users. Some farmers depend fully or in part on others for their livelihood, e.g. through their provision of employment as day labourers or of informal loans; farmers may belong to different ethnic or religious groups which may complicate communication and thus coordination between them; previous experiences of cooperation among farmers may have failed. These and other factors shape the individual farmers' willingness to engage in coordinated or collective natural resource management and thus the ability to manage the bio-physical interdependencies involved in many natural resource management problems. "This paper argues that recognising and understanding not only the interdependencies which exist between different parts and resources within the landscape but also between the individual resource managers is crucial to solving natural resource management problems which require coordinated or collective management. "Illustrated by field work based case studies carried out in Nicaragua and Colombia, the paper builds its findings on a stakeholder analysis methodology (Ravnborg et al. 1999), which through a process of continuous and iterative eliciting of individual farmers perceptions and interests with respect to their own resource management their constructions and contrasting of these with those of other farmers forms the basis for joint appreciation and analysis of the biophysical as well as social interdependencies involved in natural resource management. "In addition to the manual (Ravnborg et al. 1999), a teaching material has been developed on the basis of the stakeholder analysis methodology (Westermann et al. 1999) which has been used to teach the methodology in courses held for local development workers in Nicaragua, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Colombia. "Underlying the methodology is the assumption that it is the individual farmers perception of a variety of factors such as bio-physical processes relating to natural resource management problems, security of land tenure, market developments, etc. which combined with his or her resource endowments and obligations make him or her act, that is pursue a specific resource management strategy. Thus, an important element in efforts to improve natural resource management is the eliciting, contrasting, enriching or deepening (by information from elsewhere, e.g. research) and negotiation of these individual understandings of natural resource management. "The paper consists of two parts. The first part presents the stakeholder analysis methodology and its theoretical basis, while the second part presents examples of its application and particularly how understandings of biophysical and social interdependencies emerged and were negotiated."
IASC, common pool resources, resource management--theory, agriculture, social organization, social networks, institutional analysis, decision making