A Multi-Scale Approach to Land Governance in Complex Cultural, Environmental and Institutional Contexts. Development of a Comparative GIS Methodology Linking Land Use, Land Cover and Land Tenure from the Cases of Bolivia and the Lao PDR

How can a geographical information system methodology contribute to address the governance of natural resources in terms of conservation and development?

Project Summary

The overall aim of this project is to provide a methodological and conceptual contribution to address the governance of natural resources as a complex process involving multiple levels and scales. The project focuses on land as a key natural resource. Land use and land cover change deeply impact biological diversity and respond to the complex interplay between economic opportunities and institutional and cultural factors.

The main objective of the project is to develop a comparative geographical information system (GIS) methodology to address land governance at multiple levels by investigating interrelations between land tenure, land use, land cover and biodiversity in the cases of Bolivia and Laos. Both countries have highly diverse institutional, socio-economic and cultural contexts and have recently experienced partial transfers of governance from central state to sub-national and local levels, in parallel with increasing recognition of traditional or indigenous authorities.

Collected data will be processed together with already existing ones to identify so-called “geopolitical” hotspots where land governance is at stake, and link them with biodiversity crisis zones. The identification of these complex geographical contexts and their local dynamic outcomes will allow highlighting processes and patterns that are globally relevant to policymakers in development and conservation.

Executive Summary

This exploratory research project had the objective to understand land governance in terms of its spatial expression across multiple scales by assessing the interactions between local social-ecological systems and overarching governance configurations. The two first contributions showed that land redistribution and titling in Bolivia as well as village resettlements in Laos affect forest cover. Yet these national policies must be linked with international development agendas, which have geographically visible strategic priorities within both countries. Meso-scale typologies of social-ecological systems based on land cover change and socio-economic data allowed to identify challenging land governance configuration including cash crop expansion areas, areas settled by smallholders with gradual levels of market integration and remote areas with unexpected high deforestation. Yet these configurations are linked with specific actors’ interests and their criticity is not value-free. We introduce the prospective, applied concept of land governance “critical zones”, as potential and indicative areas where different interests and pressures from different sources arise, which have to be identified in a collaborative, multi-stakeholder effort of knowledge production.

Article

Integrating Forest Cover Change with Census Data: Drivers and Contexts from Bolivia and the Lao PDR

The aim of this paper is to explore possible links between forest cover change and characteristics of social-ecological systems at the sub-national scale based mainly on census data. We assessed relationships between population density, poverty, ethnicity, accessibility and forest cover change during the last decade for four regions of Bolivia and the Lao PDR, combining a parcel-based with a cell-based approach. We found that accessibility is a key driver of forest cover change, yet it has the effect of intensifying other economic and policy-related underlying drivers, like colonization policies, cash crop demand, but also policies that lead to forest gain in one case. Poverty does not appear as a driver of deforestation, but the co-occurrence of poverty and forest loss are driven by external investments that appear critical in terms of social-ecological development. Ethnicity was found to be a moderate explanatory of forest cover change but appears as a cluster of converging socio-economic characteristics related to settlement history and land resource access. The identification of such clusters can help to order communities into a typology of social-ecological systems, and discussing their possible outcomes in light of a critical view on forest transition theory, as well as the relevance and predictive power of the variables assessed.

Research Team

Frédéric Giraut
Coordinator
Université de Genève

Sébastien Boillat
Co-Coordinator
Université de Genève

Joan Bastide
Principal Member
Université de Genève

Louca Lerch
Principal Member
Université de Genève

Urs Wiesmann
Principal Member
Universität Bern

Khamla Phanvilay
Principal Member

Principal Member

Yuri Sandoval
Principal Member
Universidad Mayor de San Andrés

Luis Salamanca
Principal Member
Universidad Mayor de San Andrés

Sithong Thongmanivong
Principal Member

Heinzpeter Znoj
Principal Member
Universität Bern

Sarah-Lan Mathez-Stiefel
Associated Member
Universität Bern

Hy Dao
Associated Member
Université de Genève

Andreas Heinimann
Associated Member
Universität Bern

Irène Hirt
Associated Member
Université de Genève

Gary J. Martin
Associated Member
The Global Diversity Foundation

Status

completed

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