Panel 13

Panel 13 - Open


Mikko Ylikangas, PhD ( Academy of Finland

Title & Content:

Social and environmental challenges in the South

The Panel is composed of six papers from three research projects of the Development Academy Programme of the Academy of Finland (2018–2022). The papers examine the problems of Social and environmental challenges in the South from different perspectives:


  • Professor Sirpa Tenhunen’s (University of Helsinki) project Sustainable Livelihoods and Politics at the Margins: Environmental Displacement in South Asia studies the problem of environmental displacement and its consequences in the developing world. The focus of the project will be on the struggles for livelihood by the displaced people in Bangladesh and India, countries which have been ranked as being among the most vulnerable to climate change over the next 30 years. Our research examines displacement in India and Bangladesh due to the rising seawater, cyclones, and floods. The broad aim of the project is to understand the process of environmental displacement and thereby generate novel ideas and insights to improve theory, policy and practice by means of which the environmental migrants’ right to sustainable livelihoods could be ensured. We seek an understanding of how people perceive and negotiate their weather and climate related displacement and struggle for their right to earn a sustainable living as well as how such displacements are integrated into their pre-existing daily practices. There are two papers:


1) Professor Mohammad Jasim Uddin’s (Hahjalal University of Science & Technology, Bangladesh) paper Environmental Hazards and Moving of the margins: A study among the environmentally displaced people in Bangladesh is a case study of a slum in Khulna municipality, Bangladesh. The data of this study was collected from the slum dwellers who left their area of origin due to climate and environment related hazard, particularly cyclone AILA. This paper explores how people perceive and negotiate their weather and climate related hazard and displacement, and how they struggle for their right to earn a sustainable living as part of their other mobilities and networks.


2) Dr. Dayabati Roy’s (University of Helsinki) paper ‘On the horns of a dilemma’! handles climate change, adaptation and marginal people in Sunderbans, India. The marginal people of the Sunderbans (SDB) do now subsist ‘between two fires’ – climate change and climate change mitigation policies. The marginal people of SDB have already felt the fire of climate change in terms of loss of livelihoods, homelessness, and even life harm. They have begun recently to experience the fire of climate change-mitigation policies. The fallout of this situation, thus, comes in form of mass-exodus, and social and political conflicts at the margin. While a large section of people does migrate from SDB for livelihoods, a section of people under the leadership of various civil society organizations have come into conflicts with the government regarding their exclusion as part of climate change-mitigation policies from forest, water and land. Focusing mainly on the Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers (Recognition of forest rights) act, 2006, this paper seeks to understand the way this kind of policies are affecting the marginal people, and reconfiguring the class, caste and gender issues.


  • Professor Anja Nygren’s (University of Helsinki) project Water and Vulnerability in Fragile Societies handles environmental disasters that have become more devastating in the midst of climate change. While these adversities are understood as natural disasters, we argue that radically new approaches are needed to explore water-related disasters, and people’s vulnerability to them, as environmental-social processes. This project explores links between biophysical and socio-political processes connected with water vulnerability. The study areas contain 1) Mekong River basin in Cambodia; 2) Kalimantan in Indonesia; and 3) Grijalva River basin in Mexico. The project examines how differentiated vulnerabilities are embedded in multi-scale resource politics and power. Simultaneously, hydrological models and hydroclimatic analyses of the cascading effects of climate change, resource extraction and water management will explore the sensitivity of hydrological regimes to anthropogenic change. Ethnographic research enables an understanding of how people experience changes in environmental-social conditions. There are two papers:


1) Anja Nygren’s paper State-Making, Scalar Politics and Socionature in the Political Ecology of Water in Mexico examines continuities and changes in water governance across time and space, drawing on a political-ecological analysis of the Grijalva river basin, Mexico. As flood disasters linked to climate change are becoming widespread, water governance has attracted increasing attention. The Grijalva basin, with volatile flood patterns and shifting modes of governance provides opportunities to analyze three analytically interlinked aspects:  governance and state-making; politics of scale; and the dynamics of socionature. The analysis opens up new ways to understand power dynamics, hydrosocial relations and the entanglement of biophysical and sociopolitical processes in water-related changes that render particular waterscapes and their inhabitants increasingly fragile.


2) Dr. Dora Elia Ramos Muñoz’s (El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Villahermosa, Mexico) paper Productive History and Territorial Management of the Usumacinta Basin, Mexico studies the main institutional problems from 1950 to 2018 and provide empirical elements on the distances between State policies and daily practices that transform the territory of the Usumacinta river basin – the largest freshwater reservoir in Mexico. The paper studies Mexican policies established considering international, national and local levels and the territorial/ jurisdictional or sectoral tasks and actions.


  • Professor Irmeli Mustalahti’s (University of Eastern Finland) project Translocal forest owners and environmental collaboration: An action learning process of forest governance transformation in Tanzania (MAKUTANO) aims to develop appropriate and new methodological and theoretical approaches for environmental collaboration and conflict resolution to be used in Tanzania and elsewhere. The action learning approach will be used to find out if urban forest owners influence forest governance, and induce local conflicts over resource utilization. The project provides skills on environmental collaboration and conflict resolution to a group of forest owners and local community members in the Southern Highlands, Tanzania, and traces how these skills are transformed and used in the future actions of these forest owners and the surrounding communities. The project will increase the knowhow of the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) and the College of Business Education (CBE) on responsive environmental collaboration and conflict resolution. There are two papers

1) Irmeli Mustalahti, Edda Tandi Lwoga, Tuyeni Heita Mwampamba, Dismas L. Mwaseba, Antti Erkkilä, Estevao Eduardo Chambule, Pekka Virtanen, Violeta Gutiérrez Zamora, Mara Hernández Estrada, Rijal Ramdani and Anu Lounela: How we could foster locally responsive collaborative natural resources governance: Lessons from Tanzania, Mozambique, Mexico and Indonesia. In the extensive literature, scholars have demonstrated that collaborative natural resources governance expands the public domain between local communities and various power holders in the multi-actor governance. Challenge for the collaborative natural resources governance has been and will be the complex social-ecological systems of local residents, civil society, companies as well as administrative bodies and the foreign funded interventions. However, the responsive decision-making that promotes collaboration between local people and various actors supports conflict mitigation than structures in which for example external actors/powerholders/investors make decisions without consulting local people. A set of guiding research questions form the basis of our case studies in Tanzania, Mozambique, Mexico and Indonesia: What forms and practices of collaboration are produced as external actors and local residents/communities?  How is the collaborative governance is shaping decision making on resource use and governance? What are the socially (locally) acceptable rights and responsibilities on collaborative decision-making? Does these rights and responsibilities create need for collaborative practices of conflict resolution? What type of collaborative conflict resolution methods could be created in connection of the collaborative natural resources governance? With these context specific questions, we demonstrate why three aspects need to be better understood: 1) capabilities, 2) agency, and 3) level of structures. Otherwise, powerful actors will maintain their positions of domination, while collaborative natural resources governance will transfer new tasks and duties to communities and local decision makers without adequately attending to their capacities and resources.


2) Antti Erkkilä, Dismas L. Mwaseba, Suzana Samson Nyanda, Irmeli Mustalahti, Esbern Friis-Hansen and John D. Maziku: Translocal Forest Governance: Lessons from Small-Scale Tree Growing in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. The article deals with translocal small-scale tree growers and farmers in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. Translocality refers to the multidirectional and overlapping networks that facilitate the circulation of people, resources, practices and ideas. In the context of forests, translocality can motivate national and regional investment in tree growing by urban and peri-urban investors who own and manage woodlots without living in or near them. This may drastically shift land tenure dynamics, widen rural-urban income gaps, and introduce power structures that result in tensions or exacerbate existing conflicts. In the Southern Highlands the promotion of small-scale tree growing has attracted domestic investors, which has increased land value and consequently also land related disputes. Our preliminary findings show that land tenure conflicts related to tree growing are on the increase, including disputes on boundaries, inheritance and user rights. Tree growing seems more often to benefit men, who are usually power holders in the family and society at large, rather than women. Timber sales and marketing, and the consequent benefits, are often controlled by male family members. Investments in pine tree plantations have altered the previously fire dependent agricultural landscape towards becoming highly fire sensitive. Conflicts over use of fire are common and require collaborative solutions.



Discussant: Dr. Edith Kauffer, Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIECAS), Mexico