A moral economy of water: charity wells in Egypt’s Nile Delta

I’m very proud to use the blog to disseminate an article that was successfully led by former ICTA MSc student Hagar El Didi, now based at IFPRI-Cairo. Through a case study in Egypt’s Nile Delta, we investigated the role that charity wells play in irrigation and drinking water access relations, placing emphasis on the ways in which these wells interact with other local and national institutions. We demonstrate that charity wells alter property rights relations, extending entitlements to water, but their effectiveness is also limited by existing property rights regimes and anti-cooperative actions of specific individuals which together contribute to maintain an inequitable access system.

Fire is REDD+

This article is one of the latest scientific outputs of an action-research project in south-eastern Tanzania focused on combining participatory forest management with REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) incentives. The project introduces early burning practices to reduce the number and (heat) intensity of wild and late-season fires, to develop robust carbon accounting methods. Our analysis considers the causes of forest fires, and local people’s knowledge of the early burning process and its impacts on livelihoods, through the development of early burning activities as a potential source of carbon revenue. Some of the difficulties of implementation have been resolved over time (e.g. the premature introduction of carbon contracts), whereas others remain: there are inequalities in knowledge, awareness and participation in early burning and the broader REDD+ process at village level. A more structured approach to early burning, with well-publicized advance planning, that includes all community members and subvillages would make a significant difference. Further challenges exist in the form of both legal and illegal hunting, a cause of forest fires that could undermine the early burning process. We argue that the long-term commitment of project managers to gain detailed knowledge of social–ecological systems, forest governance and local politics is required to successfully develop this and other similar REDD+ projects.

Justice and conservation: the need to incorporate recognition

In light of the Aichi target to manage protected areas equitably by 2020, we ask in this article how the conservation sector should be incorporating concerns for social justice. We focus in particular on ‘recognition’, because it is the least well understood aspect of environmental justice, and yet highly relevant to conservation because of its concern with respect for local knowledge and cultures. In order to explore the meaning of recognition in the conservation context, we take four main steps. First, we identify four components of recognition to serve as our analytical framework: subjects of justice, the harms that constitute injustice, the mechanisms that produce injustices, and the responses to alleviate these. Secondly, we apply this framework to explore four traditions of thinking about recognition: Hegelian intersubjectivity, critical theory, southern decolonial theory, and the capabilities approach. Thirdly, we provide three case studies of conservation conflicts highlighting how different theoretical perspectives are illustrated in the claims and practices of real world conservation struggles. Fourthly, we finish the paper by drawing out some key differences between traditions of thinking, but also important areas of convergence. The convergences provide a basis for concluding that conservation should look beyond a distributive model of justice to incorporate concerns for social recognition, including careful attention to ways to pursue equality of status for local conservation stakeholders. This will require reflection on working practices and looking at forms of intercultural engagement that, for example, respect alternative ways of relating to nature and biodiversity.