Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa
Conseil pour le développement de la recherche en sciences sociales en Afrique
Conselho para o Desenvolvimento da Pesquisa em Ciências Sociais em África
مجلس تنمية البحوث الإجتماعية في أفريقيا

2013 IASC Africa Regional Meeting

Number of visits: 539

Research has shown that success in dealing with problems facing Africa commons management may lie in addressing fragmentation of the knowledge base and, hence, management policy. Traditionally management has been carried out by government agencies that focus on a particular sector, e.g. fisheries, agriculture or forestry, using knowledge from scientists that specialise in that sector, and working with community groups to create and enforce rules developed for that sector. With the advent of the ecosystem approach to natural resource management, which is based in turn on a growing appreciation of the interrelatedness of both the ecological and socio-economic dynamics of natural resources, new cross-disciplinary scientific networks are needed that are able to identify specific areas of sectoral interconnections, articulate and implement the required research, and translate the results into advice for policy makers, development practitioners and resource users.

UPDATE: Call for papers - Deadline extended to February 8th, 2013.

The objective of this Policy Forum is to bring such networks (formal or informal) together with policy makers and other stakeholders to curve the way forward for effective, integrated commons management. The panel therefore invites researchers working in these and related issues (e.g. poverty and gender) in the African contexts to submit abstracts for papers exploring the meeting themes and how dealing with them is affected by fragmented resources management systems and solutions required.

Meeting Themes

Within the broad area of integrated management of multiple types of natural resource complex commons we place our emphasis on the presentation of policy relevant research on the commons that networks and individual African and other scholars are currently carrying out. Therefore the following themes are meant to be suggestive rather than exclusive:

Defragmenting African resources management

The overall broad objectives of resource management are to facilitate the protection of biodiversity and promote poverty alleviation using exploited commons. Integral to achieving these broad objectives is conflict resolution, because ecological degradation leads to competition for the remaining resources. Therefore, effective, integrated commons management addresses three related sets of problems simultaneously:

a) limiting access to resources to prevent overexploitation;
b) economic development that relieves poverty while respecting utilised resource capacity limits, and
c) managing the conflicts that arise when access to resources is limited.

All three of these problems require integrated knowledge. The limits must be set through the work of natural scientists, both poverty alleviation and the effective implementation of management require the work of social scientists, and managing conflicts requires involving stakeholders who know the locally appropriate solutions. Lately theoretical frameworks such as ecosystem approach, adaptive management, systems approach, and integrated resources management (e.g. integrated water resources management- IWRM) have been developed and implemented.
This theme seeks case studies or theoretical analysis of solutions (or attempts) based on trans-disciplinarity and multi-disciplinarity concepts adapted to deal with issues of fragmentation and their attendant problems in management of the commons in Africa. For example some Southern African countries are implementing the management oriented monitoring system (MOMS) for wildlife and veld products monitoring within the context of community based natural resources management (CBNRM) and in line with the concept of adaptive management.

Institutional Choice and Recognition in African Forest Governance

Local democracy is local governance that is responsive and accountable to local people – by being responsive it represents local needs, by being accountable to local people it can be considered democratic. Agents intervening in the local arena, including governments, donors and international institutions, choose local partners. These choices recognize certain forms of local governance – certain institutions and authorities as well as supporting particular sets of rules and regulations. In so doing they strengthen some forms of local governance and may weaken others. Local democracy, representation, inclusion and participation are often studied from the bottom up – exploring how local actors insert themselves into governing processes through engagement and resistance. The Choice and Recognition theme focuses on two aspects of the development of local democracy as it is shaped by higher-scale intervening agents. First, this theme examines ‘choices’ focusing on why intervening agents privilege certain kinds of local institutions and authorities. It examines the logic and procedures of the intervening agencies. What do they understand local democracy to be? How do they operationalize it? How do they translate democratic impulses into practice? Second, it examines how these choices effect local democracy. How do the recognized institutions and authorities support democratic processes in the local arena?

Sub-themes include:

Institutional Choice I: Donor Understanding and Making of Democracy
Institutional Choice II: Government Understanding and Making of Local Democracy
Recognition I: The Cultivation of Sub-National Authority from Above through REDD
Recognition II: Pluralisms and Representation in REDD intervention
Recognition III: Participatory Processes and REDD — Representation within Stakeholder Approaches
Recognition IV: Customary Authority and Local Democracy: Donor Roles in Cultivating Chieftaincy
Public Domain: Enclosures – REDD, Privatization and Democratic Spaces
Local Democracy Effects of Global REDD Processes and Forest Commodification on a Global Scale

Embracing and harnessing local indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) in natural resources management

Out of the action research tradition has emerged a very large literature on indigenous knowledge systems in general (IKS) and local ecological knowledge (LEK) in particular, concepts which are extremely important in integrated commons management. Wilson et al. (2006) argue that LEK has a critical role to play in making management effective from the perspective of both the content and timeliness of information and increased legitimacy and cooperation. To make an effective contribution towards defragmentation of resource management such knowledge systems should be revealed and integrated as part of comprehensive studies involving ongoing interactions between resource users, scientists and other stakeholders. This theme proposes papers that would document lessons and experiences of IK and LEK in Africa and answer some of the following questions:

What is the condition of and how robust are IK and LEK systems for resource management?
How is IK and LEK distributed and transferred across generations, age, gender and economic groups in rural societies?
Do social, cultural, spiritual, political, etc factors influence use and/or sharing of IK and LEK among such social, economic and political groups?
How are IK and LEK systems and attendant management skills and approaches perceived by external agencies?

Effective knowledge translation for defragmenting natural resource management in Africa

Knowledge translation has been described as the practice, science, and art of bridging the know–do gap between knowledge accumulation and use (Ottoson 2009). It is therefore a potential stakeholder interaction and integration platform. Effective communication of research is integral to defragmenting natural resources management, successful knowledge translation, and good research practice. Whilst so, concerns are growing regarding inadequate knowledge translation from science research into practice and policy. The status quo constrains the potential of scientific research to maximally contribute to socio-economic development and environmental sustainability. It has been argued that while a substantial body of research knowledge has been generated to inform policy and practice, there is little to show in terms of application for policy and practice especially in Africa.

This theme calls on environmental communication and knowledge translation experts and others working in the area within the African context to submit abstracts which share experience or review theory to model appropriate knowledge translation models to defragment African natural resources management.

The effect of fragmented management and the additional stressors such as HIV/AIDS and climate change

Extreme events such as droughts, hurricanes or floods increasingly affect people from low income countries everywhere in the world. Africa is particularly affected as 70% of its population rely on natural resources. HIV and AIDS and other endemic diseases present other stressors on communities and households. A fragmented approach to resources management therefore weakens the people’s capacity to adapt and cope with these stressors. Women are likely to be particularly affected by a fragmented approach to resource management and dealing with shocks from extreme events and endemic diseases since they bear the burden of household sustenance and are often among the poorest of society. Adaptation to these shocks and epidemics require integrated systems that bring innovation but also look to indigenous adaption and coping strategies.

Implications of urbanisation and commercialisation for management of the African commons

The governance and management of the African commons is becoming increasingly complex due to multiple pressures on commonage land and resources. Two such pressures are rapid urbanisation and economic transformations of the commons. Urbanisation presents distinctive new challenges with respect to the commons, such as more intensified urban-rural linkages in terms of food production, land speculation, urban sprawl and other urban – periphery political-economic relations. Moreover, commons usage are being taken to urban environments, for example in urban agriculture. Economic challenges to commons governance and management are, for example, pressures for commercialisation of land and resources, rural unemployment and the search by rural youth for jobs in urban centres. Amongst others, this leads to questions around privatisation and individualisation, with due consequences for common property. This theme invites papers exploring the following questions:

How have African rural-urban relations changed over the last decades due to urbanisation and what are the effects on the governance and management of the commons?
What types of urban commons are evolving and how are they governed?
What type of general political-economic challenges and opportunities can be identified with respect to the commons?
What are the effects of increasing pressures for commercialisation of land and resources and land speculation for access to and governance of rural commons?
What is the effect of rural unemployment and the rural-urban labour migration for rural and urban commons?
How can the link between the globally dominant political ideology of neoliberalism and African commons be conceptualised?

Practical details

Please submit your abstracts to: and by no later than February 8th, 2013.

Submission guidelines

Submitted abstracts should be in MS Word and use the following format:

_ Title
_ Authors and their affiliations
_ 200 maximum word abstract
_ Minimum 10 point Times New Roman font
_ Corresponding author contact information

Registration fee

_ Researchers: US$200
_ Students: US$75
_ Conference dinner: US$30

Programme Committee

Dr Lapologang Magole, Chair, Okavango Research Institute, University of Botswana
Private Bag 285, Maun
Tel: (+267) 681 7227/7200
Fax: (+267) 686 1835
Dr Frank Matose, Co-Chair, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Assoc Prof Mafa Hara, University of the Western Cape, South Africa (Chair of Organising Committee)
Dr James Murombedzi, CODESRIA
Prof Jesse Ribot, University of Illinois
Assoc Prof Doug Wilson, Aalborg University, Denmark
Dr Linda Mhlanga, University of Zimbabwe
Prof Tobias Haller, Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Berne, Switzerland
Assoc Prof Bram Buscher, Institute for Social Studies, The Netherlands
Dr Peter Mvula, University of Malawi


- Defragmenting African Resource Management Project (DARMA) ACP Science and Technology Programme, 9th European Development Fund
- Responsive Forest Governance Initiative (RFGI): A collaborative project of CODESRIA, the University of Illinois at Urbana Champagne, and IUCN, Funded by SIDA
- Institute for Poverty Land and Agrarian Studies, University of the Western Cape
- International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC)

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