Author Archives: Jessica

Better agricultural production and trade – learning from forest governance mechanisms

Agriculture and forests are often linked in the deforestation debates. But are differently approached when it comes to climate change debates. Generally speaking, forests relate to biodiversity and mitigation issues. Agriculture looks mostly at adaptation issues and food security. This makes it a challenge to develop effective policy mechanism for sustainable production of agriculture in particular regarding the demand side of agricultural production.

The question is: can agriculture learn from forests? Looking at forest governance mechanisms such as FLEGT (Forest Governance and Trade) and REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation), we see that they do not only address biodiversity conservation but also issues of governance, illegality and sustainable development. By doing so, these mechanisms cover the wider scope of sustainability and biodiversity conservation. For example, FLEGT includes the combination of legislation on import (via the EUTR) and voluntary partnerships (VPAs). By including different policy aspects (laws and voluntary guidelines), the impact of a policy mechanism increases.

Besides the specific policies, biodiversity monitoring have improved the technical possibilities to measure GHG emissions. An important part of REDD+ is the monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of carbon accounting. In MRV, satellite images or laser scanning have become commonly used technologies to check biodiversity and have had a big impact on the MRV segment of REDD+. These technologies can be applied to more precisely track and trace the sustainable production of agricultural products.

Finally, recent increase of zero-deforestation pledges in the private sector shows the possibilities of further linking agriculture with with forests.

This blog reflects for a part the results of a study on demand side policy for better agricultural production issued by WWF-NL, 2015.

Special issue on critical institutionalism

This special issue in the International Journal of the Commons furthers the study of natural resource management from a critical institutional perspective. Critical institutionalism (CI) is a contemporary body of thought that explores how institutions dynamically mediate relationships between people, natural resources and society. It focuses on the complexity of institutions entwined in everyday social life, their historical formation, the interplay between formal and informal, traditional and modern arrangements, and the power relations that animate them. In such perspectives a social justice lens is often used to scrutinise the outcomes of institutional processes. We argue here that critical institutional approaches have potentially much to offer, particularly through the explanatory power of the concept of bricolage for better understanding institutional change.

 

 

Furthering critical institutionalism

2015, F. Cleaver and J. de Koning

This special issue furthers the study of natural resource management from a critical institutional perspective. Critical institutionalism (CI) is a contemporary body of thought that explores how institutions dynamically mediate relationships between people, natural resources and society. It focuses on the complexity of institutions entwined in everyday social life, their historical formation, the interplay between formal and informal, traditional and modern arrangements, and the power relations that animate them. In such perspectives a social justice lens is often used to scrutinise the outcomes of institutional processes. We argue here that critical institutional approaches have potentially much to offer commons scholarship, particularly through the explanatory power of the concept of bricolage for better understanding institutional change.

Critical institutional approaches, gathering momentum over the past 15 years or so, have excited considerable interest but the insights generated from different disciplinary perspectives remain insufficiently synthesised. Analyses emphasising complexity can be relatively illegible to policy-makers, a fact which lessens their reach. This special issue therefore aims to synthesise critical institutional ideas and so to lay the foundation for moving beyond the emergent stage to make meaningful academic and policy impact. In bringing together papers here we define and synthesise key themes of critical institutionalism, outline the concept of institutional bricolage and identity some key challenges facing this school of thought.

International Journal of the Commons, Vol 9(1):1-18

 

Climate change: science versus practice

Scientific knowledge on climate change has always been an important source of information for policy makers. The amount of warming up, the rise of the waterlevels, the changes in ecosystems are all factors that need to be carefully researched and looked at. All this research has resulted in some important changes in forest and nature conservation and policies such as Natura 2000 (Europe’s largest network of nature areas).

Although change is happening at the policy side of the story, we still do not see much change in the actual practices of people managing the forests and ecosystems. It appears as if there is still a great mismatch between what scientist say about the effects of climate change and what forest managers do about it.

Forest managers, in contrary to scientists, seem much more sceptical about the possibility to actually do something about climate change. Climate change is still very abstract and even though people do see changes in their forests because of climate change, they still wonder how to adapt their normal management practices to it. Should they cut less trees? Should they try to keep certain species in certain places even though rises in temperatures may make this extremely difficult? Do they plant different trees? Overall, they struggle with translating the often big conclusions of climate scientists into practical recommendations. In the end, there are reservations about the usefullness and practical applicability of scientific knowledge.

But this does not mean that there is no room for improvement. The link between scientific knowledge and practice is not as politicised as for example the link between scientific knowledge and policy. Often, policy makers have to balance knowledge and a political agenda which makes the exchange between the two a political process. This is not the case between science and practice. There is a potential for  experimentation and monitoring that allows forest managers to bring their expertise and input to the table. This means that the general role of science in the climate change debate becomes different and will be mixed with non scientific knowledge. But in the end, it will most likely have a far better impact on forest management practices and ultimately will lead to more sustainable and better adapted forest management.

See for more information: J. de Koning, et al. (2014) Managing climate change in conservation practice:an exploration of the science–management interface in beech forest management.

Managing climate change in conservation practice: an exploration of the science–management interface in beech forest management

2014, Biodiversity and Conservation

Scientific studies reveal significant consequences of climate change for nature,from ecosystems to individual species. Such studies are important factors in policy decisions on forest conservation and management in Europe. However, while research has shown that climate change research start to impact on European conservation policies like Natura 2000, climate change information has yet to translate into management practices.This article contributes to the on-going debates about science–society relations and knowledge utilization by exploring and analysing the interface between scientific knowledge and forest management practice. We focus specifically on climate change debates in conservation policy and on how managers of forest areas in Europe perceive and use climate change ecology. Our findings show that forest managers do not necessarily deny the potential importance of climate change for their management practices, at least in the future, but have reservations about the current usefulness of available knowledge for their own areas and circumstances. This suggests that the science–management interface is not as politicized as current policy debates about climate change and that the use of climate change ecology is situated in practice. We conclude the article by discussing what forms of knowledge may enable responsible and future oriented management in practice focusing specifically on the role of reflexive experimentation and monitoring.

A practice based approach to forest governance

Bas Arts, Jelle Behagel, Esther Turnhout, Jessica de Koning, Séverine van Bommel, 2014, Forest Policy and Economics

‘Forest governance’ refers to new modes of regulation in the forest sector, such as decentralized, community based and market-oriented policy instruments and management approaches. Its main theoretical basis consists of two mainstream models: rational choice and neo-institutionalism. Since these models rest upon problematic conceptualisations of ‘the social’, this paper proposes a so-called ‘practice based approach’, which offers a comprehensive understanding of social dynamics related to trees, forests and biodiversity. It tries to go beyond someof the old dualisms in social theory, such as subject and object, human and nature and agency and structure. Three sensitising concepts – situated agency, logic of practice and performativity – are introduced and their application is illustrated by a number of examples from forest governance practices: joint forest management in India, decentralized forest management in Bolivia and the construction of biodiversity datasets in Europe. The paper also addresses some of the criticisms the approach has received.

Unpredictable Outcomes in Forestry—Governance Institutions in Practice

Jessica de Koning

2014

Society and Natural Resources

Abstract

Community forest management in the Amazon has been subject to institutional changes because of a shift from government to governance. Although these changes aim to create opportunities for local communities, the effectiveness of new institutions
remains arbitrary. In particular, the unpredictability of legislative outcomes—as one of the institutional changes—evokes discussion on how local people respond to new institutions. This article analyzes the effects of forest institutions at the local level. By using the concept of institutional bricolage, the article argues that institutions in practice work differently than intended.

Natura 2000 and climate change—Polarisation,uncertainty, and pragmatism in discourses on forest conservation and management in Europe

J. de Koning, G. Winkel, M. Sotirov, M. Blondet, L. Borrass, F. Ferranti, M. Geitzenauer, 2013,  Environmental Science and Policy

European forests are a resource that is targeted by several EU environmental and land use policies as forests can be of critical importance to mitigate climate change. At the same time, they are central to the EU’s biodiversity policy, and particular the Natura 2000 network of protected areas. Yet, the interlinkage between climate change and biodiversity policy is complex and discursively contested. In this paper, we assess how the debate on climate change adaptation affects forest conservation and management under Natura 2000. Drawing on the concept of argumentative discourse analysis, we present evidence from 213 qualitative interviews with policy stakeholders and practitioners that were conducted at both the European policy level and the local country level in 6 EU member states. Our  results demonstrate that the nexus between climate change adaptation and forest conservation policy is
conceptualised differently by different stakeholders and practioners at different levels. Three major discourses can be made out (pragmatic discourse, dynamics discourse, threat discourse), which are characterised by a set of partially overlapping story lines. These discourses are employed by four discourse coalitions (environmental, forest users’, expert, and grass root coalition). As a general rule, debates at the European level are more polarised and politicised, while the local debates on climate change and Natura 2000 remain rather vague and are less polarised. This seems to indicate that the link between climate change adaptation and forest conservation is mostly an issue for an abstract high-level policy debate. At this level, climate change is used to influence well-known policies, and to legitimise distinct interests that were already present before the climate change debate has emerged.

REDD+ @WUR

As of 1 September 2013, I am the new coordinator for the REDD+ research network at the Wageningen University. This network is known as REDD@WUR.

Over 80 researchers at the Wageningen University are working on REDD+ related issues and this network is in need of further development. My tasks for the coming years will be to identify the key assets of this network for the Wageningen University and the outside world.

Put Wageningen University as REDD expert on the map so to say.

See for more information: www.wageningenur.nl/redd

The promise of practice: the value of the practice approach for forest and nature governance studies

Jelle Behagel, Bas Arts, Severine van Bommel, Jessica de Koning, Esther Turnhout, 2013, In: Arts, B., Behagel, J., Bommel, S. van, Koning, J. de, Turnhout, E. Forest and nature governance: a practice based approach. Dordrecht: Springer.

A practice based approach is new to studies of forest and nature governance and fairly new to governance studies in general. In this chapter, we outline the promise of such an approach for such studies. The chapter is in two parts. Firstly, a number of conclusions are drawn from the preceding individual chapters. They relate to: (1) the types of forest and nature governance practices that can be empirically distinguished; (2) the way the sensitising concepts of logic of practice, situated agency, and performativity have been used to move beyond mainstream governance approaches; and (3) the specific characteristics of a practice based approach to forest and nature governance. The second part of the chapter discusses the academic and societal value of the practice based approach as offered in this book, firstly by comparing this approach to an interpretative approach in governance studies and addressing similarities and differences, and then by discussing whether the practice based approach can contribute to policy making and steering social change. We conclude that a practice based approach can convincingly address some points that mainstream accounts of governance cannot, but only if certain long-held convictions about what governance really is are abandoned.

Prelude to practice: introducing a practice based approach to forest and nature governance

Bas Arts, Jelle Behagel, Severine van Bommel, Jessica de Koning, Esther Turnhout, 2013, In: Arts, B., Behagel, J., Bommel, S. van, Koning, J. de, Turnhout, E. Forest and nature governance: a practice based approach. Dordrecht: Springer.

‘Forest and nature governance’ is a field that has recently emerged from forestry sciences. It analyses the governance of a diverse set of issues, including deforestation, biodiversity loss and illegal logging, producing insights useful for science and policy. Its main theoretical base consists of two mainstream social theories: rational choice and neo-institutionalism. However, since these models rest upon problematic conceptualisations of ‘the social’, this chapter proposes a practice based approach, which offers a comprehensive understanding of the social dynamics related to trees, forests and biodiversity. It goes beyond some of the old dualisms in social theory, such as subject and object, and agency and structure. Three sensitising concepts—situated agency, logic of practice and performativity—will be introduced. In addition, the chapter identifies a number of methodological guidelines for the practice based approach, based on a short review of the practice literature. These concepts and guidelines not only define the practice based approach, but also bind together the individual chapters. Finally, this chapter introduces the book’s contents.

Bricolage practices in local forestry

Jessica de Koning and Charlotte Benneker, 2013, In: Arts, B., Behagel, J., Bommel, S. van, Koning, J. de, Turnhout, E. Forest and nature governance: a practice based approach. Dordrecht: Springer.

Academics and policy makers often analyse the role of institutions in terms of an institutional logic that assumes that designed institutions can effectively shape the (rational) behaviour of actors. In turn, this institutional approach assumes that local actors will automatically embrace new institutions and adapt their behaviour accordingly. However, research at the grassroots level reveals a different story. In this chapter, we show how the introduction of regulations and norms on local forestry triggers a chain of different, often unexpected, responses from local actors. The chapter addresses the processes by which local actors respond to externally imposed institutional arrangements in terms of a logic of practice. It uses the concept of bricolage to analyse forest use practices on the ground that result from the reshaping and combining of different institutional elements. The chapter draws on examples from the global South to show that local actors creatively construct a patchwork of institutions in which old institutions are recombined with the new and in which it becomes clear that institutions in fact do not directly influence behaviour but rather emerge in practices of bricolage directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously. It concludes by stating that introduced institutions do not easily steer human behaviour. A much more important determinant of behaviour is the local logic of practice of local actors. The impact of introduced institutions on local forestry therefore greatly depends on how much they relate to an existing logic of practice.

Forest and nature governance: a practice based approach

Bas Arts, Jelle Behagel,  Severine van Bommel, Jessica de Koning, Esther Turnhout, 2013, Dordrecht: Springer.

Problems such as deforestation, biodiversity loss and illegal logging have provoked various policy responses that are often referred to as forest and nature governance. In its broadest interpretation, governance is about the many ways in which public and private actors from the state, market and/or civil society govern public issues at multiple scales. Examples range from the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity to national forest programmes.
In studies of forest and nature governance the dominant approaches are rational choice and neo-institutionalism. This book takes another perspective. Departing from ‘practice theory’, and building upon scholars like Giddens, Bourdieu, Reckwitz, Schatzki and Callon, it seeks to move beyond established understandings of institutions, actors, and knowledge. In so doing, the book not only presents an innovative conceptual and methodological framework for a practice based approach, but also rich case studies and ethnographies. Examples are participatory forest management in the tropics, REDD policy at global level, European water policy, forest certification and the construction of global biodiversity databases.
Taking social practices as the key unit of analysis, this book describes how different practitioners, ranging from local forest managers on the ground to policy makers at the global level, work with trees, forests, biodiversity, wildlife, and so on, and act upon forest policies, environmental discourses, codes of conduct, or scientific insights. It is also about how communities, NGOs, stakeholders, and citizens get involved in forest and nature governance.

Unpredictable outcomes

Small village

Small village

To save the forests of the Amazon, countries have been designing new rules, laws and mechanisms. But the effect of these rules are not always good and local people living in the forests respond to them in a unpredictable manner.

My article “Unpredictable outcomes in Forestry” explains more about how local people deal with new rules and how all the attempts to better protect the forest on paper,  turn out differently in practice.

Institutional bricolage in community forestry: an agenda for future research

Jessica de Koning and Frances Cleaver, 2012, In: Arts, B.J.M., S. van Bommel, M.A.F. Ros-Tonen, G.M. Verschoor (eds.) Forest people interfaces; Understanding community forestry and biocultural diversity. Wageningen: Wageningen Academic Publishers

This book chapter outlines the concept of institutional bricolage as a tool for understanding how community forest arrangements actually work. We characterise two contrasting schools of institutional thinking and show how bricolage belongs to a ‘critical institutionalist’ rather than a ‘mainstream institutionalist’ perspective. The key elements of bricolage are outlined to elaborate the concept. These are further explored through an examination of the different practices adopted by local actors in shaping institutional arrangements. Illustrations are drawn from studies of community forestry in Bolivia and Ecuador and areas for further work are identified

Reshaping institutions: bricolage processes in smallholder forestry in the Amazon.

KaftboekcopyJessica de Koning

2011

Abstract

This thesis aims at identifying the different kinds of institutional influences on forest practices of small farmers in the Amazon region of Ecuador and Bolivia and how small farmers respond to them. It departs from the perspective that institutions affecting forest practices are subject to processes of institutional bricolage in which small farmers construct their own institutional frameworks by aggregating, altering, or articulating elements of existing disparate institutions. This research demonstrates that institutions, whether introduced by government, NGO, or already existing, are subject to processes of institutional bricolage that can be either conscious and strategic of nature or less conscious and unintentional.

Natura 2000 in the Netherlands

From 2010 to 2014, I was involved in a research on Natura 2000. Natura 2000 is Europe’s network of protected nature areas. I looked at the implementation of Natura 2000 in a Dutch area called Geuldal, Province of Limburg.

Natura 2000 implementation was seen as a pretty straightforward process. It resembled the Dutch way of looking after nature and the implementation of it should be easy. But the case of the Geuldal, a case that was even known as one of the good examples of Natura 2000 implementation, shows that any change in policy results in unexpected reactions. The drafting of the management plan was done rather quickly in 2009 but did not sufficiently address all the consequences. This uncertainty still has a big effect on the people living in the area. In particular the farmers see Natura 2000 as a possible future threat.

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Community forestry in Bolivia

 

My field visits to Bolivia happened over a number of times in the period 2006-2009. All my work took place in villages near a town called Riberalta (see map). This was work I needed to do for my PhD research on forest policies and their effect on small farmers in the Amazon region of Bolivia.

In Bolivia I focussed my research on 3 communities relatively near to the town of Riberalta. In these communities, forestry is one of the sources of income. The main income comes from the harvesting of Brazil nut, also known as castana. The harvest season is an important time of the year as the income that comes from this is in most instances the most important income of the year.

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Ecotourism in Papua New Guinea

My travel to Papua New Guinea was my first real taste of fieldwork. From September 1999 to April 2000, I went with a fellow student and friend to the middle of nowhere of Papua New Guinea. We spend 7 months there, submerged in the local communities and trying to survive without running water or electricity.

In the Lakekamu Basin, we analysed a small ecotourism project that was set up as part of a ICDP. ICDP stands for Integrated Conservation and Development Project. By introducing ecotourism, the community was offered a possibility to make money while nature was to be conserved. Tourist would be attracted by the richness in biodiversity and the adventure of ‘ living in the wild’. The study looked at how the ecotourism project impacted on the local livelihoods.

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