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University of Helsinki (2018)

Local ecological knowledge in deteriorating water catchments : Reconsidering environmental histories and inclusive governance in the Taita Hills, Kenya

Hohenthal, Johanna

Titre : Local ecological knowledge in deteriorating water catchments : Reconsidering environmental histories and inclusive governance in the Taita Hills, Kenya

Auteur : Hohenthal, Johanna

Université de soutenance : University of Helsinki,

Grade : Doctoral dissertation (article-based) 2018

Résumé
In many developing countries, formal natural resource management is still largely based on top-down approaches that rely on professional ecological knowledge and bureaucratic procedures. Despite general support for community participation in the context of decentralised governance, perspectives of local people are often neglected in management planning and decision-making. At the same time, local people are considered responsible for environmental degradation, while historical political, economic and other structural changes, which have led to unsustainable land and water uses, are overlooked.
This dissertation focuses on examining the challenges and possibilities of enhancing community participation and the role of local ecological knowledge in environmental management through a case study from the Taita Hills, Kenya. Political ecology provides the overall framework for the study and both theoretical and ethical guidance are drawn from postcolonial and decolonial thinking. The dissertation consists of one review and four case study articles that are tied together by a “pathway” towards decolonizing environmental governance and building of symmetric dialogues between local people and state authorities. The material for the case studies was largely collected through a multi-method participatory mapping process in 2013-2014. The process is methodologically important because it highlights the significance of the historical perspective for understanding socio-environmental problems and respects local ways of knowing and thus provides the possibility to move towards decolonizing knowledge production.
This study shows how the causes of increasing vulnerability and decreasing resilience to water scarcity and droughts can be traced back to changes in land use policies, the impacts of the neoliberalization of environmental governance, and ultimately, the subalternization of local people and their ecological knowledges. Furthermore, the dissertation locates the roots of the asymmetric environmental dialogues between local people and management authorities to the diverging framings of the environmental problems. Prioritization of the state’s economic interests in local environmental negotiations, instead of local perspectives and historical injustices, reproduces the coloniality of power. To overcome this vicious circle, societal learning and transformation are needed.

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Page publiée le 6 avril 2018