Competing claims on natural resources become increasingly acute, with the poor being most vulnerable to adverse outcomes of such competition. A major challenge for science and policy is to progress from facilitating univocal use, to guiding stakeholders in dealing with potentially conflicting uses of natural resources. The development of novel, more equitable, management options that reduce rural poverty is key to achieving sustainable use of natural resources and the resolution of conflicts over them.

This interdisciplinary research programme aims to develop and interactive methodological approach for the:

  1. 1)Understanding of competing claims and stakeholder strategies;

  2. 2)Identification of alternative resource use options;

  3. 3)The scientific support to negotiation processes between stakeholders, with the aim to develop policy interventions that simultaneously improve livelihoods and the sustainable use of natural resources.

Research is conducted in southern Africa, a region characterized by heterogeneous and highly dynamic resource uses. A comparative approach will be used to examine the different drivers of resource use dynamics and the interacting claims of multiple stakeholders on these resources. Three countries are included in the programme (South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe) in order to capture contrasting, yet interlocking, socio-political and institutional environments in which competing claims are played out (while agro-ecological conditions remain fairly similar).

For an elaboration of the Competing Claims approach, see:

Giller, K.E. et al. (2008)

‘Competing claims on Natural Resources: What Role for Science?’ Ecology & Society 13(2): 34.

For an example of our work see: in the news...

At the human-wildlife interface:

Tsetse target trap in the

Zambezi Valley, Zimbabwe

(© Fred Baudron)

Competing Claims concepts & methodology - in brief

In the last decade, scholars and practitioners have become increasingly disappointed regarding the dynamics and outcomes of participatory processes. Critiques on conventional participatory approaches include:

  1. A failure to properly anticipate dynamics of power, conflict and politics;

  2. The tendency to assume that ‘intervention projects’ introduced from outside are a main carrier of change, while processes of self-organization are underrated, and;

  3. A singular focus on the ‘local’ level, while higher-level constraints are not taken into account.

A central premise of the Competing Claims conceptual framework is that, in order to contribute to societal change, scientists must actively contribute to negotiation processes between stakeholders operating at different scales – local, national, regional and global (see Figure 1).

Figure 1:

Global and national policies structure the space within which local responses can be generated

The programme thus not merely seeks to describe and explain resource use dynamics and competing claims (as conventional approaches tend to do), but actively engages with stakeholders, aiming to contribute to negotiation processes between stakeholders operating at different scales (Figure 2). Together with stakeholders, it will explore more sustainable and equitable uses of natural resources, and, where possible, design new technical options and/or institutional arrangements.

Figure 2:

The analysis of Competing Claims:

An iterative cycle of stakeholder–Negotiated research phases. Investigation starts from Description and cycles through Explanatory, Exploratory and Design phases (Ne-DEED).

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