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Research Theme 1

Natural Resource Management, Land Use Management, and Land Rights in Modern Latin America

Natural Resource Management (NRM) has become an important issue in Latin America, especially in relation to land use and environmental questions, due to an urgent need for ecosystem conservation to prevent land degradation, the destruction of valuable ecosystems and the loss of biodiversity. Recent research shows that the absence of land use planning or defective and narrow approaches to NRM exacerbate degradation and the over-utilization of land resources. As a consequence, there is a clear connection between the quality of ecosystems, sustainable development, and the social and economic conditions of large segments of rural populations.

This research theme is developed in recognition of the need to strengthen interdisciplinary approaches to the exploration of the relations between NRM and sustainable development in various parts of Latin America. In order to understand the challenges faced by farmers and other rural people we argue that it is important to contextualize NRM within the larger social context as well as in its local and regional manifestations. We therefore propose that it is not simply the lack of sufficient regulation that poses a risk to the ecosystems; it is also the increasing hardships and the proliferation of new livelihood practices among small- and medium-scale cultivators that jeopardize natural resources and biodiversity. These new economic strategies among peasants and other rural people emerge in the struggle to adapt to economic crisis and neo-liberal reforms.

This research project therefore highlights the social and cultural aspects of NRM. The following questions will guide the research: to what extent is environmental degradation embedded in global and local transformations, and in local systems of knowledge and knowledge transfer? How can an interdisciplinary approach to NRM generate new insights into the relationships between the quality of the ecosystems and the social and cultural context? How can an interdisciplinary approach to NRM provide comprehensive and sustainable solutions to land degradation and other environmental problems in Latin America?

See also Project Group 1