Agrobiosphere - Viabilité et adaptation des écosystèmes productifs, territoires et ressources face aux changements globaux

Of lands and waters – Terre-Eau

Of lands and Water

This project aims to identify the adaptation capacities of actors involved in food production who deploy their strategies over an intermediate scale, yet face global changes. We start from the constraints experienced by these actors who face an upheaval in land tenure, in water management and in the ecosystems. This project builds on seven case studies over a wide spread of economic development in Madagascar, Ouganda, the West Bank, Lebanon, Kenya, Nepal and France.

Constructing territories

This project explores the reconstruction of territories through the changing interactions with land and water. It studio the co-production of the social and natural orders that this entails. It identifies, within these co-production mechanisms the adaptation capacities actors may develop when facing global changes.<br />This project focusses on the adaptation capacities of actors involved in food production who deploy strategies over an «intermediate« scale, yet face dynamics that exist over a global scale. Such actors are simultaneously involved in family run agriculture, whether for subsistence or for commercial purposes, and in productivist, commercial agriculture.<br /> This focus on actors active over intermediate scales allows to identify mechanisms that may prove to be sustainable adaptations to global changes. Many studies focus on the global scale. But actors active over a global scale react to the degradation of a local environment by delocalising their activities elsewhere in the world. This is not possible for actors active over an intermediate scalar level only.<br /> Integrating case studies where actors face an upheaval in land tenure, in water management and in ecosystems, our study allows us to tackle global changes in the manner they are faced by local actors. The face all these changes simultaneously and must elaborate their strategies facing all of them simultaneously. Yet studies exploring such upheavals usually treat them in isolation from each other.

Integrating approaches from agricultural studies, geography, geomatics, ethnography, science and technology studies and political science, this project allows to identify the dynamics developed by the actors themselves, which prove to be adaptations. This also allows to assess whether these adaptations are sustainable or not. Up to now, studies on water management in interaction with the upheaval in land tenure tended to use a legal approach only.

Final products include:
- The production of maps over a great variety of scales describing the interaction between practices, water, land, populations and actors
- The analysis of social, political and economic interactions leading to the evolutions we observe, in other words, an analysis of the territorialisation process that results.
- An analysis of the civic epistemology via which each of the societies under study reacts to new technologies concerning water, agriculture and cattle raising to appropriate and control them.

Research within TERRE EAU has triggered a collaboration with Prof Rachad Antonius, UQAM, Canada. His past research focused on water management in the Fayyum, in the Delta of the Nile. Prof Antonius will join the field work carried out within TERRE EAU in 2015.
Research within TERRE EAU has also triggered a collaboration with the FAO, Jerusalem office. This collaboration has already led to a joint seminar in Ramallah, on February 10, 2014. Research focusing on the generation of virtual water flows within export oriented agriculture is already in progress within this collaboration.

Presentation of early results of the project will be made at the EPCR conference in Bordeaux between 4 and 7th Septembre 2013 and at the land tenure network's week in Montpellier between 21 and 24 October 2013.

This project aims to identify the adaptation capacities of actors involved in food production who deploy their strategies over a local or intermediate scale, yet who face global scale changes. The aim is to start from the constraints experienced by these actors and to analyse them using the theoretical framework of spatial and territorial reorganisation, legal pluralism, political ecology and civic epistemology. These actors face simultaneously an upheaval in land tenure, in their interaction with water and in the ecosystems in which they live and work. This project builds on seven case studies, demonstrating a wide spread of economic development: the Ampefy area in Madagascar, the Lango and West Nile areas in Ouganda, the region of Al Auja in the West Bank, the Beka valley in Lebanon, the Naivasha basin in Kenya, the Terai in Nepal and Brittany in France. All of these case studies are now experiencing an upheaval in land tenure and in agricultural production. Five of them also experience great mutations in the technical choices concerning water. Three of them experience large scale foreign investments. One of them is located at the heart of important migration flows. Six experience tension between subsistence agriculture and commercial agriculture as well as competition for land between local notables who want to apply the national water law and local populations using local land and water property systems. In all cases, industrial agriculture’s effects on water alter the ecosystem and the human activities linked to it. In all cases, international consultants play a pivotal role in the technical choices concerning water made either by foreign investors, by national governments or by local investors. All of these case studies are located at the heart of a co-construction of technoscience concerning water and agriculture, an arena where actors deploy strategies over scales ranging from very local to global.
This project gathers three research units : ART-Dev in Montpellier, the Centre d’Etudes Himalayennes (CNRS) in Villejuif and GECKO in Nanterre to carry out an interdisciplinary study. Geography, political science, agricultural studies, science and technology studies and geomatics are combined to explore human interactions with land and water within agricultural production in all seven case studies. This project is ambitious as it innovates theoretically while it is fed by the case studies. It is original in its tackling both land and water, as it explores territorial and political reorganisation mechanisms linked to land and water. It then studies the co-construction of society and nature that is at work within these territorial processes. These co-construction mechanisms allow us to identify the adaptation capacities of those actors in food production who deploy their strategies over local scalar levels, yet face global changes.

Project coordination

Julie TROTTIER (Unité ART-Dev) –

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


CEH Centre d'Etudes Himalayennes
UMR 5281 Unité ART-Dev

Help of the ANR 579,230 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2012 - 48 Months

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