Rural Livelihoods & Social-Ecological Wellbeing in the Global South

February 12, 2021 – February 26, 2021 all-day

The Global Labour Research Centre (GLRC) and the Las Nubes Project at York University are pleased to present a two-part panel series:

Rural Livelihoods & Social-Ecological Wellbeing in the Global South

Co-sponsored by York University's Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change and the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC).

Panel #1
People and Place: Structural and Geographic Conditions Shaping Wellbeing in Southern Costa Rica

Friday, February 12, 2021
12:30 – 2:00 pm ET
Register for the first panel.

Martin Bunch (Professor, Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, York University)

Edgar Espinoza Cisneros (Assistant Professor, School of Geography, University of Costa Rica)
“‘Walking the talk’ in land management: Structural factors influencing pro-environmental intention-action links in the Savegre river watershed, Costa Rica”
In the research presented here I examine structural factors conditioning the adoption of pro-environmental practices in land management. While the thinking-action relationship has been widely studied in psychology, there is a need to further investigate, from a geographical perspective, how structure shortens or widens the gap between proenvironmental intentions and actions in land management. In filling this need, we examine the structural factors reported to influence this intention-action link in a Costa Rican watershed recently designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve for its social-ecological importance. To this end, we draw on intensive fieldwork and land manager interview data. Research design was informed by theoretical and conceptual insights from social psychology, land systems science and political ecology. Results suggest a strong influence of diverse structural factors on the pro-environmental intention-action connection in land use in this social-ecological system, both as a facilitating and/or constraining force. More salient is the marked gap between intentions and actions among managers, largely influenced by market dynamics and incentive structures, land tenure policies, perceptions about government institutional performance, and deficient extension networks. These results highlight the need to “clear the way” for pro-environmental intentions to materialize into actions through selective structural measures, especially in social-ecological landscapes facing dire needs to reduce ecological impacts of productive systems

Adolfo Quesada Román (Department of Geography, University of Costa Rica)
“Climate change and tropical cyclones: Impacts on rural and indigenous communities of Térraba catchment, Costa Rica”
Floods are a frequent hazard that can easily turn into disasters in the tropics whenever they occur after extraordinary precipitation linked to cyclones. In a warming climate, cyclones are anticipated to occur more frequently, and so are the resulting floods. Large rural and indigenous territories are along the tropics and developing countries. Rural and indigenous knowledge normally have not been considered in territorial decision-making processes worldwide. This study aims to create a baseline of the most affected rural and indigenous communities by floods in the Térraba catchment at southern, Costa Rica. This research gathers the local knowledge through structured interviews to communal leaders who belong to the Communal Local Development Associations (ADI, in Spanish). The study expects to depict a broader image of the rural and indigenous knowledge related to the impact of climate change and floods related to tropical cyclones in the Térraba catchment. These outputs will enhance the research line between rural/indigenous knowledge, climate change, tropical cyclones increase, and floods impacts along the tropics.

Panel #2
Rural Ways of Being and Knowing: Resilience and Wellbeing in Southern Costa Rica

Friday, February 26, 2021
12:30 – 2:00 pm ET
Register for the second panel.

Felipe Montoya (Professor, Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, York University)

Mburucuya Marcela Ortiz Imlach (Ph.D. Student, Environmental and Urban Change, York University)
“Peasant Wellbeing and Peasant Persistence in the COBAS (in Spanish: Corredor Biologico Alexander Skutch)”
--- “…despite the financial struggles and headaches that my coffee plants bring, I do not burn them because they keep my memories alive” – (Facundo, 2013)
This quotation from my previous fieldwork among the COBAS peasants highlights the contradiction at the heart of this research: why, despite the increasing financial burden, are peasants not only able to sustain their livelihoods, but also find wellbeing, through engaging in increasingly difficult agricultural practices? Such practices are jeopardized by a globalized food regime that has rapidly evolved since the arrival of neoliberalism in the 80s (Edelman, 1999). This quotation also powerfully integrates two important processes that are present in rural livelihoods: the struggle for sustaining existing livelihoods while claiming narratives around experiences; and practices of wellbeing linked to agriculture-related activities. Among these wellbeing experiences are the ability to co-producing with/in nature and the sense of identity that specific agricultural crops or practices provide for peasants, in this case, coffee in the COBAS (Ortiz Imlach, 2013). To this end, my research examines peasant wellbeing in contemporary Costa Rica, focusing on small-scale coffee producers that live in the COBAS, as a way to better understand why peasants persist despite the struggles that they confront in their agricultural practices.

Francesc Rodríguez (Assistant Professor, Brandenburg University of Technology, Germany)
“Uncovering the ontological and epistemic dimensions of hydro-extractivism in southern Costa Rica: It's time for a change of direction”
A wave of applications for private concessions to build run-of-the-river dams has swept over southern Costa Rica during the last decade. The hydroelectric project plans have caused concern among residents adjacent to the targeted rivers to the extent that a socio-environmental conflict has erupted in several rural communities of the area. In my talk, I will focus on the resistance of local people to these plans with a focus on the contestation to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports of two hydroelectric project plans. By showing the underlying ontological and epistemic dimensions of hydro-extractivism and the way people challenge such extractivist practices, I will give an account of the existing gap between institutionalized and noninstitutionalized ways of knowing under the sustainable development agenda of the country, and its implications for environmental governance.