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Landscape transformation: what does power have to do with it?

 11 May 2018

Many different kinds of actors are involved in landscape transformations – indigenous landholders, small-scale farmers, agri-business corporations, land titling agencies, and forest conservation departments, to name just a few. Each actor has their own vision of how landscapes should be arranged, and who should be permitted to do what with the land. These visions  sometimes overlap, but often they conflict and collide, bringing questions of power to the fore.

What kinds of power can an agri-business corporation use to displace an indigenous woman farmer from her land – and what powers can she use to hold on to it, if she has other plans for it? Why are forest departments able to enforce protected area boundaries in one location, but not in another? What makes some small-scale farmers able to hold onto their land, while others lose it through mortgage or debt?

In situations like these, no actors have all the power on their side. Instead, different actors make use of one or more “powers of exclusion” to hold on to land, and to exclude others from it. These powers include force (a gun, a fence, a blockade); regulations (state laws, customary laws, formal boundaries, and land use zones); markets (the price of rent, or credit, or a bribe); and legitimation (arguments about what is right, or fair, or efficient, that may pit global conservation against local incomes, or GNP growth against equity and sustainability, or indigenous peoples’ rights against the needs of landless migrants).

The webinar outlines the “powers of exclusion” framework for analyzing how different actors are able to control land and transform landscapes, and what happens when agendas conflict. Illustrations will be drawn from different scales (regional to local) with a focus on Southeast Asia, and will be used to highlight implications for policy, advocacy and practice. The webinar will also include an open forum for Q and A.

The presenters are Derek Hall, Philip Hirsch and Tania Murray Li, co-authors of Powers of Exclusion: Land Dilemmas in Southeast Asia (2011, National University of Singapore and University of Hawaii Press). CIFOR’s gender research coordinator and gender focal point for the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) Bimbika Sijapati Basnett will moderate the discussion.

For more information and to register for this webinar, check the announcement from the Global Landscapes Forum. 

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