Wednesday 7
Andean communities in the face of global change : Risks, uncertainties and opportunities for transformation - Part B: “Institutions and agency”
Diana Sietz, Giuseppe Feola
› 14:35 - 15:30 (55min)
› JOFFRE 1-3
Dynamics of institutional change to multiple exposures in smallholding communities in the Colombian Andes
Giuseppe Feola  1@  
1 : Department of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading  -  Website
Whiteknights, Reading -  Royaume-Uni

Climate change and market liberalization often affect peasants in poor countries simultaneously. While adaptation to such ‘double exposure' is needed, it is usually approached as a techno-scientific problem, without a thorough understanding of the social root causes of vulnerability (e.g. social, political, and economic processes), and of the potential for autonomous adaptation that lies in informal social institutions that co-evolve with the changing environment. In the Colombian Andes, farming communities have co-evolved with their environment for centuries, and a dynamics system of informal social institutions (e.g. land inheritance rules, reciprocity, labour mobilization, or intergenerational sharecropping) has evolved to insure a low, but rather stable livelihood. However, it is uncertain whether this system of norms is adapting to the unprecedented multiple pressures of climatic change and the governmental attempt to transform agriculture towards market-based, industrial models in the name of economic development and modernization.

Against this backdrop, this study set out to investigate the dynamics of institutional change in a sample of smallholding farming communities in the Colombian Andes. Institutions are usually studied from a static perspective, e.g. to assess their functioning and outcome, rather than dynamically, to explain their adaptive aspects, or how they came to exist in the form they do. Furthermore, the research most often addresses formal and informal institutions whose purpose is environmental governance, but little evidence exists regarding non-environmental institutions, which can often be more significant than environmental ones in influencing the forms of social organization and consequently the human-environment interactions in social-ecological systems.

Key informant interviews and farmer oral histories were used to uncover changes in the informal social institutions that characterise the household economy in the study region. The results illustrate the social-ecological mechanisms by which variations of informal institutions are selected, as well as the tension between such emergent adaptation of formal institutions and the formal structures (e.g. land rights) that constrain, or marginalise, smallholders. Thus, this study contributes firstly, to the theory of adaptability and transformation of social-ecological systems, with a focus on informal social institutions under multiple simultaneous pressures, and, secondly, to a critique of development from the perspective of rural communities ‘at the margin'.


Online user: 1 RSS Feed