Monday 5
Sense of place in socio-ecological dynamics
Olivier Barreteau, Francesco Ricci, Stephane Ghiotti
› 11:05 - 18:00 (6h55)
› Candillargues
The role of sense of place and identity in the interdependence of small-scale agriculture and labour migration
Vanessa Masterson  1@  , Maria Tengö  2@  , Marja Spierenburg  3@  
1 : Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University  (SRC)  -  Website
Kraftriket 2A, Stockholm -  Suède
2 : Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University  (SRC)  -  Website
Stockholm University Kräftriket 2B SE-114 19 Stockholm -  Suède
3 : VU University Amsterdam  -  Website
Main building VU University Amsterdam De Boelelaan 1105 1081 HV Amsterdam The Netherlands -  Pays-Bas

Urbanization is a key driver of change in the developing world, but the effects of circular labour migration, where members of rural households work temporarily in urban areas, has been severely underestimated in policies in sub-Saharan Africa. In the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, the legacy of Apartheid is still felt in poverty stricken rural villages, where circular migration of household members serves as a way to spread economic risks. Remittances and government grants enable people to live at high densities in rural areas which remain economically underdeveloped. In order to unpack the factors underlying this social-ecological system state and configuration, we have explored the role of sense of place and identity in the social-ecological dynamics of villages in the former Transkei homeland in the Eastern Cape. There has been a recent interest in sense of place (including affinity with nature in particular localities) for its potential to motivate stewardship and provide a source of resilience, but these conceptual connections have not yet been adequately addressed and incorporated into resilience thinking. To address this gap, we have used participatory methods including photovoice, community mapping and interviews, to characterize the personal linkages between urban and rural areas for small-scale farmers and their family networks, and explore their implications for agrarian land-use changes, migration patterns and ecosystem management.

Preliminary results show that strong connections between rural villages and urban settlements in the form of remittances, migration and emotional attachment to nature and to place, imply that urban and rural areas may function as one tightly interconnected system. Results also show that social-ecological connections such as sense of place and identity have some stabilizing effects in maintaining this social-ecological system configuration and Apartheid spatial legacies of inequality. Strong attachment to the rural area and strong cultural identity as a Xhosa farmer motivate many individuals to invest in rural assets, traditional farming and animal husbandry practices. Other factors such as institutional inertia and the availability of government grants also contribute to a dual economy where young people work in the cities and elderly people are left to manage declining agriculture and rural land. However, rural-urban connections may also have transformative consequences for the rural social-ecological system as social networks tie migrants to their source communities and allow for bidirectional transferal of knowledge, materials and remittances, which help to trigger innovations for adapting to social and environmental changes. We hypothesize that these social-ecological connections may be leveraged towards transformation. For example some young individuals, frustrated with unemployment problems in the city, are returning home to a culturally familiar rural lifestyle to generate income from farming. The importance of these dynamics cannot be underestimated in the face of food insecurity for poor rural households, as small-scale agriculture declines and families rely more on commercial food sources produced elsewhere. Finally they are important in terms of a strong policy focus on urbanization in southern Africa, which needs to embrace the social-ecological dynamics of a combined rural-urban system configuration.


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