Participatory methodologies and environmental conservation

Participatory methodologies and environmental conservation

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At this point in history it is inconceivable that environmental policies, programs and projects can be generated that have not been built in a participatory manner. This is the product of the maturation of the understanding of environmental governance that does not remain solely in the way the State exercises power, but implies the development of respectful relationships between the State and Civil Society, understood in a broad sense. Therefore, the need for bridges such as participation, transparency, and accountability.

For these reasons, participatory methodologies are still valid. Only now it is no longer reduced to knowledge and mastery of techniques or tools, but essentially refers to how the exercise of power is approached. Hence, it is not enough to stay in the instrumental dimension but rather implies reaching the philosophical, theoretical and political approach of how to achieve more equitable and democratic relationships in the exercise of power.

Placing in the foreground and explicitly the issue of power in the relationships of the actors is a central element in environmental conservation. It is not a matter of approaching the environmental issue only from the narrow perspective that reduces the environmental to the biophysical dimension, but of understanding the close interrelationships that exist between the biophysical dimension and the cultural dimension. Note that even the fact of separating the topics by “dimensions” constitutes an artifice because we are talking more about a system in which all these factors are absolutely correlated.

We have known for a long time that the high biological diversity that characterizes the tropics has its equivalent in high socio-diversity. Sociodiversity that should not be reduced to identifying each group but also to the diversity of diversity. It means that the large categories of actors such as "indigenous", "peasant", "farmers", "producers", among many other names (and that also vary between countries, regions and localities) are not enough to understand the great diversity that It is found within each group and that also varies with age, gender, geographic location, history, among many other factors.

It is enough that we take a single group to find a great diversity because each person, each subgroup or collective, has their own beliefs, paradigms, values, meanings, meanings, feelings, questions, concerns, certainties and uncertainties. To this we must add the culturally constructed differences in terms of the roles of men and women.

Not everyone reacts in the same way to the tree or its absence, not everyone reacts the same to external stimuli, which in turn are highly variable. It is not only about the relationship between conservationists and local communities, but also the influence of the school, the mass media, politics, the market, among other factors.

For all these reasons, it is extremely reductionist to speak of "indigenous" in general or "peasant" simply. Just as it is not possible to speak of the "State" as if it were a unique and finished concept. In real life, regardless of what each of us thinks, there is a wide spectrum of possibilities according to all the factors mentioned above. This finding is very important because the actor maps may not be properly capturing this great complexity.

If we are facing groups with high diversity then we must also deduce that communicational processes do not occur flat, even speaking the same language. It is simplistic and even illusory to think that participatory methodologies are strategies for convincing external proposals in the name of development and conservation, concepts that have not been previously agreed upon.

A great tension stems from the fact that some start from the premise that environment and society are absolutely different categories and others start from the premise that environment and society are different expressions of the same reality. But the fact does not end there because it is not that there are absolutely polarized categories, but rather that there are ebbs and flows in both directions that make science try to find inspiration in the indigenous worldview of the close relationship of men and women with nature, as indigenous people. who find themselves in the dilemma between modernity and tradition, or indigenous people totally incorporated into the logic of the market. The same can be verified within a State that, on the one hand, tries to be as modern as possible and another instance tries to value culture.

For all these reasons it is no longer possible to speak of participatory methodologies only from the surface of the word. Deep communicational, language, psychological, economic phenomena, among other factors, are at stake, and participatory methodologies cannot be the tool that facilitates language only in the direction that the power group imposes directly or subtly.

The great challenge then remains for conservation to embrace all these learnings and turn them into approaches, methodologies and guidelines to regain communion between what is called "nature" and what is called "society." Participatory methodologies, correctly understood, can be the tool that builds the new communicational code to understand each other not only among people but among all beings in the cosmos, including what is called "abiotic" elements.

Rodrigo Arce Rojas

Forestry Engineer

Video: Participatory Watershed Land-Use Management Approach: Interfacing science, policy and participation (May 2022).