Research Ideas on Boundaries and Natural Resource Management

Compare these two images:

sa_moz_borderfenceAZMEx

On the left is a photo of the South Africa-Mozambique border in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.  On the right is a classic border shot from the Sierra Club of the US-Mexico border wall.  In both cases, these fences are in the middle of regions with a great deal of transboundary conservation and collaborative environmental management.  In both cases, we have tremendous economic disparity driving illegal migration and law enforcement responses (US-Mexico difference in GDP/capita = 3333% and South Africa-Mozambique = 9750%).  In addition, the US and Mexico struggle with drugs and gun smuggling.  South Africa and Mozambique have smugglers, but they also face one of the worst outbreaks in rhino poaching in recent times.  ALL rhinos in the Mozambican section of the transboundary park have been slaughtered in the past year (see http://allafrica.com/stories/201305061555.html.  See also this brilliant response by Biggs et al in Science: http://www.rhinoresourcecenter.com/pdf_files/136/1362103629.pdf).

In such environments, it may be questionable to see how transboundary conservation can work.  In fact, these are hardly the most trying cases.  See these efforts in the Korean DMZ (http://www.dmzforum.org/aboutus/about_dmzforum.php) or these in Israel-Palestine (http://arava.org/userfiles/file/Research/TransboundaryWaterManagement/MERC_final_streams%20report.pdf).  My own work over the past several years has focused on working across borders in conservation and environmental management in Southern Africa and along the US-Mexico border, the locations in the two photos.

My latest project, in conjunction with David Manuel-Navarrete of ASU’s School of Sustainability and Forrest Fleischman of Dartmouth College, compares theories of borders and boundaries from common-pool resource literature with that from geography and sustainability to try to understand and bring together ecological boundaries, social boundaries and social conceptions of the first two.  The hope is to better understand effective governance of natural resources and how we can build relationships and work across many types of boundaries.  In the process, we want to create new bridges and dismantle the barriers standing in the way.

Ultimately, I’d like to follow up some of this theoretical work with new case studies in both the US Southwest and in some of the new transboundary parks of southern Africa.  In particular, working with Bram Buscher, we’d like to look at the attempts to reconcile the cross-border challenges of the massif of a transboundary protected area known as KAZA – the Kanvango-Zambezi Transfrontier Park which spans some 300,000 square kilometers across Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

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