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Exploring the impact of social mobilization on cooperation in community-based natural resource management systems: Insights from water conflicts in Spain and Mexico

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - COMOVE (Exploring the impact of social mobilization on cooperation in community-based natural resource management systems: Insights from water conflicts in Spain and Mexico)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2018-08-31

COMOVE has developed new knowledge to better understand the overlap between the effective management of natural resources by communities and social mobilization. This is of substantial policy and societal relevance. Environmental justice conflicts are an endemic phenomenon in our societies, with more than 1200 instances registered across the world. Many of those conflicts have great potential to improve natural resource management or just the opposite depending on how they are treated. Most importantly, there is an international consensus about the benefits of decentralized management and community stewardship for socio-ecological sustainability; however, such stewardship faces problems of cooperation and institutional failure.
COMOVE had three objectives
1. Conduct preliminary empirical research to explore the extent to which movements’ activities and membership vary across environmental and governance contexts.
2. Conduct empirical research to explore causal relationships between environmental movements’ activities and membership and community-based natural resource management (CBNRM).
3. Build a new and original model that integrates social mobilization and cooperation factors to understand CBNRM.
During the development of the project the researcher carried an ambitious meta-analysis of more than 80 cases of social mobilization and community-based natural resource management worldwide. The exercise illustrates the multiple pathways though which social movements can contribute to CBNRM. The contribution also reinterprets one of the most well-known theories of community-based natural resource management, from a political ecology standpoint. The researcher also collected qualitative data (interviews and secondary documents and media) from Mexican irrigation communities (Yaqui valley) and Spanish irrigation communities (Ebro valley), regarding their mobilization in favor or against water transfers. Two spin-offs of this analysis are study of the positive impact of movements on the scaling-up of CBNRM (submitted to Climate Politics), and on community traditional ecological knowledge (in progress). Additionally, the researcher collected large-n quantitative data across more than 90 irrigation communities nationally in Spain. As pointed by preliminary results, both the history of the communities and factors featuring the mobilization process affect the impact of the movements on communities’ self-organized water management capacity. Based on these findings the researcher has developed an “external-internal collective action” model that integrates insights from CBNRM and social movement scholarship. The model will be published in an article, which is part of a special issue on “social movements and commons” in the journal Ecological Economics that the author coordinates.
Part of COMOVE was also geared towards transfer of knowledge. First, the researcher co-taught courses in Political Ecology, Ecological Economics, and Research methods at the ICTA-UAB and the Dept. of Political Science-UAB. He also organized and delivered a two-day seminar on meta-analysis at ICTA-UAB and invited for that purpose two international scholars to report on their research. Second, the researcher also organized an international scientific workshop on “Social movements and commons” at ICTA-UAB, including 28 scholars from more than 10 different Universities. The workshop included an open event where 5 practitioners from the natural, digital and urban commons reported their experiences regarding the interaction between mobilization and management. There is a video record that can be accessed at the project’s portal. The researcher is also coordinating a special issue including a selection of the contributions presented at the workshop in the journal Ecological Economics. Third, the researcher organized a webinar on Water Justice in collaboration with CEDLA (Free University of Amsterdam) and the Water Justice Network. The webinar included presentations by the researcher and 4 other international scholars. There is a video record of the webinar was recorded and available at the project’s site. Fourth, the researcher also shared outputs based on this findings and case studies with colleagues from of a connected ERC project on environmental justice (EJOLT). Similarly, the researcher also contributed to the elaboration and implementation of a project financed by the Spanish Dept. of Science, Education and Universities (COSMOS); and the elaboration of a ITN project proposal on natural resource, urban and digital commons from a political ecology perspective (CONCERTO). Fifth, the researcher met regularly with graduate students at ICTA, advised them informally and formally on the Master’s thesis development, and provided feedback on their research project and papers. Last, in the context of his visits at Humboldt University Berlin, Michigan University and Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, the researcher delivered scientific presentations on his findings and delivered short courses on meta-analysis.

During the IIF fellowship, Sergio Villamayor-Tomas published several papers (see “publications” tab). He has also submitted the following research papers for publication.
- Villamayor-Tomas, S. et al. (revise and resubmit). The role of the state in local collective action. Environmental Science and Policy
- Garcia-Lopez, G. and S. Villamayor-tomas (under review). Social movements and the scaling-up of community-based natural resource management. Global environmental politics
- Villamayor-Tomas et al. (under review). Internal and external collective action dynamics: insights from three water, forest and fisheries cases. (part of SI proposal sent to Ecological Economics).
- Villamayor-Tomas et al. (2017). La teoría dels comuns: algunes notes par a la renovacio des de l’ecologica politica, Nou Horitzons, 215: 18-23.

Finally, the researcher has delivered paper presentations and organized panels in international conferences, and also delivered invited talks and key notes:
▪ Invited talk: “Social movements and community-based natural resource management: findings from a meta-analysis and case study”, Dept. of Agricultural Production Engineering, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte (Brazil), June 2018
▪ Invited talk: “Decommonization and commonization dynamics and social movements”, CEDLA/LASP Co-Lab, Amsterdam (The Netherlands), Dec. 2017
▪ Conference paper: “Resistance actions and their impact on commons management”, European Consortium for Political Research Conference, Oslo (Norway), Sept. 2017
▪ Conference paper: “Resistance actions and their impact on commons management”, International Association for the Study of the Commons Conference, Oslo (Norway), Sept. 2017
▪ Conference paper: “Resistance movements and the commons management: a meta-analysis”, European Society for Ecological Economics Conference, Budapest (Hungary), June 2017.
▪ Invited talk: “Social movements and community-based natural resource management: preliminary findings”, invited presentation at the Dept. of International agricultural and environmental policy, Kassel University, Kassel (Germany), June 2017
▪ Invited talk: “Dos puntas de lanza en el estudio de los comunes: El Marco de Sistemas Socio-ecológicos y los conflictos ambientales”, Escuela de Posgraduado, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Mexico city, (Mexico), March 2017.