P 25

Transformations from Below in Conflicts over Resources

Panel abstract
This panel deals with the transformative potential of conflicts over resources—namely, mining and land—that are related to contemporary political-economic and socio-ecological crises. In such conflicts, social actors mobilize against the privatization and concentration of land, displacement and the loss of livelihoods, ecological impacts, etc. At the same time, political and cultural rights, citizenship, or the recognition of rights to territorial self-determination and autonomy have often been claimed. Connections and networks between actors, both horizontally and vertically, thereby play a core role for social actors as well as for their adversaries on the side of the private sector and state.
In many cases social actors achieve the cessation of projects or legal changes as well as changes in project design. However, it remains unclear what sort of transformative power – in relation to democracy and self-determination, and labour, rural, and environmental justice – emanates from conflicts over resources, and thus which possibilities of ‘transformation from below’ exist. Based on the assumption that conflicts contain the potential for social change, this panel asks for the possibilities and limitations of transformations from below:

  • How do actors combine claims for social transformation with their protest against specific mining or agribusiness projects, laws, etc.?
  • What are the starting points of transformations from below within and beyond nation states and regions?
  • Which connections between actors exist in these conflicts? How are networks and connections negotiated between different sectors, social classes, and scales? How are connections challenged and changed in resource related social struggles?

Time: Friday, 29/06/2018, 4.30 - 6.30 pm
Venue: Seminargebäude, S 203

Bettina Engels (Free University of Berlin)

Louisa Prause and Sarah Kirst (Free University of Berlin)
Glory Lueong (FIAN Germany, Cologne)
Camila Rolando Mazzuca (Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain)
Tongnoma Zongo (Panthéon-Sorbonne University, Paris, France)


Paper abstracts

Louisa Prause and Sarah Kirst
Networks, Alliances, and Their Potential for Transformations from Below: A Comparison of Conflicts over Land-Grabbing in Senegal and Ghana

Do protest strategies of local land users in conflicts over land-grabbing vary in different national contexts and if so, why? We explore this question by comparing struggles against land-grabbing in Ghana and Senegal. In both countries, land grabs are contested by local land users. However, in Senegal, overt forms of protests such as demonstrations, press conferences, or barricades are not uncommon. Local land users furthermore organize in collectives to protest land-grabbing and sustain longer-term protests than in Ghana. In Ghana, local land users mainly use more covert and less confrontational forms of protest such as appealing to the state or traditional authorities and rarely form new networks and organizations. In comparing these cases we aim to identify contextual factors that influence these different forms of protesting against land-grabbing. We believe that amongst other factors the different legal systems of land control as well as links to national social movement organizations influence how local communities organize and protest land grabs.

Glory Lueong
Mobilizing Against Resource-Grabbing and for State Accountability in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Case for Using the Tenure Guidelines

Amidst a resource rush unfolding in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, a new international regulatory instrument was adopted in 2012 by the United Nations (UN) system partly in reference to the ‘global land grab’. Despite direct CSO and social movement participation in making the new guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries, and forests (hereafter TGs), their adoption has been met by skepticism, prompting efforts to test how in ‘real life’ they could be used to increase social justice and democratic land control. This paper examines how organizations and communities in four countries sought to use the TGs ‘from below’ in struggles against natural resource-grabbing and for state accountability. It is argued that understanding and interpreting the contents of the TGs cannot be taken for granted. Taking time and effort to ‘know your rights’ turns out to be an important prerequisite to using them in ways that are complementary and relevant in specific contexts.

Camila Rolando Mazzuca
The Evolution of Gendered Land Access Rights in the Niayes: A Feminist Political Ecology Analysis of the Resistance to Land-Grabbing and Mining Expansion

The gendered-differentiated consequences of the expansion of the commodity frontier on local populations have been extensively documented. However, there exists a literature gap on how gendered power relations can be altered towards greater equity in contexts where sources of livelihood are diminishing due to conflicts over resources. This article elaborates on the reinforcement of women´s land access rights in a specific context of land-grabbing. This is carried out without entailing individual private ownership but by remaining in a community land tenure system. Such processes involve a complex multi-scalar interplay of a diverse range of social and institutional actors. The adoption of a feminist political ecology framework provides a gender perspective on socio-environmental movements to focus on women’s agency and by avoiding a victimizing narrative. This paper is based on the empirical and qualitative data collected during a three months of fieldwork carried out in the region of Niayes in West Senegal. Niayes is a traditional horticultural region where the recent intensification since the early 2010s of phosphates and zircon mining has been reducing the land and the water available for family agriculture. The results show how gendered access rights to the land potentially evolve to face and oppose the extension of mining and put forward the possibilities and limits for women to empower their social and political position.

Tongnoma Zongo
The Mining Company Bissa Gold and Local Population in the Province of Bam in Burkina Faso

In recent years, the industrial mine has become the lungs of the Burkinabe economy, but it is the subject of lively debate. It is considered at the national level as an effective means of fighting poverty and at the local level as an impoverishing activity with regard to its effects (environmental degradation, expropriation of land, etc.). This perception of the local population towards the industrial mine stems from unfulfilled promises that have been made by the mine’s officials and the authorities of the Ministry of Mines of Burkina Faso during the installation of a mine. These unfulfilled promises in most areas of mining companies’ settlements often result in conflict between the mining company and a local population that is judged to be crushed. In the province of Bam, more precisely in Kongoussi, the Bissa Gold Mine has raised hopes among the local population during its installation, but this hope will quickly turn into worry and provoke demonstrations of the local population against society Bissa Gold. Based on data collected in the field in 2016 and 2017 from the local population, officials of the Ministry of Mines, the mayor of Kongoussi, and some mineworkers, this communication aims to identify a the causes of the very repeated tensions and, on the other hand, the strategies put in place by the mine to cope with its tensions and operated in a peaceful climate.