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Incorporating Plural Valuation of Nature into Environmental Decision-Making in the Global South: A Special Collection


Tuyeni H. Mwampamba, Instituto de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas y Sustentabilidad, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Campus UNAM Morelia

Patricia Balvanera, Instituto de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas y Sustentabilidad, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Campus Morelia

Unai Pascual, Basque Centre for Climate Change, Bilbao, Spain

Noelia Zafra Calvo, Basque Centre for Climate Change, Bilbao, Spain

INTRODUCTION: Nature and its contributions to people (NCP) are perceived and valued differently by different individuals, communities and sectors making it difficult to have consensus on how they should be managed. Failure to recognize the multiple values of nature or to incorporate them into decision-making often leads to discontentment, a powerful and dangerous ingredient for conflict in natural resource management that can have dire impacts for nature and people alike. Valuation approaches that are designed to elicit diverse values, to reconcile conflicting viewpoints and incorporate them into decision-making should, in principle, lead to more robust, just, and sustainable outcomes. However, attaining plural valuation is a complex undertaking that can be hindered and constrained at many stages along the valuation process. Moreover, while enabling conditions (e.g., social capital) are necessary for bringing plural valuation into decision making, they can be highly variable and unpredictable, ranging from the immaculate execution of a series of "best practices" to the one-time interjection of a prominent politician.

Practitioners and researchers who are interested in amplifying society’s participation in natural resource management and recognizing the different voices and diverse values that are embedded in how nature is managed usually understand that the local context matters. But how the local context can best be leveraged to achieve the desired outcomes is oftentimes a mystery and a challenge.

This Special Issue on “Incorporating plural valuation of nature into environmental decision-making in the Global South” aims to provide a collection of case studies on plural valuation of nature that help shed light on the importance of the local context. Authors reflect on how the local context enabled or constrained incorporation of the diversity of existing values of nature into decision-making and they identify the set of "best practices" that contributed to full or partial success of the valuation process. Additionally, they pin-point the added value or potential risks of engaging with value plurality.

The collection is also an effort to highlight the disproportionate occurrence of environmental injustices and nature degradation in and around the Global South. While each article should offer a stand-alone insight into a particular case (or set of cases), together the cases permit an overview of plural valuation as it has been applied in different contexts and identification of key shared lessons. The editorial introducing the cases will synthesize the main messages by comparing across the case studies.

We believe that the collection of cases will be valuable to natural resource practitioners primarily, but also to researchers interested in engaging in plural valuation processes and to educators in search of real-life examples for exploring with students the complexities of nature-people relations in natural resource decision-making.


Vicuñas (Vicugna vicugna), Wild Andean Altiplano Camelids: Multiple Valuation for Their Sustainable Use and Biocultural Role in Local Communities

Bibiana Vilá, VICAM: Vicuñas, camélidos y ambiente, Argentina

Yanina Arzamendia, VICAM: Vicuñas, camélidos y ambiente, Argentina

Verónica Rojo, VICAM: Vicuñas, camélidos y ambiente, Argentina

Abstract: In these case studies, vicuñas are presented as biocultural components of the Andean altiplano’s socioecological landscape. The environmental history of vicuñas is related to the multiple values of the species, especially of its appreciated fiber as a nature contribution to people. Vicuñas were in risk of extinction, but thanks to conservation policies, the engagement of local communities, and the efforts of scientists and naturalists, this species has recovered to an extent than allows sustainable, community-based management via chakus, a traditional method involving the capture and release of wild vicuñas to harvest their fiber. Read more...

Land Use Change and Commodity Frontiers: Perceptions, Values, and Conflicts Over the Appropriation of Nature

Daniel M. Cáceres, Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, Facultad de Ciencias Agropecuarias, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Córdoba, Argentina

Esteban Tapella, Instituto de Investigaciones Socioeconómicas, Universidad Nacional de San Juan, San Juan, Argentina

Diego A. Cabrol, Facultad de Ciencias Agropecuarias, Instituto Multidisciplinario de Biología Vegetal, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, CONICET, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas, Físicas y Naturales, CC 495, 5000 Córdoba, Argentina

Lucrecia Estigarribia, Instituto Multidisciplinario de Biología Vegetal, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, CONICET, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas, Físicas y Naturales, CC 495, 5000 Córdoba, Argentina

Abstract: Argentina is experiencing an expansion of soya and maize cultivation that is pushing the agricultural frontier over areas formerly occupied by native Chaco forest. Subsistance farmers use this dry forest to raise goats and cattle and to obtain a broad range of goods and services. Thus, two very different and non-compatible land uses are in dispute. On the one hand subsistance farmers fostering an extensive and diversified forest use, on the other hand, large-scale producers who need to clear out the forest to sow annual crops in order to appropriate soil fertility. Read more...

Values, Knowledge, and Rights Shaping Land Use in the Peruvian Amazon: The Shimaa and Diamante Case Studies

Mariaelena Huambachano, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA

Lauren Cooper, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA

Abstract: In the midst of climate change, population growth, and global food crisis scenarios, efforts to succeed in Sustainable Land Management (SLM) implementation are under enormous pressure. To contextualize Indigenous experiences on nature valuation in light of sustainable development efforts, we explored how the traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) of two Indigenous communities interacted with major land policies with sustainability implications through an ethnographic and community-based participatory research approach. Read more...

Diverse Values and a Common Utopia: Insights From a Participatory Art-Based Plural Valuation Experience in Xalapa, Mexico

Loni Hensler, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City, Mexico

Juliana Merçon, Universidad Veracruzana, Xalapa, Mexico

Ulli Vilsmaier, Leuphana University, Lüneburg, Germany

Abstract: Plural valuation of nature is key for inclusive and fair sustainability policies. Although there is a growing awareness of the importance of incorporating multiple values of nature in decision making, inclusive processes of this type are rare, limited to consultations, or have little transparency regarding their translation into public policy. Especially in nature conservation schemes such as protected areas, the integration of values from local communities is much needed. Read more...

Plural Valuation of Land and Insights for Achieving Sustainable Outcomes in Large-Scale Land Acquisition Projects: The Case of EcoEnergy Project in Bagamoyo District, Tanzania

Ernest Nkansah-Dwamena, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY, USA

Abstract: Large-scale land acquisition projects by foreign investors, also known as “land grabbing,” raise difficult questions about the processes of valuing land in Sub-Saharan Africa that the current literature does not sufficiently explore. Land acquisitions can help developing countries like Tanzania achieve their economic and development goals. Nonetheless, it can also threaten local livelihoods and well-being due to displacement, lack of access to natural capital, and conflicts between land users. Read more...

Image: Participatory planning of Yankari National Park management, Bauchi State, Nigeria (Photo: Tuyeni H. Mwampamba)
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