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Peace in the peaks? Changes in water and land distribution in Colombia’s southern highlands during the Post-Peace Agreement phase

Betancur Alarcón, Laura LU (2019) In Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science MESM02 20191
LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)
Abstract
Governance of environmental resources plays a key role in enhancing or hindering progress towards peace in post-conflict societies. Two years after the signing of the Peace Agreement between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the government of Colombia, new dynamics on natural resource and land-use are leading to environmental harm in some regions. Highlands and páramo (high-elevation tropical alpine area) ecosystems, which supply 70% of the country’s freshwater, are
undergoing socio-environmental changes during this period. Yet, there is little understanding on how this transition occurs. I investigate the experiences of local actors in relation to the access and control of environmental resources in a once... (More)
Governance of environmental resources plays a key role in enhancing or hindering progress towards peace in post-conflict societies. Two years after the signing of the Peace Agreement between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the government of Colombia, new dynamics on natural resource and land-use are leading to environmental harm in some regions. Highlands and páramo (high-elevation tropical alpine area) ecosystems, which supply 70% of the country’s freshwater, are
undergoing socio-environmental changes during this period. Yet, there is little understanding on how this transition occurs. I investigate the experiences of local actors in relation to the access and control of environmental resources in a once guerilla-controlled area in the village of Combia, located in the buffer zone of the Las Hermosas páramo complex in the southwest of the country. Drawing on a political ecology perspective, I develop the case study by combining ethnographic methods with a revision of local policy documents in order to describe the current socio-environmental changes. I found that the transition from the social order under FARC control to a State-regulated phase led to an interplay of new actors and new authority figures which reconfigured local land distribution and water control. In the case of Combia, this shift of power reinforces unequal access to land and water for people without land ownership, which has been the core issue in Colombia’s protracted armed conflict. I discuss the uneven consequences for local actors when the State legal water concessions clash with the slow pace of rural land property rights reforms. Consequently, I explain how water institutions for highland regions can benefit from a more community-based governance approach in societies that transition towards peace. (Less)
Abstract (Spanish)
La gobernanza de los recursos naturales juega un papel crucial en promover o limitar el avance hacia la construcción de paz después de un conflicto armado. Dos años tras la firma del Acuerdo de Paz entre las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) y el gobierno de Colombia, nuevas dinámicas de transformación ambiental están derivando en la degradación de algunos ecosistemas. La Alta Montaña y los páramos, responsables de la regulación hídrica del 70% del agua del país, también enfrentan estos cambios. Sin embargo, hay poca evidencia científica sobre cómo se está dando esta transición. A través de un estudio cualitativo, yo investigué las variaciones en acceso y control de la tierra y el agua en un área por varias décadas... (More)
La gobernanza de los recursos naturales juega un papel crucial en promover o limitar el avance hacia la construcción de paz después de un conflicto armado. Dos años tras la firma del Acuerdo de Paz entre las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) y el gobierno de Colombia, nuevas dinámicas de transformación ambiental están derivando en la degradación de algunos ecosistemas. La Alta Montaña y los páramos, responsables de la regulación hídrica del 70% del agua del país, también enfrentan estos cambios. Sin embargo, hay poca evidencia científica sobre cómo se está dando esta transición. A través de un estudio cualitativo, yo investigué las variaciones en acceso y control de la tierra y el agua en un área por varias décadas controlada por las FARC. Se trata del corregimiento de Combia, en el área rural de Palmira en Valle del Cauca, que hace parte del sistema montañoso de Las Hermosas en el suroeste del país. Con una perspectiva desde la ecología política, usé métodos etnográficos y recolección de información oficial, para contextualizar los cambios experimentados por actores locales. Los hallazgos demuestran que, en la transición entre un orden social impuesto por las FARC hacia una fase donde el Estado es la autoridad, nuevos actores y regímenes legales generan una reconfiguración de distribución de la tierra y control del agua. En el caso estudiado, esta recomposición desfavorece a los actores sin títulos legales de propiedad manteniendo así el acceso inequitativo a la tierra, hecho que históricamente ha estado en el corazón de la confrontación armada en Colombia. En este contexto, discuto cómo la transición hacia la paz puede conllevar a distribuciones inequitativas del agua cuando aún otras reformas propuestas en el Acuerdo de Paz no se están materializando en el nivel local. A la luz de un debate más amplio sobre la construcción de paz y el medio ambiente, también analizo cómo la gobernanza del agua puede beneficiarse de esquemas comunitarios para reducir la conflictividad en el ámbito local. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Betancur Alarcón, Laura LU
supervisor
organization
course
MESM02 20191
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
Colombia, highlands, peace agreement, armed conflict, water, political ecology
publication/series
Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science
report number
2019:019
language
English
id
8981035
date added to LUP
2019-06-10 10:46:00
date last changed
2019-06-10 10:46:00
@misc{8981035,
  abstract     = {Governance of environmental resources plays a key role in enhancing or hindering progress towards peace in post-conflict societies. Two years after the signing of the Peace Agreement between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the government of Colombia, new dynamics on natural resource and land-use are leading to environmental harm in some regions. Highlands and páramo (high-elevation tropical alpine area) ecosystems, which supply 70% of the country’s freshwater, are
undergoing socio-environmental changes during this period. Yet, there is little understanding on how this transition occurs. I investigate the experiences of local actors in relation to the access and control of environmental resources in a once guerilla-controlled area in the village of Combia, located in the buffer zone of the Las Hermosas páramo complex in the southwest of the country. Drawing on a political ecology perspective, I develop the case study by combining ethnographic methods with a revision of local policy documents in order to describe the current socio-environmental changes. I found that the transition from the social order under FARC control to a State-regulated phase led to an interplay of new actors and new authority figures which reconfigured local land distribution and water control. In the case of Combia, this shift of power reinforces unequal access to land and water for people without land ownership, which has been the core issue in Colombia’s protracted armed conflict. I discuss the uneven consequences for local actors when the State legal water concessions clash with the slow pace of rural land property rights reforms. Consequently, I explain how water institutions for highland regions can benefit from a more community-based governance approach in societies that transition towards peace.},
  author       = {Betancur Alarcón, Laura},
  keyword      = {Colombia,highlands,peace agreement,armed conflict,water,political ecology},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  series       = {Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science},
  title        = {Peace in the peaks? Changes in water and land distribution in Colombia’s southern highlands during the Post-Peace Agreement phase},
  year         = {2019},
}