Accepted paper:

Furthering just development? Engaging local worldviews with development practice for the sustainable management of land and water in Africa


Frances Cleaver ( University of Sheffield)
Luke Whaley (The University of Sheffield)

Paper short abstract:

This paper addresses the challenge of researching the interplay between local people's worldviews and community management of land and water. We explore the potential of creative methods (diaries, storytelling and theatre) for generating practical tools to engage development practitioners.

Paper long abstract:

Community based management (CBM) has become the dominant development paradigm for managing natural resources (land, water, forests) in Africa. It is viewed as a key vehicle for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals relating to livelihoods and the environment, and empowering people to participate in local governance. We know now that CBM doesn't work in practice as intended in policy, partly due to incommensurabilities between the global model and local lifeworlds. Policy makers often poorly understand the entangled ways in which people's worldviews shape their embodied practices of accessing , sharing and using natural resources, often producing unjust outcomes. The UN Sustainable Development Agenda recognises the importance of culture and local knowledge, and local development agents engage daily with this. However, the significance of particular beliefs (such as the disciplining effects of witchcraft on womens' participation in community management) is mostly overlooked in professional development practice. With this challenge in mind, and drawing on our research in Uganda, Malawi and Tanzania, we do the following: 1. Review evidence for the significance of local worldviews (and associated ideas of fair shares, just arrangements and proper orders) for community-based development initiatives. 2. Explore the potential of creative methods (solicited diary keeping, story-telling and participatory theatre) to offer culturally sensitive ways of researching the interplay between local worldviews and development initiatives. 3. Reflect on the possibility of also using creative methods to develop sensitising tools and techniques to engage development practitioners with these issues in ways that further more just and sustainable development.

panel A03
Entangled engagements: anthropology's holistic approach to the Global Challenges