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Traps and Sustainable Development in Rural Areas: A Review
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0265-5356
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre.
2017 (English)In: World Development, ISSN 0305-750X, E-ISSN 1873-5991Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

The concept of a poverty trap—commonly understood as a self-reinforcing situation beneath an asset threshold—has been very influential in describing the persistence of poverty and the relationship between poverty and sustainability. Although traps, and the dynamics that lead to traps, are defined and used differently in different disciplines, the concept of a poverty trap has been most powerfully shaped by work in development economics. This perspective is often constraining because, as many studies show, poverty arises from complex interactions between social and environmental factors that are rarely considered in development economics. A more integrated understanding of poverty traps can help to understand the interrelations between persistent poverty and key social and ecological factors, facilitating more effective development interventions. The aim of this paper is to provide a critical appraisal of existing trap conceptualizations in different disciplines, and to assess the characteristics and mechanisms that are used to explain poverty traps in rural contexts, thereby broadening the traps concept to better account for social-ecological interactions. Complementarities and tensions among different disciplinary perspectives on traps are identified, and our results demonstrate that different definitions of traps share a set of common characteristics: persistence, undesirability, and self-reinforcement. Yet these minimum conditions are not sufficient to understand how trap dynamics arise from complex social-ecological interactions. To broaden the utility of the concept we propose a more social-ecologically integrated definition of traps that includes four additional considerations: cross-scale interactions, path dependencies, the role of external drivers, and social-ecological diversity. Including these wider dimensions of trap dynamics would help to better account for the diverse social-ecological feedbacks that produce and maintain poverty traps, and could strengthen strategies to alleviate poverty in a more integrated way.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017.
Keyword [en]
traps, poverty, social-ecological, development
National Category
Other Natural Sciences Other Social Sciences
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-145555DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2017.05.038OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-145555DiVA: diva2:1130289
Available from: 2017-08-09 Created: 2017-08-09 Last updated: 2017-08-17
In thesis
1. Development and Resilience: Re-thinking poverty and intervention in biocultural landscapes
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Development and Resilience: Re-thinking poverty and intervention in biocultural landscapes
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The practices related to the growing, harvesting, preparation, and celebration of food over millennia have given rise to diverse biocultural landscapes the world over. These landscapes – rich in biological and cultural diversity – are often characterised by persistent poverty, and, as such, are often the target of development interventions. Yet a lack of understanding of the interdependencies between human well-being, nature, and culture in these landscapes means that such interventions are often unsuccessful - and can even have adverse effects, exacerbating the poverty they were designed to address. This thesis investigates different conceptualisations of persistent poverty in rural biocultural landscapes, the consequences of these conceptualisations, and the ways in which development interventions can benefit from, rather than erode, biocultural diversity.

The thesis first reviews conceptualisations of persistent poverty and specifically, the notion of a poverty trap (Paper I), and examines the consequences of different conceptualisations of traps for efforts to alleviate poverty (Paper II). Paper I argues that the trap concept can be usefully broadened beyond a dominant development economics perspective to incorporate critical interdependencies between humans and nature. Paper II uses multi-dimensional dynamical systems models to show how nature and culture can be impacted by different development interventions, and, in turn, how the degradation of both can undermine the effectiveness of conventional poverty alleviation strategies in certain contexts.

In the second section, the thesis focuses on the effects of, and responses to, trap-like situations and development interventions in a specific context of high biocultural diversity: the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan. Paper III advances a typology of responses to traps based around the mismatch of desires, abilities and opportunities. Observing daily practice provides a way to study social-ecological relationships as a dynamic process, as practices can embody traditional and tacit knowledge in a holistic way.  Paper IV examines the diverse effects of a development intervention on the coevolution of biocultural landscapes and the ways in which everyday practice – particularly around food – can be a source of both innovation and resilience.

Papers I-IV together combine insights from diverse disciplines and methodologies, from systematic review to dynamic systems thinking and participant observation. Paper V provides a critical analysis of the opportunities and challenges involved in pursuing such an approach in sustainability science, underscoring the need to balance methodological groundedness with epistemological agility.

Overall, the thesis contributes to understanding resilience and development, highlighting the value of viewing their interrelation as a dynamic, coevolving process. From this perspective, development should not be regarded as a normative endpoint to be achieved, but rather as a coevolving process between constantly changing ecological and social contexts. The thesis proposes that resilience can be interpreted as the active and passive filtering of practices via the constant discarding and retention of old and new, social and ecological, and endogenous and exogenous factors. This interpretation deepens understanding of resilience as the capacity to persist, adapt and transform, and ultimately shape new development pathways. The thesis also illustrates how daily practices, such as the growing, harvesting, and preparation of food, offer a powerful heuristic device for understanding this filtering process, and therefore the on-going impact of development interventions in rural landscapes across the world.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, 2017
Keyword
biocultural diversity, coevolution, development, interdisciplinary, Pamir Mountains, poverty traps, resilience, social-ecological systems
National Category
Other Natural Sciences
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-145665 (URN)978-91-7649-909-2 (ISBN)978-91-7649-910-8 (ISBN)
Public defence
2017-09-29, Vivi Täckholmsalen (Q-salen), NPQ-huset, Svante Arrhenius väg 20, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
EU, FP7, Seventh Framework Programme
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 4: Manuscript.

Available from: 2017-09-06 Created: 2017-08-17 Last updated: 2017-09-05Bibliographically approved

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