Lewis-Sebring Commons, Valentine Hall, Mullins & Faerber Rooms

"Conservation Coalitions of the Future: From Landscape Approaches to a Pro-Indigenous Environmental State" presented by Ashwin Ravikumar

The Faculty Colloquium Series for 2019-20 presents a lecture titled "Conservation Coalitions of the Future: From Landscape Approaches to a Pro-Indigenous Environmental State" presented by Ashwin Ravikumar, assistant professor of environmental science.

"In this talk I will present new evidence concerning how ‘quality of life plans,’ tools designed to
improve indigenous people’s well-being while supporting conservation in and around
communities, have delivered on their promises in the Peruvian Amazon. In order to assess this,
I worked with a small team to carry out focus groups and semi-structured interviews with
community members, NGO professionals, and government actors working in the Ampiyacu Apayacu watershed and adjacent protected area in the Peruvian Amazon region of Loreto. Our
results show that while community members view quality-of-life plans in a largely positive light,
they do not generally use them to assert their priorities to outside actors, and see them as
conflated with other conservation and sustainable land use initiatives. I present three major
barriers for communities in using quality-of-life plans in the manner that they were intended.
Despite these issues, community members expressed that after going through the process of
creating quality-of-life plans and other activities related to managing their regional conservation
area, they no longer allow private loggers, miners, fishers, and hunters to enter their territory,
and no longer deal with them commercially. With the available evidence, though, we cannot
causally link quality-of-life plans to these changes.

Taking this analysis a step further, I ask whether quality-of-life plans can serve communities in
leveraging funds from large external conservation programs. Specifically, I examine how the
Peruvian National Forest Conservation Program’s conditional cash transfer initiative has worked
to improve people’s well-being as defined in their quality-of-life plans. I find that the Program
has not supported priorities that were found in quality-of-life plans, and has instead generated
concerning dynamics that may undermine the effectiveness of conservation. I argue that the
Program’s current approach is in fact disrupting the local subsistence economy that ultimately
favors conservation, compromising the long-standing culture of reciprocal labor and noncommodified production systems. It therefore risks undermining the existing tools of political
organizing including quality-of-life Plans. Despite these issues, I suggest some ways forward for
the Program, and argue that State initiatives may still be able to alleviate some of the barriers to
community empowerment through quality-of-life plans."

Faculty Colloquium events are sponsored by a group of faculty colleagues who meet informally with the purpose of supporting and promoting the College’s commitment to faculty research. Colleagues interested in joining this endeavor are welcome and should contact us by email: adsarat@amherst.edu . Faculty, staff, and members of the administration are cordially invited to attend these presentations.

Contact Info

Austin Sarat
(413) 542-2308
Please call the college operator at 413-542-2000 or e-mail info@amherst.edu if you require contact info @amherst.edu