New Article: Water and power, water’s power: State-making and socionature shaping volatile rivers and riverine people in Mexico

Global Development Studies Professor Anja Nygren has published a new article in World Development entitled “Water and power, water’s power: State-making and socionature shaping volatile rivers and riverine people in Mexico”. The article is open access and can be read here.

Abstract
Water-related disasters have become more unpredictable amidst human-induced climatic and hydroecological changes, with profound effects on people inhabiting fragile river basins. In this article, I analyse drastic waterscape transformations and people’s differentiated exposure to water-related vulnerabilities in the Grijalva River lower basin, southeastern Mexico, focusing on how state authority is reinforced through waterscape alterations and how altered waterscapes shape state-making and scalar politics. Examining interlinkages between 1) state-making and governance; 2) resource-making and politics of scale; and 3) hazard-making and the dynamics of socionature, the article contributes to scholarly and development practice discussions on environmental vulnerability. I argue that the goals of consolidating state power and promoting development through massive waterscape changes and resource extractions have provoked hazards that are difficult to control, resulting in differentiated distribution of environmental benefits and burdens. Drawing on archival research, documentary analysis, thematic interviews, and ethnographic fieldwork, the study illustrates the overlapping and cumulative effects of state-making, politics of scale, and the dynamics of socionature on socially differentiated vulnerability. Although the forms of governance shift over time, statecraft as a mode of consolidating state authority and controlling lower-basin environments and residents persists. The government prevents social mobilisation through political persuasion and pressure, and disciplines residents to adapt to altered waterscapes, while allowing few changes in prevalent power structures. Simultaneously, the study demonstrates that water cannot be controlled by political rules and requisites, while local residents reinterpret dominant ways of governing through claim-making, negotiation, everyday resistance, and situational improvisation, albeit within unequal power relations. The study enhances understanding of water-related vulnerabilities resulting from recurrent, yet temporally remoulded agendas of state-making combined with socially differentiating politics of scaling and the dynamics of socionature, which altogether reformulate human-nonhuman interactions and make local smallholders and
peri-urban poor increasingly vulnerable to floods.

New Article: The roles of the state in the financialisation of housing in Turkey

University Researcher Özlem Çelik has published a new article in Housing Studies entitled “The roles of the state in the financialisation of housing in Turkey,” The article is open access and can be read here.

Abstract
What is the relationship between the state and housing financialisation? Much of the literature describes the state playing a role to promote the regulatory, legislative, and financial conditions needed to allow global financial capital to penetrate land and property markets. I build on these arguments to develop in what ways the state is playing an active role in housing financialisation in Turkey. I suggest that the Turkish national state has deliberately, actively, and forcefully pursued housing financialisation by (i) introducing new legislation; (ii) creating financial frameworks to encourage speculation by domestic and international capital on land and housing as assets (iii) enclosing public land and exploiting informal types of tenure; (iv) assetising land and housing by developing revenue-sharing urban regeneration projects; and (v) using coercive legal and penal force to criminalise informal development, and to quell resistance to state-led regeneration. My conclusions add weight to Christophers’ contention that the role of the state needs to be reconceptualised to capture its direct involvement in housing financialisation.

New Article: Urban Neighbourhood Forums in Ankara as a Commoning Practice

University Researcher Özlem Çelik has published a new article in Antipode entitled “Urban Neighbourhood Forums in Ankara as a Commoning Practice”. It is open access and can be found here.

Abstract
The neighbourhood forums in Ankara began to convene during the Gezi protests in 2013 and lasted about three years. The activities of Ankara Gezi forums are urban commoning practices in terms of a new set of demands and methods. This paper conceptualises urban commoning practices as method, content, and demand. This framework offers an understanding of urban commoning that is not based on monetary transaction, but focuses on seeing commoning as a social process. Commoning is not ahistorical, rather it is engaged with the historical political potential of urban spaces. Commoning as method discusses organising in commons, commoning as content focuses on the form and meaning of political action, and commoning as demand emphasises the discursive use of right to the city. The case selection of this research enables us to reflect on how urban commoning is experienced in a city under less financial investment pressure, but at the centre of national-level politics.

New Book: Studying Complex Interactions and Outcomes Through Qualitative Comparative Analysis: A Practical Guide to Comparative Case Studies and Ethnographic Data Analysis

GDS Associate Professor Markus Kröger has a book coming out this week: Studying Complex Interactions and Outcomes Through Qualitative Comparative Analysis: A Practical Guide to Comparative Case Studies and Ethnographic Data Analysis You can find more information here or check out the PDF of the flyer (with discount code for purchasing the book):

Studying Complex Interactions and Outcomes Flyer

Brown Bag Seminar (ONLINE): Can Refugees Save the World? Post-Development Approaches to Livelihood from Palestinian Refugee Camps in Lebanon

Wed 11 November from 12:00 to 13:30

Join Zoom Meeting: https://helsinki.zoom.us/j/62027652136?pwd=RmpWbExSMTBRbXpjb2pXUW5tNUpsQT09

Meeting ID: 620 2765 2136
Passcode: 869521

 

Can Refugees Save the World? Post-Development Approaches to Livelihood from Palestinian Refugee Camps in Lebanon

Yafa El Masri – PhD Student in Geography at the University of Padova, Visiting Researcher at the University of Helsinki

Moderator: Paola Minoia, GDS/Helsinki

A growing number of academics across the globe now share the conviction that the mainstream notion of development needs to be deconstructed to open a way for cultural alternatives that nurture and respect different forms of life on Earth (Kothari et al, 2019). The concept of post-development, which is squarely rooted in solidarity, has appeared as a way to defend the local against the global, giving value to community economics, human wellbeing and local traditions (Mathews, 2017). Refugees have long been silenced by the humanitarian government and widely portrayed solely as recepients of humanitarian aid (Agier, 2011: Rajaram, 2002: Silvermann, 2008), however, this study explores innovative post development approaches to managing space and livelihood practiced by refugees, and even identifies the expansion of solidarity-based initiatives to the refugee hosting communities. This study attempts to demonstrate how refugees are agents of their own space and post development through a strong base of solidarity, rootedness and collective emplacement. This study takes Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon as case of observation, utilizes postcolonial methods and Donna Haraway’s feminist concept of situated knowledge, to reflect on my own positioned rationality of growing up as a stateless Palestinian refugee in Lebanon’s refugee camps. Using recent participation observation, auto-ethnography and interviews in Lebanon and Europe’s Palestinian refugee community, the study finds that solidarity-based dynamics (cooperation values, food sharing and gift economies) tend to be increasingly replacing the shrinking humanitarian development aid and market activities within Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. Then, if “grassroots solidarity can transform the world” and if “Another world is possible”, and possibly another world is even necessary, along these lines, can refugees help change the world?

 

Keywords: Refugees, Livelihood, Post-Development, Pluriverse, Refugee Agency

 

Yafa El Masri is a visiting researcher at the Development Unit at the Social Sciences Faculty of the University of Helsinki. Yafa is currently conducting her PhD in Geography at a joint research program by the University of Padova, University of Venice and University of Verona. She has a MSc in Local Development from the University of Padova, and a BA in Corporate Social Responsibility from Beirut Arab University. She has 5 years of work experience with grassroots initiatives but also with international organizations operating in Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps. Yafa’s work focuses on refugee autoethnography. she co-authored the book “Eleven Stories from Exile” published by the Palestinian Institute of Studies in 2017, and is currently writing her dissertation on Livelihood in Palestinian refugee camps through the lens of situated knowledge.

 

Editorial: COVID-19, Inequality, and Social Stratification in Africa

Associate Professor Franklin Obeng-Odoom has published a new editorial in the African Review of Economics and Finance entitled “COVID-19, Inequality, and Social Stratification in Africa”. The article is open access and can be found here.

Abstract

The global health emergency reflects systemic global inequalities central to which is social stratification in Africa. While existing analyses frame Africa as needy of global ‘help’, this editorial argues that whether in terms of the economics of inequality, pandemics, or recovery, Africa can teach the rest of the world key lessons.

New Article: Afro-Chinese Labour Migration

Associate Professor Franklin Obeng-Odoom has published a new article in the Forum for Social Economics entitled “Afro-Chinese Labour Migration”. It can be found here.

Labour migration is, perhaps, the most widely discussed economic issue today. Yet, its underpinning theory and its empirical tests have remained largely Western-centric. In turn, the causes, effects, and policy options for the substantial, but widely neglected, Afro-Chinese labour migration, are poorly understood. By systematising existing data, this article shows that Afro-Chinese labour migration experience is far more complex than what neoclassical economics suggests. Driven, or, at least moulded, not so much by the migrant as a rational utility-maximising individual but by holistic processes of ‘circular, combined and cumulation causation’, Afro-Chinese migration, and Afro-Chinese relations, more generally, have contributed to economic growth, but at the cost of much socio-spatial displacement, and socio-ecological degradation. Added to these social costs is widespread labour exploitation. So, the insidious attempts by the state, business enterprise, corporate finance, and capital to consider migration as a ‘spatial fix’ for economic growth are questionable. Seeking to wall out migrants, embarking on widespread surveillance, pursuing migrant scape-goating, and framing migration as a Malthusian problem are, however, not a panacea. The social costs of migration need to be directly redressed, among others, by redesigning the institutions that shape the conditions of labour. Doing so would require leaving behind neoclassical economics theories of migration and exposing their vested interests. Social economics theories and theorising that more comprehensively address the labour migration problematique and strongly emphasise the coupling of migration, economic, and social policy can usefully be considered as alternatives.

Covid-19: its consequences in the Ecuadorian Amazonian Region and the right to education

By Paola Minoia, Lecturer in Development Studies

(The original version of this piece can be found on the ECO-CULTURAL PLURALISM IN ECUADORIAN AMAZONIA blog for the “Goal 4+: Including Eco-cultural Pluralism in Quality Education in Ecuadorian Amazonia” project.)

Conversation with Dra. Ruth Arias, Rector of the Universidad Estatal Amazonica.

Paola: How is the situation, Ruth?

Ruth: We have been in quarantine since March 17, when the public emergency was declared. I could sense panic in the population from people’s behaviour, as socioeconomic differences are deepened and plenty of defiances is evident; there also are signs of solidarity and reflection. I think Boaventura de Sousa Santos’s writing, “The vulnerable and discriminated against in the South”, and Silvia Ribeiro from the ETC group, have very good analyzes of the situation many are experiencing.

The issue has overwhelmed us as a country. I cannot imagine why our infection figures are higher than Colombia and Peru, which have a much larger population. It may be that not all the figures are published in all countries. Ecuador is also smaller, has a higher population density, and the origin and fast dispersion were not anticipated.

In many of our provinces, we do not have the necessary health facilities. At Pastaza, at first, we were told the only ventilator was taken to Guayaquil; similarly, rural doctors came from various communities to help in hospitals in Guayaquil. Nevertheless, this week they announced that there are almost a dozen ventilators for the province. However, the Amazonian provinces have experienced less contagion. There are many places where blockages have been instated to prevent strangers from entering the towns, although this also limits the mobility of ambulances and access to health services. I am saddened because I read online that a seriously ill man was ultimately prevented from reaching a hospital in another province to avoid contagion.

I would hope quarantine to be enforced in infected cities, so as not to carry the virus to the communities, but I see that in the long term it will be impossible. In the area, there are no reports of the virus in the communities. Our friends from the indigenous organization, through the programme “La Voz de la Confeniae”, post notifications and preventive advice in the languages ​​of the nationalities, which I think is an important contribution.

P: How has your region been affected? What is the situation at the moment, with the number of cases, and are they from the communities or not? Are the official figures for deaths and contagions for Covid-19 realistic? Are people properly looked after? Do the hospitals respond appropriately?

Ruth: The Ecuadorian Amazon region (in Spanish, región amazónica ecuatoriana; RAE) is the least affected in Ecuador. Of the 22,719 infected nationwide as of April 24, 2020, 235 are in the RAE (1.03%). For several weeks, 3 of the 6 Amazonian provinces even remained without any contagion, which eventually came from Guayas due to commercial relations: Guayaquil is the main national market and the contagions mainly occurred as fruit producers brought Amazonian products to Guayaquil and brought the infection back, or otherwise because of business trips. Guayaquil was infected by people travelling from Spain and Italy, many belonging to the upper classes and having power, mobilization, relationships, and a lack of discipline or humility to stay at home.

Within the RAE, infections have been reported in the major cities and between municipal leaders. There have been no reports in the communities yet. If isolation is maintained, there should be almost no contagion. However, there have been difficulties due to rains and overflows of rivers that have affected the farms and crops in the communities of Pastaza, in the Bobonaza river, in Pakayaku, Sarayaku, Curaray. Civil defense and the risk management system can bring food to communities; I fear that such aid may be prohibited because it’s unsure if there may be contaminated material or people reaching the communities.

One of the main problems is the lack of attempts in the testing of people close to those infected or do not show symptoms, so we do not know how the infection is going.

The panic, the lack of knowledge on how to proceed and (especially) the speculation of the funeral owners in Guayaquil caused that many dead, from COVID19 or otherwise, remain without attention, without being buried, without being collected from their homes or from the hospitals. It was only announced today that masks, gloves, and suitable protective clothing have arrived; health personnel began caring for the sick without being properly protected. There is contagion between health personnel, the police, and the armed forces due to the lack of adequate clothing.

There are official numbers of infected and dead, but it is disputed how accurate the numbers are. One issue is that the hospitals that deal with all issues collapsed with this disease and, for example, dialysis care has decreased, etc.

Our health system is not sufficient. Here in Puyo, the capital of a province, we do not have an adequate system to protect the sick if infections grows without control. Serious cases are taken to Ambato and Quito. Here we have less serious cases, which can stay at home.

By following the news day by day on the radio I have concluded that it is not worth going to the hospital. A telephone system has also been implemented, 171 and 911, where you can report and get advice. In theory, they indicate that if the symptoms are from CONAVID19, the doctor will go to your house for a follow-up. In many cases, in Guayaquil, they say that these systems do not work. Larger cities have more problems, more people in precarious situations and with insufficient health coverage.

P: How do you organize teaching and other activities now that the university is closed?

Ruth: We will start classes in May, not April as we had planned before the epidemic. The pandemic arrived during the academic break. All work is carried out by work email, zoom, skype, phone, WhatsApp. For the classes, we will use Moodle and we will prepare in TEAMS, which will be the official platform. Laboratory practices should be done by searching for resources online, and if the teacher considers that this is impossible, then the practice will be postponed and will be done before the student concludes their studies. We have instructions to establish all the necessary flexibility in trying to maintain quality.

P: How do you reach students who don’t have internet access?

Ruth: Through socioeconomic files and by collecting information through phone, acquaintances, the Internet, and different contacts, we evaluated that many students do not have access. We are talking with a mobile operator about the possibility that they install coverage and the university can pay for consumption. Perhaps the university can purchase devices for satellite internet that are loaned for classes and returned by students at the end of the semester. We could also make agreements with local governments that have ICT centers for students to go to the ones closest to their home to access the internet and follow classes. We do not have local TV available and have not yet evaluated the possibilities of using the radio; we just launched a communications degree, and will still start with basic communication methods.

(Radio Selva has broadcasted a communication from Ruth to the university students).

P: What could the university contribute, in this situation?

Ruth: In this time of the crisis, students should stay at home as it is the best way to protect themselves, but they must maintain the right to education and the university’s educational system must identify realistic possibilities for there to be access to that right, so to not increase the inequality gap. We also evaluated that right now we need disinfectants, tests for the infected, materials to make a disinfectant gel, to use our natural products in antiviral creams, and sprays to disinfect people or cars entering the university. We do not offer medical degrees so we cannot do much, and although we have the laboratories, teachers, and technicians, the truth is that we could not obtain the materials needed, of which supply has been exhausted. I have been left with the question, rather than an answer, of how the university can best help its territory.

One of our responses could be to investigate diets in how they reinforce the immune response, considering viruses have that immune activity as their main response and this response is influenced by diet.

My understanding is that the problem is concentrated in the cities and that rural territories, with dispersion and small-scale agricultural activity, are more protected; these alternative characteristics for communities, based on ideals of solidarity and reciprocity, should be valued more. The world of concentrated capital is prevailing, but unrealistic.

P.: How are the streets of Puyo, the markets, and public buses, and do you still see people walking in groups?

Ruth: There is a “curfew” between 2pm and 5am the next day. There is a lot of silence in those hours. In general, the curfew is respected in Puyo and in small towns. It looks like they have begun to respect the curfew in Guayaquil and Quito because there are fines of $ 100 the first time they do not respect the curfew, a basic salary (396 USD) the second time, and on the third time a judicial proceeding is issued for after the crisis has passed.

There is supply in the markets. All stores that selling food and groceries and pharmacies (but not restaurants) are open, although take-away meals from restaurants are allowed. Public local or interprovincial buses are not operating. Many people leave between 5am and 14pm for the market or the bank, so you see a lot of people, but the standard now is to walk with a mask, rubber gloves, and keeping at least a meter’s distance from others.

Again, it is poverty that makes a difference, right? For two months, I have seen large groups of people in Guayaquil outside banks hoping to receive their monthly wage of 60 USD that the government gives to poor households and many street vendors, many of which are in the markets. This may be due to lack of knowledge, due to lack of awareness or due to defiance, but it might also be due to poverty and the need for resources. It is like Boaventura de Sousa Santos explains.

P.: can you divulge on the state of emergency (what time you can be on the streets, etc.), and are the military forces rigidly enforcing it?

Ruth: The state of emergency prevents mass meetings and free movement without a sufficient reason. Between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., you must stay in the house. However, health personnel, the army, the police, those who provide food, security personnel, those who distribute food or belong to cantonal, provincial or national systems of the Emergency Operations Committee (in Spanish, Comité de Operaciones de Emergencia; COE), can circulate. People in need can get a letter of safe-conduct, which is a permit to move outside the house. In general, it is respected.

In the university and in our research centre CIPCA (Centro de Investigación, Posgrado y Conservación Amazónica) we need to take care of the animals, so we have a pass to go there and return.

It was reported on TV that many people took a permit without an appropriate reason and they will be fined $ 100 the first time.

P.: What are the biggest difficulties that the university experiences? And what about the people of the communities?

Ruth: There is a lot of fear in the communities. Many communities blocked their roads to prevent access by outsiders, however, the virus does not need motorized transportation. The main danger is the lack of immune defenses. It reminds me of when the conquistadors brought the flu. On the radio yesterday, the representative of a community reported that the assigned doctor from the health system left the community because he had no medicine. The communities have no health personnel. Many communities here are accessible by plane through which the virus can spread.

The university must face this reality and continue working. Some teachers even do not have all the resources for remote working. Many employees do not have a computer or the internet so to do tasks through virtual means. I don’t know what will happen. We normally receive our wages in the last week of the month but this time last month’s payment was delayed for three weeks. What circumstance must we face in the near future? How can we better support our people? How can we reactivate the local economy? How can we encourage entrepreneurship with our graduates?

The universities undergo academic assessments on the basis of, for example, the number of publications in high impact journals. Although, I ask myself if this could remain the priority in a time like this. These efforts and raised standards are of significance for universities, so they may better respond to the needs of our communities that inhabit this Amazon territory. The most important thing is to move forwards, to not be stuck in sorrow, and to make sure our lower-income students are not discriminated against by the system and that the promotion of equality (at least in access to education) is invested in.

(Thanks to Margherita Carlon for the English translation)

Thanks again to Paola Minoia for letting us repost this.

About the project:

Goal 4+: Including Eco-cultural Pluralism in Quality Education in Ecuadorian Amazonia

Access to schooling and higher education are considered primary means to empower marginalized groups and enhance sustainable development in the Global South. In Ecuador, the intercultural bilingual education programme that affirmed the fundamental importance of integrating diverse local languages, knowledges and pedagogical practices in education was established already in 1993 and later amended based on the community-centric, ecologically-balanced and culturally-sensitive philosophy of sumak kawsay (buen vivir). However, the programme is still only partially applied and thus education typically follows homogenized standards and fails to include specific cultural realities, which places indigenous nations in a disadvantaged position compared to the majority mestizo population.

Our project expands the Sustainable Development Goal 4, which aims to ensure quality education for all, through an attempt to promote recognition of eco-cultural pluralism and inclusion of indigenous pedagogies and knowledges as part of quality education in Ecuadorian Amazonia. Inclusion of ecological aspects is important because Amazonian indigenous groups have strong connections to land and natural resources that are currently threatened by illegal logging, oil extraction, hydropower projects and climate change. Defending eco-cultural pluralism means protecting both the delicate natural environment of the Amazonia as well as the indigenous peoples from poverty and cultural disappearance. The project is divided into four work packages that aim at:

1) assessing indigenous young people’s spatio-temporal accessibility to upper secondary schools and tertiary education,

2) understanding how eco-cultural pluralism and sumak kawsay principles are respected and realized in education and university programmes,

3) studying indigenous students’ transition to tertiary education or working life from upper secondary schools, and

4) analyzing politics of intercultural education and establishing a research network for indigenous and intercultural education.

All work packages pay attention to gender-specific challenges in intercultural education. The data consists of educational material and documents, interviews, observations, photography, videos, drawings and GPS points collected and analysed using mainly qualitative and participatory approaches.

The 4-year (2018-2022) project is funded by the Academy of Finland and carried out in close collaboration with Ecuadorian researchers who have established connections with indigenous communities.

 

Upcoming Event: Development Studies in Finland: Reflections on the past five decades and the future ahead

Wednesday 26th February 2020, 13:00-15:30

Think Corner (Tiedekulma), Yliopistonkatu 4, Think Lounge, 2nd floor

Development Studies has come a long way since it 50 years ago emerged in Finland. Born from a student movement supporting Third World decolonisation processes Development Studies has become a fully-fledged multidisciplinary academic institution addressing global challenges. The scope of our work has expanded and emphases of research have varied but much of the early impetus has retained. Development Studies still recognizes itself as a multidisciplinary endeavor strongly committed to examining pressing global challenges and deep inequalities reigning in our contemporary world. Through research and activism, we are probing just and sustainable alternatives to counteract them.

Development Studies at the University of Helsinki will organize a public event at Think Corner (Tiedekulma) to commemorate its past 50 years and on the strength of it to seek perspectives on its future coming 50 years. The event will consist of one panel, short speeches and a public discussion based on them. The panel will critically assess the experiences of the past 50 years. How did Development Studies grow from activity of committed students with support from a handful of sympathetic teachers to an established academic discipline? What has been its academic achievements and what do we know about its social impact? After that, a set of short speeches will map the current and future parameters of Development Studies. It asks where Development Studies is now and ponders upon possible scenarios for the next 50 years.

Timetable:

13:00-13:05 Welcome and introduction: Eija Ranta, University Lecturer

13:05-13:15 Opening comments: Jari Niemelä, Rector of the University of Helsinki

13:15-14:15 History panel

Participants:
Marja-Liisa Swantz, Professor, first Director of the Institute of Development Studies
Märta Salokoski, Researcher
Juhani Koponen, Emeritus Professor
Mariko Sato, Managing Director of the Physicians for Social Responsibility – Finland
Marikki Stocchetti, Secretary General of the Development Policy Committee

Public discussion

14:15-15:00 Future speeches (max. 5 min. each)

Presenters:
Barry Gills, Professor
Jara Kollei, Society and Change Student
Tiina Kontinen, Associate Professor, University of Jyväskylä
Anja Nygren, Professor
Anna Salmivaara, PhD Researcher
Gutu Wayessa, University Lecturer

Public discussion

15:00-15:30 Sparkling wine reception

The event is moderated by Eija Ranta. Inquiries: eija.ranta@helsinki.fi, 0503460251.

The event formulates part of the celebration in 2020 of 75 years of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Helsinki.

https://www.facebook.com/events/864248187358962/

Views from the field: Pachamama is crying – Climate Change in the Peruvian highlands

by Anna Heikkinen

(The following is a repost from Anna’s blog; the original post can be found here)

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Children sitting in front of the glacier Huaytapallana in the Natural Reserve of Junín, in the Central Andes of Peru.

By July, the Mantaro River Valley had turned all yellow. The transition had happened slowly. One morning I was standing on the terrace of my appartment in Huancayo, looking at the surrounding mountains. All that had been covered with different shades of green when I had arrived few months ago, had now transformed into dry, lifeless colors of yellow.

It had not rained for weeks. Last time it rained, it came down as a furious thunderstorm. In the mountains, the thunderstorm feels so powerful. It seems to be born behind the mountains, crawling slowly on the top of the mountain peaks and then spreading its anger down by the slopes to cover all the valley. The sound of the thunder runs through your bones. The concentrated energy in the air makes your body shake. At the peak of the thriller – the sky breaks down and bursts out an outrageous rain that can last for hours.

The thunder scenery is magical and scary at the same time. You feel so tightly connected to the power of nature and realize that at the end, it will always be superior to you.

In the Andean cultures, it is believed that humans, animals and nature are all one and that there are no divisions between these Earth Beings. If Pachamama, the Mother Earth is hurt, all the beings will go through its suffering. When you go walking to the highlands, before taking off you make a short ceremony for Apus, the mountain God. It is considered as a kind gesture to ask Apus for its permission to visit its mountains and for its protection for your journey. Nature, with its all different Earth Beings are valued and treated with respect.

In the Andean cultures, it is believed that humans, animals and nature are all one and that there are no divisions between these Earth Beings. If Pachamama, the Mother Earth is hurt, all the beings will go through its suffering.

On a one crispy Saturday morning in July – an expedition crew consisting of me, Dr. Armando Guevara Gil and our friends Don Cirilo and Don “Chalaca” from a nearby local community of Santa Rosa de Ocopa – was heading to explore highland lakes feeding the Achamayo River.

The red shades of sun were rising behind the mountains as our car was slowly climbing uphill on a rocky serpentine road. As we got higher, we could see the grass covered with white sheet of frost and feel in our lungs how the air had become freezer to breath.

A clear sun light was shining on our path as we began our walk surrounded by the sceneries of endless puna. The frozen grass was shuffling under our feet and the small mountain flowers growing tightened to the ground were waking up. We could hear echoes of dogs barking somewhere far away. Cirilo told that they came from the alpaca-herds’ camps.

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Expedition crew in the highland punas of the Achamayo River Valley.

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By the lake Taptapa with Don Cirilo and Don Chalaca. Photo: Armando Guevara Gil.

We had sat down by the lake Chaluacocha to have some snacks when suddenly the sky turned all grey and a snappy gust of snow began to whip the ground. Our local friends said teasingly that Pachamama had gotten angry because we had been so eager to head to the punas that we had forgotten to make the payment to Pachamama.

In the middle of the snowstorm, we decided to make a short ceremony, sharing some of our fruits and bread with Pachamama. Don Cirilo gave a short speech to ask for good weather and thank Pachamama to permit us to visit its lands, lakes and mountains.

Ten minutes later the sky started to brighten and the snow was gone.  We were joking that our presents had managed to calm down the anger of Pachamama.

“Rationally thinking” our little ceremony probably did not have the power to change the weather. But it forces you to reflect upon, how we tend to forget that after all, we are all just shortly passing visitors in our common home – the Earth. And the least we should do is to show respect and gratitude to our host.

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Having a rest in between walking with Don Cirilo. Photo: Armando Guevara Gil.

Drastic changes in weather is not something uncommon in the highland punas, located in the altitude of 5,000 m above sea level. In the highlands, the flow of air is influenced by the mountains. This can cause rapid changes at micro scale. Though, Don Cirilo and Don Chalaco told us that it was quite rare that it would rain or snow at this time of the year.

In the Peruvian Andes, there have typically been very marked shifts between rainy and dry periods. Usually it rains regularly between December and April whereas from May onwards until November the rain remains almost absent.

For centuries, the farmers in this region have been used to live, sow and harvest according to these shifts. Now the regular climate patterns are changing. The highland farmers that  interviewed, told me that they didn’t know anymore when they should sow or harvest. In recent years, their yields had often been destroyed due to lack or excess of rain. Last year in many parts of Mantaro River Valley, the farmers had lost their entire harvest due to harsh night frosts. As one farmer put it: “farming in the highlands has become a risky business.”

The way people in the highlands describe their environments and farming practices is often almost poetic. They would often tell me how “my little corn is suffering from the burning sun” or “our poor river is dying”. When I was asking, what does water mean for the communities, a very common answer was as the following one: “without water we cannot live, neither our cows, without water everything dies.”

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A farmer and the cattle in the community of San Jose de Quero.

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The Cunas River flowing through the community of Usibamba.

These conversations reveal the relationship the highland communities have with the nature. Natural resources bring literally bread to their table. But nature for them is more than just a livelihood. It is a way of living and a way of being in a coexistence with and by the rules of the nature.

Last year in many parts of Mantaro River Valley, the farmers had lost their entire harvest due to harsh night frosts. As one farmer put it: “farming in the highlands has become a risky business.”

Unlike us – sipping our cappuccinos comfortably in a cozy café and speculating the latest scientific findings about rising temperatures or melting glaciers somewhere far away – for the Andean farmers, climate change has become an everyday reality. They feel the burning sun on their faces while working the whole day in their chacras, sowing corn, potato or quinoa. They wait desperately for the rain for their plants to grow. And hope that the unexpected rains won’t burst to ruin their harvests left on the fields to dry.

Besides the changing climate narratives of the local people, physical studies show that the climate in the Mantaro River Valley has changed in the last decades. Just as people told me about “plants burned by frosts or sun” or “the insane rains” – the climate studies indicate clear evidence of declining rain, rising temperatures and more frequent extreme weather events.

Scientists have also found that climate change is deepening the inequalities between the poor and wealthy nations. Countries in the so-called global south, that have contributed least in global warming are the ones who are now suffering the biggest economic losses caused by it. At individual level, the poor are often the most vulnerable to climate change due to lack of resources or living in ecologically and politically fragile regions.

It is paradoxical, that those who least exploit the nature are the ones that must bear the heaviest consequences. In the worst case, the farmers have no other options than leave their homes. In his book Environmental Refugees: Climate Change and Forced Migration ,Professor Teófilo Altamirano writes that the number of current climate migrants around the world is approximately 50 million and by 2050 the number is estimated to rise up to 150 million.

Countries in the global south, that have contributed least in global warming are the ones who are now suffering the biggest economic losses caused by it. At individual level, the poor are often the most vulnerable to climate change due to lack of resources or living in ecologically and politically fragile regions.

Altamirano reminds that most of migration due to climate is not voluntary. For example, in the rural Andean societies, there often exists a spiritual and emotional bound to the living environment and the community. The land, the animals, the fields and the surrounding nature have a strong religious and cultural value. When climatic conditions force one to leave, these cultural, symbolic and spiritual dimensions of life must be left behind. In the cities, the migrants often face discrimination due to their rural or ethnic backgrounds – making the vulnerable populations even worse off.

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Don Cirilo telling Dr. Armando about “the untouchable pond”. One of the community members had seen a dream that a bad spirit lives in the waters. Ever since water of the pond have not been used for any purpose. “There are waters that simply cannot be touched”, Don Cirilo explains.

The past week was an official Climate Week. The young and ambitious climate activist, Greta Thunberg, has given emotional yet serious speeches in New York, urging politicians around the world to act upon climate emergency. Thousands of people around the world, from Helsinki to Sydney, were marching on the streets to express their concern on the miserable state of our Planet and the insufficient rehabilitation actions.

It is empowering to see, how the global community requiring for a change in status quo is expanding. Most importantly, these people are giving a voice for the most vulnerable populations in front of climate change – the ones who bear most of the climate weight but who are seldom heard.