Community owned solutions: identifying local best practices for social-ecological sustainability

Mistry, Jayalaxshmi; Berardi, Andrea; Tschirhart, Céline; Bignante, Elisa; Haynes, Lakeram; Benjamin, Ryan; Albert, Grace; Xavier, Rebecca; Robertson, Bernie; Davis, Odacy; Jafferally, Deirdre and de Ville, Géraud (2016). Community owned solutions: identifying local best practices for social-ecological sustainability. Ecology and Society, 21(2), article no. 42.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-08496-210242

Abstract

Policies and actions that come from higher scale structures, such as international bodies and national governments, are not always compatible with the realities and perspectives of smaller scale units including indigenous communities. Yet, it is at this local social-ecological scale that mechanisms and solutions for dealing with unpredictability and change can be increasingly seen emerging from across the world. Although there is a large body of knowledge specifying the conditions necessary to promote local governance of natural resources, there is a parallel need to develop practical methods for operationalizing the evaluation of local social-ecological systems. In this paper, we report on a systemic, participatory, and visual approach for engaging local communities in an exploration of their own social-ecological system. Working with indigenous communities of the North Rupununi, Guyana, this involved using participatory video and photography within a system viability framework to enable local participants to analyze their own situation by defining indicators of successful strategies that were meaningful to them. Participatory multicriteria analysis was then used to arrive at a short list of best practice strategies. We present six best practices and show how they are intimately linked through the themes of indigenous knowledge, local governance and values, and partnerships and networks. We highlight how developing shared narratives of community owned solutions can help communities to plan governance and management of land and resource systems, while reinforcing sustainable practices by discussing and showcasing them within communities, and by engendering a sense of pride in local solutions.

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