Reframing the fire narrative
          in Canaima National Park,
                 Venezuela
______________________________...
Canaima National Park
•   3 million hectares                     Caribean Sea


•   Ancestral Pemon
    indigenous homelan...
STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE
  OF CANAIMA NATIONAL PARK’S FORESTS




                   GURI DAM:
                   Production o...
THE FOREST-SAVANNAH MOSAIC
DOMINANT FIRE NARRATIVE

• An area originally covered by forests has been converted mostly to savannahs
by fire.


• The P...
FIRE CONTROL PROGRAMME




                                                 Foto:Bjorn Stleto
                 Foto:Bjorn ...
ROLE OF SCIENCE REPRODUCING
            THE FIRE NARRATIVE

• Environmental practitioners and researchers view fire as
  a...
PEMON USES OF FIRE
 •For cleaning and maintaining paths clean.

 •To maintain the landscape “tidy” and
 “attractive”

 •To...
ACTORS                                         UNESCO
Internacional
National                                        Enviro...
CHALLENGE TO ACHIEVE
                   A TRANSFORMATION
                  OF THE FIRE CONFLICT




                      ...
THROUGH......

  ● Generation of new scientific knowledge

  ● Giving more visibility to marginalised knowledge

   ● Publ...
ROLES FOR “EXPERTS”


• Carry out research

BUT ALSO:

• Strengthen vulnerable actors, help to clarify local views
• Creat...
EVOLUTION OF THE FIRE
COUNTER NARRATIVE IN
CANAIMA NATIONAL PARK
STAGES

STAGE 1                   STAGE 2
(1999-2007)               (2007- to present)

Spontaneous, un-          Coordina...
“RISK FACTORS IN THE REDUCTION OF HABITATS IN CANAIMA NATIONAL
   PARK: VULNERABILITY AND TOOLS FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMEN...
GENERAL OBJECTIVE

Evaluate the ecological and socio-institutional
vulnerability of the park at different spatial and time...
THE COUNTER NARRATIVE
      PROCESSES
1. ALTERNATIVE SCIENTIFIC STUDIES
             OF FIRE
DATE        DISCIPLINARY               AREA OF RESEARCH
            FIELD
1999        Social Studies             Different...
MAIN FINDINGS

PEMON VIEW OF FIRE AND OF                          ECOLOGICAL BEHAVIOUR OF FIRE
  ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE
    ...
PEMON SAVANNAH PATCH BURNING
NARRATIVE

•   An area originally covered by forests
    has been converted mostly to                      COUNTER-NARRATI...
2. SCIENTIFIC
CONTROVERSY
Año    Autores                     Referencia                                           Visión            Posición
       ...
RESULTS

• Controversy maked the conflict visible

• Different views of fire have started to become discussed
  in scienti...
3. DIALOGUE, PUBLIC
DELIBERATION PROCESSES
DIFFICULTIES FOR DIALOGUE
                         AND DELIBERATION

•   Pemon in a vulnerable position to participate in ...
1999   INTRA-COMMUNITY DIALOGUE
       PARTICIPATORY COMMUNITY RESEARCH ON PEMON MEANINGS
       OF FIRE, KUMARAKAPAY

   ...
2007                   MULTI-ACTOR DIALOGUE
                           VII NATIONAL ECOLOGY CONGRESS



ACTIVITY          ...
OBJETIVES
To develop a concerted environmental policy for
the management of fire in Canaima National
Park.
ACHIEVEMENTS
•F...
2008-TO PRESENT       INTER-CULTURAL DIALOGUE
                     AT THE COMMUNITY LEVEL, KAVANAYEN

             OBJETIV...
CONCLUSIONS
•   A counter-narrative of fire has started to emerge, but it is still in its initial stages.

•   The Pemon h...
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Iokiñe Rodriguez: Reframing the fire narrative in Canaima National Park, Venezuela

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Presentation at the STEPS Conference 2010 - Pathways to Sustainability: Agendas for a new politics of environment, development and social justice

http://www.steps-centre.org/events/stepsconference2010.html

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Iokiñe Rodriguez: Reframing the fire narrative in Canaima National Park, Venezuela

  1. 1. Reframing the fire narrative in Canaima National Park, Venezuela __________________________________ Roles of science transforming an environmental conflict “Pathways to Sustainability: Agendas for New Politics of Environment, Development and Social Justice” Conference STEPS Centre, Sussex University, Brighton, September 23-24, 2010 Iokiñe Rodriguez, Bibiana Bilbao, Isabelle Sanchez-Rose and Alejandra Leal Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research (IVIC) and Simon Bolivar University
  2. 2. Canaima National Park • 3 million hectares Caribean Sea • Ancestral Pemon indigenous homelands Canaima • Population: approximately National Park 20.000 Pemon Colombia Guyana • Since 1994 UNESCO World Brazil 400 km Natural Heritage Site
  3. 3. STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE OF CANAIMA NATIONAL PARK’S FORESTS GURI DAM: Production of 77% of country’s electricity 400 km
  4. 4. THE FOREST-SAVANNAH MOSAIC
  5. 5. DOMINANT FIRE NARRATIVE • An area originally covered by forests has been converted mostly to savannahs by fire. • The Pemon use of fire is responsible for a gradual savannization process and a reduction of forests area. • The Pemon have no knowledge of sustainable use of fire (stigmatised as pyromaniacs, “Los Quemones” (the burners), attributed among others, to the belief that they are resent arrivals to the area. • If actions are not taken the Gran Sabana will be turned into the Great Dessert in a matter of one or two centuries. •Need to create a fire control programme in the area.
  6. 6. FIRE CONTROL PROGRAMME Foto:Bjorn Stleto Foto:Bjorn Stleto MAIN FEATURES OUTCOME • Technology-dependent way to control •Great investment in fire control fires ($500.000 annualy) • External control •Failure achieving a reduction in the use of Pemon fires. • Exclusion of Pemon ancestral fire management methods. •Pemon silent resistance.
  7. 7. ROLE OF SCIENCE REPRODUCING THE FIRE NARRATIVE • Environmental practitioners and researchers view fire as an external component of the landscape. • Emphasis on explaining ecological fragility of the area and not the fire regimes. • Partial explanations of forest-savannah dynamics and environmental change which are generalised. • Short term ecological studies.
  8. 8. PEMON USES OF FIRE •For cleaning and maintaining paths clean. •To maintain the landscape “tidy” and “attractive” •To Prevent large catastrophic fires. • For communication • Hunting (rampūn) • Slash and burn agriculture (in forest areas) • To keep themselves warm • To scare dangerous animals away • As a cure of diseases (fire has magical properties) • To catch grasshoppers • To dry wood • To help fishing
  9. 9. ACTORS UNESCO Internacional National Environment Ministry Regional Local UCV: Estación Científica CENDES Instituto Botánico de Parupa IZT UNEG: de Centro de Barcelona, Investigaciones España Ecológicas Pemon Bolivar State de Guayana Elders Indigenous ONGs Federation TNC IVIC: Young Ecology Pemon Centre, INPARQUES Social Studies of CORPOELEC Science Centre (formerly EDELCA) USB, Laboratorio de Dinámica de Comunidades y Procesos Ecológicos Texas University, USA
  10. 10. CHALLENGE TO ACHIEVE A TRANSFORMATION OF THE FIRE CONFLICT CHANGE IN POWER RELATIONS IN KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTION SYSTEM COUNTER NARRATIVE OF FIRE Develop plural environmental policies that represent FINAL AIM different viewpoints of fire, its use and its impacts
  11. 11. THROUGH...... ● Generation of new scientific knowledge ● Giving more visibility to marginalised knowledge ● Public confrontation of weak aspects of the narrative (scientific controversies) ● Catalysing processes of collective deliberation and analysis. COUNTER NARRATIVES CAN....... • Help build scenarios or arguments that people find more convincing than the narrative (Roe 1991). • Help re-focus the narrative so that it becomes less questionable (Roe 2004). • Play an important role helping a conflict over different forms of knowledge transcend from a latent state to a manifested one so that its substantives issues can be understood and addressed.
  12. 12. ROLES FOR “EXPERTS” • Carry out research BUT ALSO: • Strengthen vulnerable actors, help to clarify local views • Create interactive process of research and action • Trigger open confrontation of views (publish research results, give rise to controversies) • Mobilise support- build coalitions between experts and practitioners • Facilitation-catalyse public discussions
  13. 13. EVOLUTION OF THE FIRE COUNTER NARRATIVE IN CANAIMA NATIONAL PARK
  14. 14. STAGES STAGE 1 STAGE 2 (1999-2007) (2007- to present) Spontaneous, un- Coordinated efforts with coordinted efforts by an institutional base different actors. acting as dialogue and coalition builder (Risk Project)
  15. 15. “RISK FACTORS IN THE REDUCTION OF HABITATS IN CANAIMA NATIONAL PARK: VULNERABILITY AND TOOLS FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT” PROJECT Universidad Simón Bolívar (USB) RESEARCH Ecologists TEAM Instituto Venezolano Engineers de Investigaciones Agronomy/ Científicas (IVIC) Forestry Estación Científica de Parupa-CVG INTERINSTITUTIONAL MULDISCIPLINARY Mathematicians Universidad Experimental Sociologists de Guayana (UNEG) Centro de Estudios para Anthropologists el Desarrollo (CENDES-UCV) KNOWLEDGE ARTICULATION (RESEARCH APPROACH) SOCIAL ENVIRONMENTAL PEMON PRACTITIONERS PRACTITIONERS
  16. 16. GENERAL OBJECTIVE Evaluate the ecological and socio-institutional vulnerability of the park at different spatial and time scales, with the aim of developing indicators and tools for the management of risks and for sustainable development of the area. RESEARCH APPROACH Plural and participative (allowing to take into account in a broad way the different perspective and interests at stake in the search for viable and sustainable solutions to the existent problems)
  17. 17. THE COUNTER NARRATIVE PROCESSES
  18. 18. 1. ALTERNATIVE SCIENTIFIC STUDIES OF FIRE
  19. 19. DATE DISCIPLINARY AREA OF RESEARCH FIELD 1999 Social Studies Different perspectives of fire, with emphasis on Pemon views/knowledge (Iokine Rodriguez) 1999-2009 Ecological Studies Ecological behaviour of fire and its impacts, in long term experiments (10 years) (Bibiana Bilbao) 2002-2006 Social studies Power relations in the production of knowledge over fire. Effects of cultural change in Pemon use of fire (Bjorn Sletto) 2005 to Socio-ecological studies Scientific validation of Pemon fire present management system based on long term fire experiments (Bibiana Bilbao, Alejandra Leal, Carlos Mendez) Social perception of fire by different park actors as a risk factor (Isabelle Sanchez- Rose-Hebe Vessuri) Paleo-ecological reconstruction of fire in the Gran Sabana landscape (Alejandra Leal, Bibiana Bilbao)
  20. 20. MAIN FINDINGS PEMON VIEW OF FIRE AND OF ECOLOGICAL BEHAVIOUR OF FIRE ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE Fires do not take place in the same place In the “traditional” Pemon world-view fire is annually. an integral part of the landscape and of Savannah vegetation in the area takes 2, 3 Pemon cultural identity. to 4 years to recover. Pemon use of fire is based on an ancestral This generates a savannah mosaic with cooperative system of savannah patch different fire histories. mosaic burning (prescribed burning). By increasing fuel accumulation One of the main reasons to use fire is to discontinuity and its characteristics, it prevent large forest fires. Fire is should be possible to reduce fires in high controlled with fire. risk areas (ecological base for patch Rather than many fires, the problem is lack mosaic burning) of sufficient fires. Fuel build-up in 10 km perimeters of communities subject to greater cultural change. Noticeable difference in the knowledge of young Pemon about ancestral system of fire management in communities subject to greater cultural change. DIFFERENT PERCEPTIONS OF FIRE AS A RISK FACTOR Achieving a sustainable management of fire requires greater discussion about: what the fire problem is? how it is interpreted? how are its impacts viewed and ¿how fire affects the interests of different actors?
  21. 21. PEMON SAVANNAH PATCH BURNING
  22. 22. NARRATIVE • An area originally covered by forests has been converted mostly to COUNTER-NARRATIVE savannahs by fire. • Savannahs been the predominate • The Pemon use of fire is responsible vegetation in the areas for thousand of for a gradual savannization process years. and a reduction of forests area. • Fire is an integral component of the • The Pemon have no knowledge of Gran Sabana landscape. sustainable use of fire (stigmatised as piromaniacs,“Los Quemones” (the • Fire has to be considered one of a burners), attributed among others, to variety of factors that could be the belief that they are resent arrivals contributing to vegetation change in to the area. the area. • Fire is an external component of the • The Pemon have an ancestral system Gran Sabana Landscape. of fire management that, if widely supported, could help reduce fires in • If actions are not taken the Gran high risk areas. Sabana will be turned into the Great Dessert in a matter of one or two • Rather than controlling fires, fire centuries. policies should aim to manage fires, using the ancestral Pemon prescribed • Need to create a fire control patch burning-system. programme in the area.
  23. 23. 2. SCIENTIFIC CONTROVERSY
  24. 24. Año Autores Referencia Visión Posición Disciplinar Representada 2004 Rodríguez, I. Conocimiento indígena vs. científico: el conflicto Social Sciences Counter-narrative a por el uso del fuego en el Parque Nacional Canaima, Venezuela. Interciencia. 29 (3): 121- 129. 2004 Dezzeo, N., H. Folster & El fuego en la Gran Sabana, Interciencia, 9(8): Ecology Narrative L. Hernandez 409-410 2004 Rodríguez, I. El fuego en la Gran Sabana, Interciencia, 9(9): Social Sciences Counter-narrative b 481 2007 Rodríguez Pemon perspectives of fire management in Social Sciences Counter-narrative Canaima National Park, Venezuela. Human Ecology. 35(3):331-343 2008 Sletto, B. The knowledge that counts: institutional Social Sciences Counter-narrative identities, Policy Science, and the Conflict Over Fire Management in the Gran Sabana, Venezuela. World Development 36(10): 1938-1955. 2009 Bilbao B., A. Leal, C. The Role of Fire in Vegetation Dynamic of Upland Ecology Counter-narrative Mendez y M. D. Savannas of the Venezuelan Guayana in M.A. Delgado-Cartay Cochrane, ed. Tropical Fire Ecology: Climate Change, Land Use and Ecosystem Dynamics. Springer-Praxis, Heidelberg, Germany. 2009 Rull, V. On the use of paleoecological evidence to assess Ecology Narrative the role of humans in the origin of the Gran Sabana (Venezuela). Human Ecology 2009 Rodríguez I., A. Leal, B. Facing up to the challenge of interdisciplinary Mixted (Socio- Counter-narrative Bilbao, I. Sanchez, H. research in the Gran Sabana (Venezuela), Human ecological) Vessuri Ecology, 37(6), December 2009. 2009 Rodríguez, I. y B. Apok hace feliz a Pata: desafíos y sugerencias Social Science Counter-narrative Sletto para una gestión intercultural del fuego en la Gran Sabana. Antropologica 52 (111-112). 2010 Bilbao, B, A. Leal & C. Indigenous use of fire and forest loss in Canima Ecology Counter-narrative Mendez National Park Park, Venezuela. Assesment of and tools for Alternative Strategies of Fire Management in Pemon Indigenous Lands. Human Ecology. Published on line-28 August 2010.
  25. 25. RESULTS • Controversy maked the conflict visible • Different views of fire have started to become discussed in scientific forums, protected area management training courses, among practitioners, etc. • Public acknowledgement of more than one side of the “story”. The New York Times, by Simon Romero, In Venezuela’s Savanna, Clash of Science and Fire 23 April 2010.
  26. 26. 3. DIALOGUE, PUBLIC DELIBERATION PROCESSES
  27. 27. DIFFICULTIES FOR DIALOGUE AND DELIBERATION • Pemon in a vulnerable position to participate in dialogue with others actors. Feeling of disrespect and lack of understanding of their perspectives. Internal conflict about the subject (elders vs. young Pemon). • Historically a subject of great friction and tension among the park actors. CALLS FOR • Creating the conditions for dialogue: helping the Pemon articulate their views • An actor that is perceived by all actors as “neutral” in order to be able to facilitate dialogue and public deliberation (Risk Project)
  28. 28. 1999 INTRA-COMMUNITY DIALOGUE PARTICIPATORY COMMUNITY RESEARCH ON PEMON MEANINGS OF FIRE, KUMARAKAPAY OBJECTIVE: Help the Pemon articulate their views of fire and its impacts CARACTERISTICS Part of a series of participatory workshops on local perceptions of socio-environmental change 29 interviews with young Pemon and elders In situ analysis of research findings Community meeting to discuss research results. OUTCOMES Young Pemon legitimized the knowledge of elders. Elders acknowledged their responsibility in loss of local knowledge. Young Pemon and elders express their commitment to learn and teach about the use of fire. Subsequently some young Pemon have shown more confidence to debate with experts and researchers about the Pemon use of fire.
  29. 29. 2007 MULTI-ACTOR DIALOGUE VII NATIONAL ECOLOGY CONGRESS ACTIVITY CARACTERISTICS PARTICIPANTS Symposia “Institutional, Ecological and Public event Congress participants Socio-cultural perspectives for the management of fire in Canaima National 10 minutes Speakers: Park”. presentations • Pemon representatives (Bolivar State Indigenous) Federation- FIEB) • Scientists • Practitioners (EDELCA, INPARQUES, Parupa Scientific Station) Workshop “Joining perspectives for the Closed event Speakers in the previous creation of an effective and legitimate event. management of fire in Canaima National Park”. Environmental and Fire Open discussion Managers at the National and Regional Level
  30. 30. OBJETIVES To develop a concerted environmental policy for the management of fire in Canaima National Park. ACHIEVEMENTS •Fist time main actors of the conflict exchange views of the problem in an atmosphere of respect un mutual understanding. •EDELCA and FIEB participated as convenors, together with the Risk Project. •Agenda discussed and agreed among the three convenors. •Success in building coalitions between experts and practitioners to further a contested agenda (fire management instead of fire control) •Shared interest to continue dialogue LIMITATION Lack of continuity lack due to institutional changes
  31. 31. 2008-TO PRESENT INTER-CULTURAL DIALOGUE AT THE COMMUNITY LEVEL, KAVANAYEN OBJETIVE: Exchange of ecological and Pemon perspectives of fire, its impacts and management. CARATERISTICS: Part of a community self-reflection process of socio-environmental change with view of contributing to the development of a community “life-plan” (Plan de Vida). Two workshops: one with young Pemon and one with elders. Fire discussed by young Pemon and elders as one of the different factors of environmental change. Results of ecological research on fire behaviour were shared with the community. OUTCOMES Elders felt that their knowledge and livelihood practices legitimised by ecological research. Opened up to talk about changes in the landscape due to historical events: inter-ethnic wars, 19th century slave trade. Triggered local discussion about the need to maintain traditional prescribed burning practices. Areas of risk due to lack of systematic burning.
  32. 32. CONCLUSIONS • A counter-narrative of fire has started to emerge, but it is still in its initial stages. • The Pemon have had little participation in the evolution of the counter-narrative. Process lead by scientists who have the power resources to transform the conflict: financial resources and technical know-how to produce a change in the knowledge production system. • The different counter narrative processes have been successful in helping the conflict over the use of fire become more public so that its substantive issues can be discussed and addressed. • More public discussion about: what the fire problem is? how it is interpreted? how are its impacts viewed? and, how fire affects the interests of different actors? is still necessary among the different park actors. • Favourable conditions to carry out an in depth community dialogue about this issue has been created in one community, Kavanayen. • Conditions to open up the discussion in institutional settings was favourable in a given moment in time (2006, 2007), but do not seem to exist in present, perhaps due to resistance to change, institutional inertias, etc.
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