Panel 2: Environmental commodification

Benedikt Korf et al., University of Zurich,

Muriel Cote, University of Zurich, (chair)

Alice Jandrain, Université Catholique de Louvain,

Victoria Junquera, ETH Zurich,

Abstract: Borderlands and deforestation

Most instances of recent large-scale deforestation have been caused by rapid agricultural expansion orcash crop booms. Many cases of crop boom-induced deforestation have taken place in borderland areas, that is, places surrounding national borders. Examples include soybean and cattle expansion inParaguay’s borders with Argentina and Brazil, a maize boom in western Mozambique’s frontier withMalawi, or oil palm and rubber plantations in northern Laos, northeast Cambodia, and Borneo’sborderlands. Borderlands can become particularly intense sites of change because of the confluence of cross-border kinship and trading networks, as well as cross-border gradients or differentials, such as differences in labor costs, natural resources, policies, or markets, which stimulate cross-border flows. Because of their frequent remoteness and inaccessibility, borderlands often lack institutional development and are prone to be areas of conflict or dispute, which makes them likely stages of government territorialization policies. At the same time, their remoteness and inaccessibility may shield these areas from extractive activities, at least temporarily. Despite the growing and multi-disciplinary study of borderlands, the connection between borderlands and natural resource use, including deforestation, has not yet been systematically assessed or articulated. In this work, we first identify distinct conditions, processes, and causal mechanisms operating in borderlands that directly affect natural resource extraction and deforestation. We further review four case study areas in Paraguay, Laos, Mozambique and Borneo and analyze deforestation and natural resource use along each of their country borders. We conduct a literature review on borderland dynamics, as well as extensive interviews with local actors. Our results show the specific dynamics unfolding in different borderland areas within each country, and the implication for natural resource access, use, and management.

Ruth Pinto, University of East Anglia,