Editorial: Working with people for watershed management
Policy advice about the management of natural resources is based on theory and observations
about particular resources: water, fisheries, forests, rangelands, and minerals. These resource
stocks generate flows of benefits of interest to people; the resource stock is assumed to degrade or
improve as a result of overuse or deliberate conservation. Management and property rights
regimes are shown to have predictable implications for resource use and quality.
Most natural environments in less-developed countries are not so easily conceived or modeled.
People are closely integrated into their environments. In the context of watershed management,
forests in upper parts of watersheds are often considered primarily as a source of downstream
environmental services, but people live in them, harvest firewood, collect water for domestic use
and grow crops, gather wild foods and raise livestock in those areas. Farms, landscapes and
watersheds incorporate several overlapping resources generating inter-dependent flows of benefits.
Some of these benefits are tangible physical products, like wood you can build with and fish you
can eat. Many other benefits are less tangible servicesFreducing erosion, cycling nutrients,
housing birds and beesFthat are more difficult to measure and value.
Some of the most important landscape units are defined by way that water moves across, over,
and under landscapes. The generic term ‘‘watershed management’’ is often used to refer to the use,
management, and investment in a number of inter-dependent resources within hump-backed
‘‘watersheds’’ that shed water into streams and bowl-shaped ‘‘catchments’’ that collect water into
a common outlet point. Global attention to watershed management is increasing and will
continue to increase as water becomes scarcer. In addition, now there is widespread recognition
that the management of natural resources cannot be separated from the health of the ecosystems
in which they are located. Continuous reliable supplies of quality goods and services depends on
the health and viability of the ecosystems (e.g. Wood, Sebastian, & Scherr, 2000).
Greater attention to watershed management is manifest in the high amount of funds invested in
watershed development projects. In India, for example, over $500 million is invested in watershed
development projects every year (Farrington, Turton, & James, 1999). There also is increasing
attention to interactions between watershed management and human health. Organizations
traditionally focused on raising agricultural productivity, such as the Future Harvest centers of
the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), are focusing much
more of their research attention on the multi-faceted relationships between people, agriculture, and the environment. Watersheds and catchmentsFfrom small micro-catchments to river and
lake basinsFare emerging as the obvious focus of much of the research.
The set of papers in this volume is indicative of this re-adjustment in the focus from resources to
watersheds. Many of the papers were commissioned for a workshop convened by the CGIAR
Systemwide Program on Collective Action and Property Rights (CAPRI) in Managua,
Nicaragua, in March 2000.1 Most of the participants in the workshop were scientists with one
or the other of the 16 centers in the CGIAR. The objectives of the workshop were to: (1) identify
the key institutional issues that arise with watershed management at various social–spatial scales;
(2) identify or design new strategies and methods for linking bio-physical research on problems
and technologies with socio-economic research on institutions; and (3) stimulate the development
of comparable research spanning across the mandate resources and locations of the CGIAR. The
full proceedings of the workshop are available in Knox and Gupta (2000), and Knox, Swallow,
and Johnson (2001) summarize the key lessons. This special issue includes revised versions of
some of the papers presented at that workshop. It also includes additional empirical papers that
address key issues that emerged during the workshop deliberations.
Brent M. Swallow, Nancy L. Johnson, Ruth S. Meinzen-Dick
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Central America, South America & Caribbean; East Africa; North America; South Asia; Southeast Asia