Researcher in Social Sciences and field based methods


Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Kyoto, Japan


Friday, August 6, 2021

Start Date

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Project description

Fair Frontiers (Fair for Whom? Politics, Power and Precarity in Transformations of Tropical ForestAgriculture Frontiers)

Forest frontiers are rapidly being converted to the production of commodity agriculture throughout the tropics, leading to radical transformations in landscapes and livelihoods. Diverse land uses in frontiers – often mixed swidden cultivation systems and forest mosaics under some form of customary tenure – provide multiple ecosystem goods and services, and support social, cultural and livelihood needs. This diversity is being lost with increasingly high social and environmental costs.

Studies show that promised win-win outcomes of agricultural intensification are difficult to come by and win-lose trade-offs are more common. Forest communities often benefit less than local elites and external investors in the transformation of frontiers, reflecting underlying institutional and power structures around forests and land-use tenures. These inequalities also reflect political narratives, interests and policy preferences, when decisions to criminalize certain land uses prioritize particular ecosystem services and narrow wellbeing outcomes. The many ways in how local people navigate these politico-economic and social-ecological landscapes depend on their ability (or not) to navigate and negotiate change, and exercise agency to pursue their own development aspirations.

In this intersection of economic growth ambitions, ecological changes and the politics and power dynamics underlying forest and land use decisions, we question: whose interests drive transformations of forest-agriculture frontiers, who benefits and who is made precarious? What are the different ecosystem service-human wellbeing bundles associated with specific development trajectories? What are possible policy options that can deliver sustainable and equitable outcomes? The research will be carried out in the Congo Basin (Cameroon, DR Congo), mainland Southeast Asia (Laos, Myanmar) and Malaysia Borneo (Sabah, Sarawak).

Job description

The Senior Researcher/ Researcher will carry out research activities under Module 3 (Well-being in frontiers: local communities negotiating, navigating and adapting to change) of the FairFrontiers project, in close collaboration with country partners and under the guidance of the PI and module leads.

Specifically, the Senior Researcher/ Researcher will carry out field based mixed-methods research to uderstand the contexts, constraints, creativities and agency of local people in changing forestagriculture frontiers. S/He will carry out qualitative and quantitative analyses to assess the relationships between different aspects of wellbeing in dynamic social-ecological systems, and to apply a telecoupling perspective to understand the local impacts of distal drivers. The research will be conducted in close collaboration with country partners, and will draw on theories of access, social-environmental justice and everyday politics.

The Senior Researcher/ Researcher will support project management and coordination duties, including supervision of field research assistants, data management and reporting. In addition, S/He will contribute to methods training and presentations in policy and stakeholder workshops in the case study regions.