INREF grants funding for project “Beyond Anthropocene Pressures: convivialconservation integrating ECOlogy and ECOnomics along the Nile and its wetlands(Eco2)”.

February 19, 2019

The External Review Committee of The Interdisciplinary Research and Education Fund (INREF) was impressed by the high quality of the proposal, and has granted funding for the project: Beyond Anthropocene Pressures: convivial conservation integrating ECOlogy and ECOnomics along the Nile and its wetlands (Eco2).

A collaboration between the chair groups:

Programme summary

The sustainable integration of rapidly changing livelihoods and conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems is a major ambition of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At the same time, the arrival of the Anthropocene, the era where human impact increasingly dominates the earth system, has rendered this integration more acute and necessary. One of the major challenges communicated by the idea of the Anthropocene is that we live in a time of cascading and integrating pressures on both human and nonhuman life. Indeed, recent literature in biology and the social conservation sciences points towards an overall ‘intensification of pressures’ across the socio-ecological spectrum, rendering sustainable development problems even more complex and difficult and thus crucial to be addressed.

As a response, recent debates in conservation, ecology and the social sciences, amongst others, have put forth solutions commensurate with the scale of the problems. These include the so-called ‘New conservation’ that asks for a radical integration of conservation principles into the mainstream, growth-oriented economy and the ‘Half earth’ movement, that advocates to set aside half the planet into protected areas. These competing views build on older debates related to sustainable development, integrated conservation and development and ecological modernisation, amongst others, but also take these into new and bold directions. Next to these contrasting views, Wageningen University researchers have started conceptualising and developing a ‘Convivial conservation’ approach that aims to provide a third alternative that integrates these different approaches to find better ways to integrate human and nonhuman life in a sustainable manner.

This INREF programme, ECO2, will investigate, analyse, and test key ideas for integrating ecology and socio-economics and the possibilities for convivial conservation using distinct cases in Egypt, a country where Anthropocene pressures have become extreme in many places. Egypt, as is well known, completely depends on one major resource, the River Nile, but intensifying land-use change and other anthropogenic pressures render the possibilities for long-term sustainable forms of development and conservation increasingly problematic. By combining the expertise from different disciplines across the different natural and social sciences, ECO2 will deliver new knowledge based on primary research and use this to investigate ideas related to different convivial conservation and development trajectories in three important cases along the Nile and its wetlands.

We will study the decisions animals and humans make by focussing behaviour and ecology of wetland birds and crocodiles in their socio-economic contexts using three different cases, (1) The Nile Delta and Fayoum, (2) the Nile South of Cairo and (3) Lake Nasser. Within and across these cases, several PhD projects will address questions on the network and usage of natural and artificial wetlands by birds (and crocodiles) in relation to the socio-economic context of stakeholders such as hunters, fishermen and eco-tourism, and by this integrate decisions animals make with decisions humans make. Moreover, by building (on) a strong interdisciplinary network combining researchers, governmental and non-government organisations and local communities, ECO2 will ensure long-term continuity and a large impact for capacity building to improve conservation and development in an integrated framework in Egypt for a long time to come.

Finally, due to the fact that Egypt represents a classic case of the problems associated with the high pressures of the Anthropocene, we are convinced that knowledge from this project will not only be of relevance to other countries along the Nile, but also beyond.