How can international development cooperation projects be strengthened through research of social-ecological linkages? And where does participatory research stand in such a relation? These and many other questions will be addressed by the interdisciplinary research project Coop4Wellbeing, which is being carried out by the Global Change Research Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences (CzechGlobe), the Department of Development & Environmental Studies at Palacky University and by the NGO People in Need. The project is supported by the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic.
Czech development cooperation projects are often focused on the sustainability of rural livelihoods and on the enhancement of wellbeing in rural communities. As suggested by recent development and environmental research, the success of such projects requires exploration and consideration of interactions between nature and society. The main factors, interacting with each other within the social-ecological system, are the governance system and power relations in society, which underpin access to land and to other social and ecological capital. Moreover, land access and its tenure determine other essential factors, such as small-scale investments and availability and access to innovative financial mechanisms, for instance microfinances.
The understanding of the social-ecological system and the exploration of the linkages and interactions among the above-mentioned factors are essential contributions to the current development cooperation praxis. Therefore, we build the Coop4Wellbeing project on a participatory process that links the needs of Czech development organizations and the results of a case study on social-ecological interactions in Zambia (Mongu). During the next two and half years, we will run a series of interviews, focus groups, workshops and surveys in Czech Republic and Zambia that will allow us to match the perspective of development project implementors with the perspective of project recipients.
We believe that this process will not only enrich scientific knowledge, but more importantly, it will support Czech development cooperation organizations in the formulation and the realization of their projects focused on sustainable livelihoods and wellbeing.