SP4: Social cohesion in restoration landscapes in western Rwanda

Katharina Löhr

Valery Ndagijimana

The proposed sub-project will explore social dimensions as well as interlinkages between the social and ecological consequences of ecosystem restoration with a particular focus on social cohesion. The overarching goal of this sub-project is to explore impacts of restoration on social cohesion. We seek to reveal which underlying aspects of restoration governance and management facilitate, hinder, or otherwise shape social cohesion. We hypothesize that restoration activities in a given community significantly influence social cohesion. Here, we distinguish two dimensions of cohesion: horizontal cohesion between community actors, and vertical cohesion between communities and the state. Further, we hypothesize that different restoration approaches and practices (in terms of governance, planted species, stakeholder involvement) influence cohesion differently. This sub-project will (1) identify and map stakeholders and their interrelations based on levels of cooperation, trust and socioeconomic inclusion in different types of restored sites in two districts in western Rwanda; (2) develop a set of social cohesion indicators to measure impacts of restoration on social cohesion; (3) explore causal relations between restoration approaches and social cohesion; and (4) evaluate different existing restoration approaches with respect to their impacts on social cohesion. 

The analysis will be conducted in six different villages in two districts where different types of restoration have been carried out in the past and are still actively pursued today. We will focus on three types of restoration common in Rwanda: agroforestry, woodlot plantings and watershed protection. In addition, we will include homegardens that often exhibit a high level of biodiversity. This will allow us to compare the impacts of more self-organized forms of restoration (homegardens) with institutionalized restoration efforts (agroforestry, woodlot plantings, watershed protection) on social cohesion. Hereby, we aim to identify context-specific as well as more generalizable factors that impact ecosystem restoration and social cohesion. To assess impacts of different restoration approaches on social cohesion, a mixed methods approach will be used, combining qualitative semi-structured interviews and the participatory methods Net-Map tool and World Café with a quantitative household survey. The survey will be conducted with a total of 300 participants (200 households that practice the selected types of restoration, 100 households not involved in any restoration activities). The complex, multi-level interrelations between resource management practices and social cohesion, as well as the mechanisms underlying these interrelations, remain poorly understood to date in general, and especially within the context of ecosystem restoration. Better understanding these interrelations will advance existing theory on social cohesion and improve best-practice approaches to social-ecological restoration.