Restoration, projectality and the projectization of local development

Jon Anderson

Publication Date:

The Bonn Challenge, WRI’s AFR100, the UN Decade for Deserts, the Great Green Wall initiative, and the like, reflect the traction being gained globally by the land restoration movement.  However, the political and socio-economic dimensions of the “movement” tend to be under-analyzed.  Using conservation techniques (“zai”), and farmer managed natural regeneration (FMNR) as examples of local indigenous technology adaptation particularly in West Africa, this paper hopes to lay out some concerns about the underlying processes and assumptions of the movement.  Local communities, reacting to pressures and drivers, indigenously innovate and adapt (partially through technologies mentioned above).  When these innovations are “discovered” by exogenous actors (including research centers and NGOs) they enter a process of projectization where they are standardized, made quantifiable, subject to “value-addition”, and made legible to the exogenous actors.  We introduce the concepts of projectality and green projectality to help describe and understand this process.  Local development may be projectized, co-opted and fed back to the communities through “extension”, training and other activities.  Pre-existing local adaptation techniques and practices are re-packaged as projects of “expert technological innovations” so that the communities who developed them must now be trained and formed to adopt them.  The incentive to projectize is strong as exogenous actors are able to capture funds, visibility and business through projects.  This process seems to ultimately co-opt local knowledge and adaptation capacity, and may re-enforce dependency, which in turn can become reliant on projectization.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

Society for Ecological Restoration