Home » SWEDISH UNIVERSITIES ENGAGED IN SOUTH ASIA RESEARCH 2015 » Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Uppsala, 2015 » Division of Rural Development, Dept. of Urban and Rural Development; Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Uppsala, 2015

Division of Rural Development, Dept. of Urban and Rural Development; Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Uppsala, 2015

Postal address: Institutionen för stad och land, Landsbygdsutveckling, SLU, Box 7012, SE-750 07 Uppsala, Sweden
Visiting address: Ulls väg 28 A–B
Web page: http://www.slu.se/en/departments/urban-rural-development/start/

Contact person: Professor Andrea Nightingale, phone: +46 (0)18 67 10 00. Personal web page.

 The Division of Rural Development (LAG) is part of the Dept. of Urban and Rural Development in the Swedish University of Agricultural Science (SLU). A Department of Rural Development was initially established at SLU in the 1990s but was reconstituted into a joint department of Urban and Rural Development in 2006. LAG is located within an agricultural science/natural resource university and a key role for it is to provide a broader social understanding of the rural world to the university. The division has interests and activities relevant both to rural development in the Nordic region (a context of sparse and often declining population, harsh climatic conditions and significant natural resource based economies) and in the ‘south’ (Africa and Asia).

The research of the division is interdisciplinary and focuses on rural change processes within a comparative perspective. Four themes structure the division’s research agenda:

• Natural resources, societal sustainability and welfare outcomes
• Rural heterogeneities and diversity and welfare outcomes
• The effects of globalisation in rural areas
• Relations between continuity and change

Research connected to South Asia

Andrea Nightingale (photo) is Professor at the department since 2015. She came from the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg where she worked since 2012. Before that she was the Director of the MSc in Environment and Development and a Senior Lecturer in Environmental Geography at the University of Edinburgh (2002-2012). Her PhD from the University of Minnesota in Geography was based on work done in Nepal since 1987 on questions of development, natural resource management, community forestry, gender, social inequalities and governance. 
Her academic interests include pioneering work on socio-natures, critical development studies, and methodological work on mixing methods across the social and natural sciences. She is presently involved in a collaborative research programme with the University of Toronto and ForestAction Nepal investigating democratic governance in the post-conflict state. She has worked closely with the Nepal-Swiss and the DFID-funded Livelihoods and Forestry Programme (both community forestry projects) in Nepal on their land management programmes, gender and equity programmes and climate change strategies. She has also worked in India, Indonesia and South America during the course of her studies and short term consultancies.
Presently her theoretical interests incorporate feminist work on emotion and subjectivity with theories of development, authority, collective action and cooperation in common property situations. Her most recent theoretical and empirical work seeks examine the confluence of climate change and violent conflict.
On-going research collaborations include working closely with Dr. Hemant Ojha at the Southasia Institute for Advanced Studies – SIAS, on questions of environmental governance, social and political transformation and policy research. They are presently finalizing their British Academy funded project, “Climate Change and Political Violence? Resource governance and post-conflict reconstruction in Nepal” (more information).
The Nepal work is also part of a growing collaboration with Ajaya Dixit at the Institute for Social and Environmental Transition-Nepal (ISET–Nepal) and their International Development Research Institute (IDRC), Canada funded Think Tank work. Together they have engaged in policy debates around climate change adaptation and resilience, as well as providing writing workshops for emerging scholars in Nepal.
In November 2015,  Andrea Nightingale was granted a project grant from the Swedish Research Council (total amount SEK 4.4 m in four years, 2016-19) for a project focusing on Nepal and Kenya.
The project is entitled ”Conflict, Violence and Environmental Change: Investigating Resource Governance and Legitimacy in Transitional Societies”, and the Nepalese research partner is Dr. Hemant R. Ojha (photo).  More information on the South Asia related Swedish Research Council grants 2015.
Project Abstract: This aim of this 4-year program is to probe the concerns raised by environmental change for conflict and violence and to understand how we can respond more effectively to them. It does so by tackling a question identified by the recent IPCC report as a crucial question, what produces conflict and violence in the face of environmental change? The proposed research therefore begins from the insight that environmental governance policies and programs are often a platform on which actors struggle over discourses, authority and responsibilities. More scientific scrutiny is required into how such struggles within policies and programs can erupt as flash points for conflict and violence, or alternatively, can open up pathways towards peace and reduced vulnerability. Drawing from the social sciences the program explores how climate change is linked to perceptions of and responses to those changes. The work focuses on changes in forest and water resources in 2 countries: Nepal and Kenya. 
The objectives are: 1. To better conceptualise the social-political processes through which changing forest and water resources become enrolled in crises of legitimacy, conflict and violence. To produce empirical evidence of how global environmental change manifests social-politically within two carefully selected countries on two continents: Asia (Nepal) and Africa (Kenya). 3. To generate insights into how governance mechanisms can be better designed to address environmental conflict and violence concerns in least developed countries. The outcome will be a concrete evaluation of how conflict and environmental change together create new vulnerabilities and points of empowerment for people and polities.
The Nepalese partner institution – Southasia Institute of Advanced Studies (SIAS) was established in 2011 as an indigenous platform for advanced research and scholarly exchange in the South Asia region. It emerges from the pressing need to nurture and promote critical research, scholarship and teaching in Southasia. It takes interdisciplinary approach and specializes in advanced studies – research, scholarly publications and seminar series. As an endogenous initiative of region, it will fill the critical gap in knowledge generation and capacity strengthening by cultivating and promoting more engaged practice of social science in addressing social and environmental challenges. SIAS’s mission is to nurture, cultivate, organize and promote critical knowledge, research and scholarly learning in Southasia. Its initial focus would be in Nepal, Northern India and Bangladesh, and will gradually expand its geographical coverage in the region.

From the Fall semester 2015, Dr. Patrik Oskarsson works at this department. He moved here from the School of Global Studies at University of Gothenburg where he worked as a Lecturer in Development Studies from the Fall semester 2013 till 2014. During the Spring semester 2015, Patrik Oskarsson was a guest research fellow at the Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Edinburgh, UK.

Patrik received his PhD from School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK, on a dissertation focusing on the contestation over land use when a bauxite mineral project was proposed in the adivasi areas of northern part of Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. He defended his thesis entitled ”The law of the Land Contested: Bauxite Mining in Tribal, Central India in an Age of Economic Reform” in 2010. It is available on the Internet, go for the thesis.
Patrik has also written on Special Economic Zones, irrigation projects and environmental management in collaboration with a number of different civil society groups. His research interest focuses on the political economy of industrialization and economic development in India. Of special interest are the various ways in which poor and marginalized groups in rural India are affected in terms of livelihoods, environmental quality and natural resource base by economic development projects, but also how it is possible for the poor themselves and for public interest groups to mobilize and demand the implementation of rights by making use of the existing national democratic framework and increasingly also international human rights legislation and policies for corporate social responsibility. 

His Swedish university background is a MSc in Industrial Engineering and Management at Linköping University in 2000. After that he has worked as volunteer for the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in New Delhi, and Samata in Hyderabad – an NGO working on tribal welfare issues in Andhra Pradesh. During 2011-12, Patrik Oskarsson worked as a post-doc researcher at Azim Premji University in Bangalore.
In the summer 2103, an article by Patrik Oskarsson in the peer-reviewed South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 36:2(2013). The article is entitled ‘Dispossession by Confusion from Mineral-Rich Lands in Central India’.
Abstract: Bauxite mineral projects in central India have in recent years generated conflicts over both the physical environment and equitable development for very vulnerable people. In one such project, a joint venture between the state government of Andhra Pradesh and a private investor, attempts are currently being made to open up land constitutionally reserved for India’s Scheduled Tribes. The final outcome, though still uncertain, depends not only on the relative material resources of the opposing parties, but on a drawn-out process of contestation where the discursive resistance to tribal land dispossession has strong historical roots and many active supporters. Thus, for the project’s promoters, their advantage rests on their ability to create confusion via superior access to, and control over, information, rather than relying on their direct authority.


On 5 December 2013, Patrik Oskarsson was granted SEK 5.444 million as funding for a project partly focusing on India, entitled ”Coal Conflicts: Participatory resource governance for improved sustainability and conflict resolution in India and Mozambique”. The four-years grant (2013-16) comes from the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (Formas) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). It is one out of seven Swedish research projects addressing sustainability issues in the fields of natural resource use and governance, increased agricultural production, and environmental management in low-income countries. The projects specifically provide mobility grants for young researchers, and they are based both within the social and humanistic sciences as well as the natural sciences, and the overall intention is to contribute to development of new knowledge that will support global sustainable development, and to promote capacity building long-term cooperation between Swedish researchers and researchers in low-income countries. Three of the projects involve research collaboration with partners in India. More information.
Project abstract: This project examines the governance of coal, a resource which is increasingly using up common property land in India and Mozambique, is a source of local and national conflicts as well as being a concern in climate change debates. Specifically it looks at participatory decision-making over land and mineral resources as a possible approach to sustainable development in poverty-affected and politically unstable regions. The project studies empirically two major coal producing areas, Jharkhand state in India and Tete province in Mozambique. These regions represent rural hinterlands of intense poverty with vast deposits of coal. A reduction in violent conflict has improved the possibilities to extract these resources for the benefit of national and international power users in recent years. Control over these vital resources is connected to political influence locally and at higher levels. Can local participation in decisions improve sustainability? Ethnographic fieldwork is planned in the coal-bearing areas but also at higher levels to study decision-making and resource management of coal at regional and national levels and remote sensing images will be used to assess detailed land use changes. The four year project will be carried out at four different institutions to allow wide support in the fields of governance, conflict and natural resource management. It includes collaboration with top researchers in the coal-producing countries and internationally acclaimed experts.

Visiting Professor Adam Pain has combined a career of working in theory and practice in Rural Development. A lecturer in Natural Resources in Development Studies, UK from 1976–1987, he worked in natural resource management in Africa & Asia, working in Sri Lanka 1979–81. From 1992 to 2000 he worked as principle advisor to the Minister of Agriculture in Bhutan on research and extension policy and natural resource management including running a long term EU agricultural support services. In 2001 he rejoined Development Studies, UK as a Senior Research Fellow and since then has worked extensively in Afghanistan on rural economy and change and worked with research programmes on Natural Resource management (forestry) in Nepal and India .
Since January 2006 he has held the position of Visiting Professor in Rural Development at SLU, Uppsala , combining postgraduate teaching, support to a Vietnam Masters in Rural Development programme and continuing to work on the opium economy, rural change and policy making practices in Afghanistan and tribal livelihoods and biodiversity management in southern India. He is the co-principle investigator of an ESRC UK funded research programme on livelihood trajectories in Afghanistan. He has published extensively on Bhutan and Afghanistan. Among other things, he was engaged by the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) in Kabul for a study about Water Management, Livestock and the Opium Economy in Afghanistan. In June 2006 AREU published his report about ”Opium Poppy Cultivation in Kunduz and Balkh”, one of seven multi-site case studies undertaken during the first stage of AREU’s three-year study “Applied Thematic Research into Water Management, Livestock and the Opium Economy”.

In August 2009, Dr. Pain was awarded a SASNET planning grant for a research project entitled ”Development of a Rural Development Network between the College of Natural Resources (CNR), Royal University of Bhutan, and the Division of Rural Development, SLU, Uppsala”. More information about the 2009 SASNET planning grants.
The project was carried out in collaboration with Mr. Dorji Wangchuk, Director of the College of Natural Resources since 1999, and Dr. Jamba Gyeltshen, Senior Lecturer and Dean of student affairs at CNR. Mr. Wangchuk is a Forester by background with a Masters in Natural Resource Development from the Netherlands. He has played the key role in the institutional development of CNR and of the Royal University of Bhutan. Dr. Gyeltshen is likely to be appointed as Coordinator of the Centre for Rural Development Studies once it is established. He has a background in agricultural science, a specialism in plant protection and has worked more widely in the RNR sector in Bhutan.
Dr. Gyeltshen visited Sweden in October 2009 and discussions were held on how to proceed with tyhe project.
The project aims at providing the basis for the development of a research and teaching network between the Division of Rural Development (LAG) in the Department of Urban and Rural Development at SLU, and the College of Natural Resources (CNR) at the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB). It is envisaged that SASNET’s planning grant will support:

• The development of educational linkages for the interdisciplinary teaching of rural development and its establishment as a subject area within the CNR programme;
• The development of a research strategy for the CNR in rural development
• The submission of a joint research grant application by LAG and CNR within the general theme of Rural Change
• Support for the Development of a Centre for Rural Development Studies (CRDS) at the CNR. This was actually set up and officially opened in February 2010 by the Bhutanese Minister of Agriculture, Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho. Adam Pain participated in this event and a research workshop that was held thereafter.
Dr. Gyeltshen is the Coordinator for the new Centre.

Project description: The Bhutan 10th Five year plan has as its overall objective the reduction of poverty, and most of Bhutan’s poverty is to be found in rural areas. Central to the rural development research agenda in the South Asia is poverty reduction and understanding how welfare outcomes can be improved for rural people. This links directly to the conceptual framework of welfare regimes. Fundamental to this analytical framework is the concept of the institutional landscape including not just the state but also the market, communities and households. The ideal type against which the informal security (e.g. India) and insecurity regimes (e.g. Afghanistan) are positioned is that of the welfare state regimes of the western world. Here according to their various persuasions, states, to variable degrees, protect and secure labour from market forces, and households achieve formal welfare through a mixture of market and state protection mechanisms. Implicit in this welfare state model is the separation of state from market and individuals, the existence of boundaries, rules, rights and obligations which establish degrees of order, fairness and predictability. The welfare state is what largely characterises Sweden.
Bhutan is also a welfare state, in that over the last 25 years or more it has invested over 25% of its government budget in health and education leading to a transformation of its people’s welfare although some 20% or more remain below the poverty line. Linked to this it has also been a developmental state which by virtue of a leadership vision, an impartial and competent bureaucracy and a nation-wide public that has bound people to the state building project, has transformed the welfare outcomes of its people over a remarkably short time. It has not followed the western orthodox model of state building or poverty reduction and has pursued its own organic processes of democratic development culminating in its first nationally elected government and the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in 2008. There are wider lessons to be learnt from the processes of state building in Bhutan and the transformation of rural livelihoods in a context of a strong commitment to sustainable environmental management.
This is not to ignore the major issues of rural poverty that remain. While access to public goods (roads, education and health) has transformed rural outcomes, Bhutan’s mountain economy (with dimensions of remoteness, inaccessibility, fragility etc in a context of climatic change) and its rich cultural landscape provides constraints, challenges and opportunities. There is indicative evidence of rural labour scarcity combined with increasing rural urban migration reflecting a key constraint of agricultural profitability, emerging social and economic differentiation including landlessness, the ageing of rural populations and feminisation of agriculture and so forth within a context of a small domestic economy. Understanding processes of rural change therefore and the impact of government policy and democratic changes on these shifts sets a challenging agenda for the proposed Centre for Rural Development Studies and provides the rationale for developing a collaborative research programme between the two partners. Such research would link directly to LAG’s engagement with comparative research and its research themes.

On 4 November 2014,  Professor Adam Pain was granted a development research grant from the Swedish Research Council (total amount SEK 3.0 m in three years, 2015-17) for a project entitled ”Thinking beyond REDD: analysing smallholder´s motivation and actions for ecosystem service management”, involving research on deforestation in Brazil and Nepal, and the implementationof the the United Nations collaborative initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD). This programme was launched in 2008 and builds on the convening role and technical expertise of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). More information on REDD.
Project abstract: Large efforts are made internationally to control deforestation as an approach to climate mitigation; one example of this is the implementation of the UN-backed REDD programme. However, so far REDD has been unable to curb the drivers of deforestation when facing complex realities of expanding agricultural frontiers, large-scale infrastructure projects and irrepressible markets. Smallholders’ multiple land uses play a central role in fighting climate change and as an important provider of Ecosystem Services (ES). This research therefore proposes to rethink how ES management and climate mitigation measures can be achieved. While approaching ES from a landscape perspective, this research seeks to investigate smallholders ́ motivations and actions for ES management and how these might promote forest cover maintenance, and other forms of ES provision at the same time as it meet the smallholders’ livelihood needs. This will be investigated by using ethnographic and PRA methods in two contrasting country case studies, Brazil and Nepal. These findings will feed into a larger local discussion on motivations for ES management and potential incentive structures for collective action. Finally, the bureaucratic structures, processes and assemblages affecting such actions will be explored. This project engages with the timely and important issue of maintenance of ES, highlighting smallholders’ potential as contributors in ES management and climate change mitigation. More information about Swedish Research Council grants to South Asia related projects 2014.

SeemaAssociate Professor Seema Arora Jonsson, also at the Unit for Rural Development, defended her doctoral dissertation on ”Unsettling the Order: Gendered subjects and Grassroots activism in two forest communities” on Wednesday 15 June 2005. Faculty opponent was Prof. Patricia Maguire, Gallup Graduate Studies Centre, University of Western New Mexico, USA. Personal web page.
Abstract: The thesis investigates the changing nature of natural resource management and local development by directing attention to women’s agency in two diverse rural contexts in an increasingly connected world. Where most studies tend to study local resource management by focussing on the institutions for its management, the thesis looks for how meanings are given to local forest management and rural development in everyday life by women in the villages. The research was carried out through participatory research with the women’s forum in Sweden and that also forms the basis of a later project.

Together with the women involved, Dr. Arora Jonsson also participated in a book project, edited by Professor Louise Fortmann at University of California, Berkeley, called ”Doing Science Together: The Politics and Practices of Participatory Research”, where the researchers from different positions reflect on their joint process and its contribution to the village community and science.
In 2005 Seema Arora Jonsson became Project Coordinator for Uppsala University’s Collegium for Development Studies. After that – in 2006, she also got a position as researcher at the Centre for Gender Research, Uppsala University.

Seema Arora Jonsson later worked on a research project entitled ”Gender and Power in the Swedish Countryside: Women’s agency in development projects”, where she analyzed how policies for rural development address questions of gender, explore how gender relations shape initiatives for rural development on the ground and investigate how devolution of responsibility, the new project-based politics and attention to issues of rural development (e.g. the rural development policy 2007-2013) may provide opportunities that disrupt unequal practices. The point was to understand how gender relations shape rural development initiatives at the same time as these initiatives may be heralding new gender dynamics and identities in the countryside. The project aimed at contributing to theorising on the gendered politics of rural development at the local level, a relatively new and unexplored field in Sweden. 

In August 2012, Seema published a book entiled ”Gender, Development and Environmental Governance. Theorizing Connections”. A major challenge in studies of environmental governance is dealing with the diversity of the people involved at multiple levels – villagers, development agents, policy-makers, private resource users and others – and taking seriously their aspirations, conflicts and collaborations. This book examines this challenge in two very disparate parts of our world, exploring what gender-equality, resource management and development mean in real terms for its inhabitants as well as for our environmental futures. Based on participatory research and in-depth fieldwork, Arora-Jonsson studies struggles for local forest management, the making of women’s groups within them and how the women’s groups became a threat to mainstream institutions. Insights from India, consistently ranked as one of the most gender-biased countries, are compared with similar situations in the ostensibly gender-equal Sweden. Arora-Jonsson also analyzes how dominant ideas about the environment, development and gender equality shape the spaces in which women and men take action through global discourses and grassroots activism. More information about the book.

Dr. Ian Christoplos has been a part-time non-resident researcher at the Divison of Rural Development. His work with the department primarily has consisted of contributions to the department’s education programme in Vietnam, but he has also worked on extension service provision, dealing with agricultural rehabilitation and rural development in countries experiencing chronic conflict. He is a Research Associate of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in London. Mostly working in Macedonia on agricultural service issues, still he has also worked in Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Angola, Lesotho, the Horn of Africa and Southeast Asia.
In recent years he has completed issues papers on agriculture and livelihoods, commissioned by the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, AREU. Later on he has also been highly involved in the evaluation of AREU. During 2005 he was involved in assorted International tsunami related activities, including being team leader of the evaluation of the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. He was involved in an international review of the progress that has been made in linking relief, rehabilitation and development in the response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami. Dr. Christoplos currently lives in Glemmingebro, near to Ystad in southern Sweden.

Since August 2009, Dr. Christoplos is also working as a part-time Senior Project Researcher for the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) in Copenhagen. His role there is to analyze issues related to the role of local institutions in relation to poverty and natural resource management, with particular focus on climate change.
He has also been a member of the Swedish Commission on Climate Change and Development, initiated by the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
More information on Dr. Christoplos and his research

Educational courses related to South Asia

A multidisciplinary PhD course on ”Gender, Rural Development and Natural Resource Management” was held in Uppsala 28 April – 16 May 2008. The 4,5 ECTS credits course was provided by the Unit for Rural Development, and focused on the role that gender equality and democracy have in the attainment of sustainable development. What pressures do violent conflicts and epidemics put on resource use and how does that impact on gender relations? What insights do we gain from feminist postcolonial readings of development and natural resource management? The teachers included Seema Arora-Jonsson and Adam Pain. Dr. Nitya Rao from the University of East Anglia, UK, also took part in the course, and taught about ”Land and gender: Key debates”. 

2008 Uppsala research conference on “Nature, Knowledge, Power”

Uppsala conferenceAn international research conference entitled “Nature, Knowledge, Power” was held in Uppsala 15-17 August 2008. It was hosted by the Dept. of Urban and Rural Development, but chaired by Gunnel Cederlöf, Dept. of History.
Prof. Adam Pain was a member of the organising committee. SASNET was the main funder and organiser, whereas FORMAS and DevNet at the Centre for Sustainable Development, Uppsala University contributed with grants. The conference administrator was Henrik Chetan Aspengren.
The conference brought together researchers from different academic fields, concerned with questions of environment and society under present and historical conditions.
About forty researchers and research students equally from South Asian and European universities participated in the conference and 25 full research papers were presented papers within five panels: “Energy: renewable and sustainable?”, “Competing rights, codifying law”, “Community rights under neoliberal rule”, “Who needs conservation? Nature, people, survival”, and “Ideologies of environmental change: from imperial modernization to postcolonial social equality?”.
The keynote speakers were Dr. Amita Baviskar from the Institute of Economic Growth at Delhi University, India and Prof. Arun Agrawal, University of Michigan. At the conference, an inter-disciplinary network of researchers focusing on South Asian environmental issues began to emerge. More information about the Uppsala conference.