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  • Enriching perspectives

    2020. Juliana Porsani (et al.). Ecology & society 25 (4)


    Based on a case study from rural Mozambique, we stress that ecosystem services research may be enriched through gendered livelihood approaches, particularly in terms of experienced ecosystem services. Ecosystem services studies have been accused of being gender blind. We argue for the value of open narratives that are attentive to the gender dynamics underpinning the production and reproduction of livelihoods. By focusing on the experienced gender dimension of ecosystem services, livelihood perspectives fulfill the normative role of providing a people-centered means to assess the values of the environment from below and can therefore constitute an entry point to a holistic understanding of by whom, how, when, and why the environment is experienced as valuable. Our findings stress the dynamism and plurality of experienced ecosystem services (i.e., they vary across groups and time and cross-cut material and immaterial dimensions), as well as the asymmetrical gendered and fundamentally cultural relations that they enable. Accounting for the experienced gender dimension of ecosystem services is critical to contextualize the environment in people's lifeworlds and to make understandings of ecosystem services representative of, and instrumental to, people's voices and agendas. We show how such enriched, diverse, bottom-up ecosystem services perspectives form an essential foundation (together with ecological research) for resisting applications of reductionist top-down categories assumed to represent general local values.

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  • Processes of Forest Cover Change since 1958 in the Coffee-Producing Areas of Southwest Ethiopia

    2020. Tola Gemechu Ango, Kristoffer Hylander, Lowe Börjeson. Land 9 (8)


    We investigated the spatial relations of ecological and social processes to point at how state policies, population density, migration dynamics, topography, and socio-economic values of ‘forest coffee’ together shaped forest cover changes since 1958 in southwest Ethiopia. We used data from aerial photos, Landsat images, digital elevation models, participatory field mapping, interviews, and population censuses. We analyzed population, land cover, and topographic roughness (slope) data at the ‘sub-district’ level, based on a classification of the 30 lowest administrative units of one district into the coffee forest area (n = 17), and highland forest area (n = 13). For state forest sites (n = 6) of the district, we evaluated land cover and slope data. Forest cover declined by 25% between 1973 and 2010, but the changes varied spatially and temporally. Losses of forest cover were significantly higher in highland areas (74%) as compared to coffee areas (14%) and state forest sites (2%), and lower in areas with steeper slopes both in coffee and highland areas. Both in coffee and highland areas, forest cover also declined during 1958–1973. People moved to and converted forests in relatively low population density areas. Altitudinal migration from coffee areas to highland areas contributed to deforestation displacement due to forest maintenance for shade coffee production in coffee areas and forest conversions for annual crop production in highland areas. The most rapid loss of forest cover occurred during 1973–1985, followed by 2001–2010, which overlapped with the implementations of major land and forest policies that created conditions for more deforestation. Our findings highlight how crop ecology and migration have shaped spatial variations of forest cover change across different altitudinal zones whilst development, land, and forest policies and programs have driven the temporal variations of deforestation. Understanding the mechanisms of deforestation and forest maintenance simultaneously and their linkages is necessary for better biodiversity conservation and forest landscape management.

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  • Soil management and soil properties in a Kenyan smallholder irrigation system on naturally low-fertile soils

    2018. Martina Angela Caretta (et al.). Applied Geography 90, 248-256


    In this study we examine the impact of soil management practices on soil properties in a landscape with naturally relatively poor soils on and below the dry slopes of a Rift Valley escarpment in Kenya that have been dominated by extensive smallholder investments in canal irrigation over the last 300 years. We show that farmers in the area have been able to keep up agricultural production in the face of growing population. The actual practices of soil management at one moment in time appear to be of minor importance to soil improvement, as indicated by the low correlation between Soil Management Index (SMI) and soil chemical data. However, cultivation triggers a process of slow soil improvement manifested by a positive correlation between nutrient levels and duration of irrigated cultivation and soil management, which likely explains farmers' confidence in soil productivity. However, we also identify sodicity as a risk connected to intensified irrigation in the area. Finally, we stress the need for further studies integrating investigations of local irrigation and soil management with soil and water quality analyses. These will be crucial to shape sustainable place-based and farmer-led solutions for African agricultural growth.

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  • Land Concessions and Rural Livelihoods in Mozambique

    2017. Juliana Porsani, Lowe Börjeson, Kari Lehtilä. Journal of Southern African Studies 43 (6), 1181-1198


    In rural Mozambique, as in other African countries, large-scale land acquisitions are on the rise. This process is usually portrayed by host governments and investors as comprising win-win deals that can simultaneously boost agricultural productivity and combat poverty. This article focuses on one such investment, a large-scale Chinese land acquisition in the lower Limpopo valley, where attempts to modernise agriculture have occurred since colonial times. Based on an analysis of primary quantitative and qualitative data, this study explores livelihoods in the targeted area and local experiences and views regarding land loss and its implications. Our findings reveal a top-down process enabled by disregard for sound legislation, whereby land dispossession was followed by take-it-or-leave-it' opportunities that were unsuited to the most land-dependent livelihoods, particularly those of single-headed households. As the modernisation of the region is once again attempted through the promotion of large-scale agriculture, important historical continuities prevail. This study adds critical evidence to the discussion on the local development potential of land deals in Mozambique and other areas marked by similar democratic deficits.

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  • Crop raiding by wild mammals in Ethiopia

    2016. Tola Gemechu Ango, Lowe Börjeson, Feyera Senbeta. Oryx


    We assessed the impacts of crop raiding by wild mammals on the livelihoods of smallholding farmers in south-western Ethiopia. Data were generated through participatory field mapping, interviews and focus groups. The results indicated that wild mammals, mainly olive baboons Papio anubis and bush pigs Potamochoerus larvatus, were raiding most crops cultivated in villages close to forests. In addition to the loss of crops, farmers incurred indirect costs in having to guard and cultivate plots far from their residences, sometimes at the expense of their children's schooling. Raiding also undermined farmers’ willingness to invest in modern agricultural technologies. Various coping strategies, including guarding crops and adapting existing local institutions, were insufficient to reduce raiding and its indirect impacts on household economies to tolerable levels, and were undermined by existing policies and government institutions. It is essential to recognize wild mammal pests as a critical ecosystem disservice to farmers, and to identify ways to mitigate their direct and indirect costs, to facilitate local agricultural development and livelihood security, and integrate wildlife conservation and local development more fully in agriculture–forest mosaic landscapes.

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  • Drought tolerant species dominate as rainfall and tree cover returns in the West African Sahel

    2016. Hendrik Haenke (et al.). Land use policy 59, 111-120


    After the severe droughts in the 1970s and 1980s, and subsequent debates about desertification, analyses of satellite images reveal that the West African Sahel has become greener again. In this paper we report a study on changes in tree cover and tree species composition in three village landscapes in northern Burkina Faso, based on a combination of methods: tree density change detection using aerial photos and satellite images, a tree species inventory including size class distribution analysis, and interviews with local farmers about woody vegetation changes. Our results show a decrease in tree cover in the 1970s followed by an increase since the mid-1980s, a pattern correlating with the temporal trends in rainfall as well as remotely sensed greening in the region. However, both the inventory and interview data shows that the species composition has changed substantially towards a higher dominance of drought-resistant and exotic species. This shift, occurring during a period of increasing annual precipitation, points to the complexity of current landscape changes and questions rain as the sole primary driver of the increase in tree cover. We propose that the observed changes in woody vegetation (densities, species composition and spatial distribution) are mediated by changes in land use, including intensification and promotion of drought tolerant and fast growing species. Our findings, which indicate a rather surprising trajectory of land cover change, highlight the importance of studies that integrate evidence of changes in tree density and species composition to complement our understanding of land use and vegetation change trajectories in the Sahel obtained from satellite images. We conclude that a better understanding of the social-ecological relations and emerging land use trajectories that produce new types of agroforestry parklands in the region is of crucial importance for designing suitable policies for climate change adaptation, biodiversity conservation and the sustainable delivery of ecosystem services that benefit local livelihoods in one of the world's poorest regions.

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  • Local gender contract and adaptive capacity in smallholder irrigation farming

    2015. Martina Angela Caretta, Lowe Börjeson. Gender, Place and Culture 22 (5), 644-661


    This article presents the local gender contract of a smallholder irrigation farming community in Sibou, Kenya. Women's role in subsistence farming in Africa has mostly been analyzed through the lens of gender division of labor. In addition to this, we used the concept of ‘local gender contract’ to analyze cultural and material preconditions shaping gender-specific tasks in agricultural production, and consequently, men's and women's different strategies for adapting to climate variability. We show that the introduction of cash crops, as a trigger for negotiating women's and men's roles in the agricultural production, results in a process of gender contract renegotiation, and that families engaged in cash cropping are in the process of shifting from a ‘local resource contract’ to a ‘household income contract.’ Based on our analysis, we argue that a transformation of the local gender contract will have a direct impact on the community's adaptive capacity climate variability. It is, therefore, important to take the negotiation of local gender contracts into account in assessments of farming communities' adaptive capacity.

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  • Participatory Checking and the Temporality of Landscapes

    2015. Camilla Årlin, Lowe Börjeson, Wilhelm Östberg. The Oxford Handbook of Historical Ecology and Applied Archaeology


    Developmental narratives are commonly constructed through statements on directions and drivers of ongoing change. In the process, however, heterogeneous realities and historical trajectories become manicured and truncated due to temporal short-sightedness, misinformation, and the creation of clear-cut categorizations. Based on historical, geographical, and anthropological research on landscape change in East Africa from the nineteenth century to the present, this chapter examines how different types of historical data sources (maps, photographs, remote sensing data, written and oral accounts, as well as the landscape itself) can be used to both interrogate and improve the rigour of narratives that frame concerns for development and conservation. We describe methods of interaction with members of the researched communities over these various data bodies, and summarize this process as ‘participatory checking’. While the focus of this chapter is on landscape change the participatory research methods described are equally relevant to other topics and disciplines.

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  • Balancing Ecosystem Services and Disservices

    2014. Tola Gemechu Ango (et al.). Ecology & society 19 (1)


    Farmers' practices in the management of agricultural landscapes influence biodiversity with implications for livelihoods, ecosystem service provision, and biodiversity conservation. In this study, we examined how smallholding farmers in an agriculture-forest mosaic landscape in southwestern Ethiopia manage trees and forests with regard to a few selected ecosystem services and disservices that they highlighted as beneficial or problematic. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected from six villages, located both near and far from forest, using participatory field mapping and semistructured interviews, tree species inventory, focus group discussions, and observation. The study showed that farmers' management practices, i.e., the planting of trees on field boundaries amid their removal from inside arable fields, preservation of trees in semimanaged forest coffee, maintenance of patches of shade coffee fields in the agricultural landscape, and establishment of woodlots with exotic trees result in a restructuring of the forest-agriculture mosaic. In addition, the strategies farmers employed to mitigate crop damage by wild mammals such as baboons and bush pigs, e. g., migration and allocation of migrants on lands along forests, have contributed to a reduction in forest and tree cover in the agricultural landscape. Because farmers' management practices were overall geared toward mitigating the negative impact of disservices and to augment positive services, we conclude that it is important to operationalize ecosystem processes as both services and disservices in studies related to agricultural landscapes.

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  • Labour, climate perceptions and soils in the irrigation systems in Sibou, Kenya & Engaruka, Tanzania

    2014. Martina Angela Caretta (et al.).


    This booklet presents the results of a 4 years project (2011-2015) by four geographers from the university of Stockholm. This research took place in two small villages: Sibou, Kenya and Engaruka, Tanzania. The overall project looks at three variables: soil, climate and labor. These aspects can give an indication of the type of changes that happened in these irrigation systems and what have been the triggers behind them. In this booklet results are presented according to location and focus on: agricultural practices, women´s and men´s labor tasks, soil and water characteristics, adaptation weather variability and how all of these aspects have changed over time.

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  • Open Access to Rural Landscapes!

    2014. Lowe Börjeson (et al.). Rural Landscapes: Society, Environment, History 1 (1), 1-2


    The academic study of rural landscapes covers a broad range of academic disciplines and thematic, methodological and theoretical concerns and interests; including questions concerned with resource use (e.g. agriculture, forestry, water and mining), settlement, livelihoods, conflicts, conservation, culture and identity. This diversity is clearly a strength (the rich empirical and intellectual base), but also presents a challenge, as the dissemination of research findings is distributed through a plethora of publishing channels, which do not necessarily encourage exchange of results and ideas that are not already perceived as germane to already established academic networks.

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  • The development of the ancient irrigation system at Engaruka, northern Tanzania

    2010. Lars-Ove Westerberg (et al.). Geographical Journal 176 (4), 304-318


    Climate data from Empakaai Crater in northern Tanzania, covering the last 1200 years, are related to the establishment, development and decline of the ancient irrigation system at Engaruka. New dates for the system are linked to reconstructed climatic variations and historical data on long-distance and regional trade and migration patterns. A shift from a comparatively humid climate to drier conditions in the 1400s prompted the establishment of irrigated agriculture at Engaruka, and a flourishing long-distance trade increased its value as a water and food source for passing caravans. Once established, the land-use system at Engaruka was sufficiently resilient to survive and even intensify during much drier climate from c. 1500 to 1670 CE (Common Era) and during the decline of caravan trade between c. 1550 and 1750. The ancient land-use system probably reached its maximum extension during the humid conditions between 1670 and 1740, and was deserted in the early to mid 1800s, presumably as a result of the added effects of climate deterioration, the Maasai expansion, and change of livelihood strategies as agriculturalists became pastoralists. Towards the end of the 1800s irrigated agriculture was again established at Engaruka, in part driven by the transfer from pastoral to agricultural livelihoods caused by the Rinderpest.

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  • Using a historical map as a baseline in a land-cover change study of northeast Tanzania

    2009. Lowe Börjeson. African Journal of Ecology 47 (s1), 185-191


    Vegetation data in an early 20th century map from northern Tanzania are presented and discussed for its potential of expanding the analytical time-frame in studies of land-use and land-cover change. The starting point is that much research on land-use and land-cover change suffers from a time-frame bias, caused by limitations in remote sensing data. At the same time, the use of historical maps as a complementary data-set is rather insignificant. Can information in historical maps be used to extend the baseline in land-use and land-cover change studies? The historical context of the vegetation data is evaluated, and as an illustration of its potential for interdisciplinary research on land-cover and ecosystems change, a section of the map is juxtaposed with a recent pollen record specifically addressing the impact of a 'large infrequent disturbance' (LID) event at the end of the 19th century. It is concluded that the vegetation data in the map are not likely to be reflecting an extreme situation due to the LID event. Finally, the historical vegetation data were visually compared with a national 1995 land-cover data set, illustrating the possibility of using the map data as a baseline in land-cover change studies.

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  • Introduction: Historical and Regional Perspectives on Landscape Transformations in Northeastern Tanzania, 1850-2000

    2008. Mats Widgren, Thomas Håkansson, Lowe Börjeson. International Journal of African Historical Studies 41 (3), 369-382


    The article focuses on the historical and regional views on landscape shift in northeastern Tanzania from 1850-2000. It highlights several perspectives on the impact of landscape transformation towards the social relation in the northeastern part of the country. Specifically, it discusses how regional historical method to land cover changes offers an analytical field to bridge social gap. It primarily considers the perspectives of a group of scholars, centering on their views on human-environmental relationships and political economy. In addition, it explores the history and spatial interactions in the region, regarding as well the economic determinants of land use.

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  • Northeast Tanzania's Disappearing Rangelands

    2008. Lowe Börjeson, Dorothy L. Hodgson, Pius Z. Yanda. International Journal of African Historical Studies 41 (3), 523-556


    The article focuses on the historical perspectives on the land use change of rangelands in the northeastern part of Tanzania. It traces the influence of colonial policies and precolonial political economic connection on the rapid land cover transformation on the Maasai Plains. Specifically, the authors present a historical narratives of landscape changes in the northeastern part of the country, focusing on land cover and land use change. It cites several areas in the northeast that were affected by landscape change and how these areas were agriculturally converted. Furthermore, the impact on the alterations in landscape that rooted in the colonial and precolonial history in the region is considered.

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  • Boserup Backwards? Agricultural intensification as ‘its own driving force’ in the Mbulu Highlands, Tanzania

    2007. Lowe Börjeson. Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography 89B (3), 249-267


    Why do farmers intensify their agricultural practices? Recent revisions of African environmental historiographies have greatly enriched our understanding of human–environmental interactions. To simply point at poor farming practices as the main cause of deforestation, desertification and other processes of land degradation is, for example, no longer possible. The contemporary analytical focus is instead on the complex and often unpredictable set of causal relations between societal, ecological and climatic factors.

    In the literature on agricultural intensification, conventionally defined driving forces, such as population pressure and market demand, remain important explanatory factors despite a growing body of research that suggests more dynamic scenarios of agricultural development and landscape change. This article reports on a case where the common-sense logic of population pressure theory has dominated the historical narrative of a local process of agricultural intensification among an agro-pastoral people in north-central Tanzania. By way of a ‘detailed participatory landscape analyses’ a more complex and dynamic historical process of intensification is suggested, in which the landscape and the process of agricultural intensification itself are in focus.

    It is concluded that the accumulation of landesque capital has been incremental in character, and that the process of agricultural intensification in the study area has largely been its own driving force based on self-reinforcing processes of change, and not a consequence of land scarcity and population pressure. This result demonstrates the possibility and usefulness of reversing the Boserupian argument in analyses of agricultural intensification.

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