Citizen Knocking: A Tale of Community Participation in Action
To successfully reduce deforestation and improve livelihoods, communities need to be involved in resource governance — but not everyone views forests and water as linked resources.
Researchers are now studying how community forest associations and water resource user associations function both independently and jointly, and how this affects the health of both forests and water. The research has extended to include Mt. Elgon, another key water tower that straddles the Kenya-Uganda border.
The project is engaging community forest associations and water resource user associations through gender-sensitive feedback workshops, where everyone from fuelwood collectors to fish farmers and beekeepers are invited to react to research findings, voicing their observations and concerns. And a radio talk show in the local Kalenjin language attracted 38, listeners in the Rift Valley. In October , CIFOR and partners launched a participatory forest management plan in Londiani forest and a sub-catchment management plan in Itare-Chemosit sub-catchment, with more plans to follow in These aim to foster collaboration among local communities, government, private companies and civil society.
Known internationally for his socio-political stances and performances that have taken place over the past thirty years, the artist has conceived a site-specific installation that engages directly with the theme of the Thessaloniki Biennale, Imagined Homes. He has created a public window into the dismantling of contemporary society, its crisis and the consequences on the private home. It is the aftermath of a quarrel and the lovers have separated. They are both leaving the roof under which they shared dreams, hopes, and cares.
The nation-state—embodied in a physical person—is constructed and imagined as a selfish patriarchal, individualistic, and immature man. The people—conceived as one single feminine body—are imagined as a woman with matriarchal values of community, self-sacrifice, and support. In the imagined narrative of the artist, the lovers are parting ways. The artworks contain a frozen moment in which objects—once expressed as tangible metaphors of partnership and living in the home—are now being divided and discarded. What is left of this relationship is on public display in the Mediterranean Garden pavilion within which Aceti, by engaging with the architectural elements, creates reflections of visible and invisible spaces tracing the lines between private, semi-private, semi-public, and public engagement.
The remainders of the relationship are the artworks made of discarded sheets that bare the traces of the bodies and the now forgotten relationship.
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These are objects that are disposed of, thrown out from the window of a private home onto the street. The dirty sheets, soiled with bodily fluids, are not only a record of a past relationship but also simulacra of a social and political collapse of wider relationships in the Mediterranean. The sheets and the writings upon them offer—in contradictory terms—both a visible public record of the violent oppression of living together and the hope for the possibilities offered by the re-acquisition of freedom. The writings on the sheets are curses that can be addressed to anyone by substituting [insert name] with a name of choice.
The common good framework is not an individualizing frame. Individualizing frames limit the causes of a problem to particular individuals, often those who are afflicted with the problem [ 23 ]. Instead, the common good broadens the focus, assigning responsibility for poor diet and its public health consequences not only to individuals but also the government, corporate business and larger social forces [ 23 ]. Since the common good refers to both social and personal realities, it includes both systemic and personalizing elements, even though the systemic pole tends to be dominant.
As an analytical tool, the common good helps interpret empirical facts of socioeconomic marginalization and their impact on individual well-being and on society. The economic and human cost of healthy food insecurity cannot be underestimated.
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A socially grounded analysis allows us to understand the connection between the fact of exclusion and the impact of food insecurity on individuals and communities. When the freedom to choose healthy food is constrained by factors beyond consumer control, it is morally unjustifiable to hold an individual accountable for the health damages caused by poor diet. The common good unveils the economic and health consequences of uneven access to nutritious food.
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Socioeconomic status has been inversely linked to type 2 diabetes DM2 [ 38 ] and cardiovascular disease CVD risk [ 39 , 40 ], and low-income consumers have cited unavailability and cost as constraints to healthy eating, thereby participating in behaviors that may be ultimately detrimental to their health [ 41 ]. Typically, healthy diets are more expensive than unhealthy ones [ 42 - 45 ]. Social barriers to food accessibility include crime and poverty which may not only deter residents from walking to local grocery stores but also may impede chain supermarkets from locating in these areas [ 46 ].
Consequently, geographically-isolated populations or low-income neighborhoods may be served only by smaller grocery stores, which often have limited access to healthy foods [ 47 ]. Although state-based food assistance programs are in place in the USA, these have been demonstrated to be either inadequate for covering the cost of purchasing healthy foods or variably accepted by stores [ 48 , 49 ]. The consequences of poor diet resulting from food insecurity are significantly important. The common good framework offers the possibility of highlighting the moral significance of community as a space for mutual care and reciprocity.
A call for individual responsibility for poor eating and its health consequences becomes less significant for people living in neighborhoods where access to healthy food represents a real challenge. Lasting changes incorporating the common good argument entails more than a call for behavior change and mere charity. It calls for change in culture and environment to support behavior change.
Though mere distribution of healthy food is not the solution either—it can be a transitional solution. Instead, a change in the mindset and public practices that determine the configuration of the food environment and patterns of social relationships is much needed. The individualistic mindset that shapes social institutions and risk perception should be questioned because, with such an ideology, issues of food security and their health consequences pertain to individual responsibility especially for those who live where healthy food is not accessible.
A common good approach entails focusing on those who are most vulnerable, understanding what causes this vulnerability or susceptibility to adverse outcomes, and changing conditions to improve their situation. Poor diet with consequent obesity can lead to the increase in chronic diseases. Obesity generates increased health-care costs and reduced economic productivity. The common good is a normative concept because the act of framing directly or indirectly implies a judgment of value.
The common good perfects, achieves, and completes a person as a relational and rational being. Rethinking healthy food access cannot be done without judging the level of justice in society and questioning the public values that shape the official discourse on food access. Social inequalities generated by individualism and justified by appeals to the self-regulatory market argument are not justifiable in a country where some have far more than what they actually need and others go without the minimum required to be healthy.
Quality food inaccessibility affects the individuals and population groups and reflects what goes on in society. Inaccessibility points to the way individuals relate with each other and social institutions. It also shows how dimensions of well-being are distributed and how government fulfills its duty as public health protector and social justice promoter. Inaccessibility raises both human rights and social justice questions. Justice requires that those lacking healthy food be provided with the basic dimensions of well-being which are instrumental for having access to it [ 37 ]. Access to healthy food is a right, not a privilege to be enjoyed by few.
This right is usually inherent in the right to an adequate standard of living for health and well-being [ 50 ], where food adequacy refers to both food quality and food quantity.
For us, this right should be explicit in its provisions to ensure people with the important dimensions of well-being. The constitutional law of countries that ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights UDHR acknowledges that the state has to guarantee adequate living conditions for everybody [ 50 ]. Whenever individuals or groups are unable, for reasons beyond their control, to obtain adequate food through the means at their disposal, states have the obligation to fulfill that right directly. Although food is necessary for human survival, individual purchasers are reduced to consumers within a market, rather than humans seeking subsistence.
As a result, food is categorized as a commodity available to consumers with purchasing power rather than as a universal human right. The capitalist mindset that shapes the food environment has favored the commoditization of food.
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Food is just a marketable commodity like any other commodity. However, food is different from other commodities in the market as it is explicitly and intrinsically linked to our human existence.
While many other commodities confer social benefits, food ensures survival. National governments have the duty, under international law, to respect, protect, and fulfill the right to adequate food.
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The right to food is grounded in the respect for equality between persons, which is affirmed as the foundation for all human rights [ 51 ]. The concept of equality is not just a conclusion derived from philosophical premises, but refers to the absolute necessity to consider a fellow human being always as an end and never as a means to any social endeavor [ 51 ].
The reification of human dignity is fundamentally unjust from the standpoint of international law; fundamental equality, stated by the preamble of the UDHR [ 52 ], is at stake when some people are marginalized and do not have access to health-promoting foods. Having the basic material goods to sustain a healthy life is an expression of respect for the dignity of each person.