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Title: Knowledge and information systems in watershed management : a study of Bazoft watershed and relevant institutions in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Province, Iran
Author: Karamidehkordi, Esmail
ISNI:       0000 0004 2718 6896
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2007
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Systems thinking has been utilized to define sustainability and to develop knowledge systems thinking for understanding and improving knowledge networks in complex and uncertain environments. This study investigated the complexities related to watershed management (WM) and knowledge and information systems (KlS) in natural resource management (NRM) in Iran. Opportunities for and constraints to using systems thinking, especially soft systems methodology (SSM) and social learning, for managing complexities were also explored. The research employed participatory and action-oriented case studies and surveys with rural and nomadic people in the Bazoft Watershed and the staff of relevant institutions in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Province. The complexities relevant to WM and KlS, which were investigated through a systemic process, were interlocked. The different definitions of social actors of the watershed boundaries caused non-collaborative interventions. Both geographical characteristics of the watershed and the dependency of communities' livelihoods on natural resources (NR) had accelerated NR degradation, which in turn increased the vulnerability of the households. Geographical obstacles and poor infrastructure reduced the accessibility of local people and the watershed to external institutions, which were mostly located outside the watershed and whose decentralisation was in an initial stage. This reduced the feasibility of diversification in livelihoods and the intervention of external institutions. Their governmental status caused their interventions to be policy-driven, but less integrated, participatory and compatible with sustainable livelihoods. However, they had an indirect influence on improving participants' and visitors' knowledge in the communities. There was significant local knowledge about the importance of NR conservation and traditional agricultural activities, mostly from local sources, but it was not enough to ensure sustainable livelihoods and NRM. Some important institutions in knowledge systems such as agricultural research had few interventions while extension programmes could only cover a small percentage of households. Social network analysis showed there were only a small number of strong relations between external actors and information exchange between many actors was irregular and infrequent. Information exchange was associated with the nature and policies of institutions and with the administrative, geographical and managerial position of actors. The strongest relations were among actors of each institution at a geographical level, while the weakest communication was between governmental actors and NGOs. There was not much centrality in the networks and leadership for knowledge management was not strong, though institutions' managers and extension staff had relatively a more central position and could act as potential facilitators in the future. Systems multimethodology and social learning helped relevant social actors create platforms to discuss the complexities and learn how to think collectively to manage them. The actors could learn critically about the abilities, opportunities and constraints of each social actor and institution. They also, especially rural and nomadic people, improved their satisfaction. This helped them change their cognitive worldviews and enhance their trust and the spirit of collaboration and communication. They could construct some possible holistic solutions for the diversification of livelihood systems and NRM and for accessing the required knowledge and information Through systemic thinking and social learning, participants can define themselves as part of complex systems and important elements for change in an evolutionary process. The research concludes that understanding, managing and evolving the interlocking complexities related to KIS and NRM/WM need a systemic process of thinking and action using a systems multimethodology. SSM and social learning might be an insufficient perspective for managing KIS when not all the potential social actors have an equal chance of discussion or participation. Moreover, the effectiveness of a systems multimethodology depends on whether all social actors, especially rural and nomadic people have the chance to attend collective meetings. Sufficient powerful leadership is also important to coordinate collective discussions in a multilevel decision making process and collaborative actions. On account of this, combining ideas like governance with systems multimethodology can help us institutionalise the participation of all relevant social actors, especially communities, in future collective discussions and development actions. Articulating appropriate policies and strengthening the decentralisation of external institutions and local institutions can facilitate the participation and accessibility of social actors.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available