Imagen Presentación

Knowledges cocreation and water conservation in the Global South: an introduction

Dupuits Emilie [1], Puertas Cecilia [2], Balsiger Jörg [3]


This special issue seeks to offer empirical evidence of the forms of knowledge valued by different actors involved in water conservation practices, the dynamics of cross-fertilisation dynamics, and the possible tensions. It contributes to this reflection by investigating knowledge dialogue and cocreation around water conservation through case studies at the local, regional and global levels, and including various types of actors – local and indigenous communities, parish and municipal governments, national governments and private businesses. It draws attention to the diverse voices and knowledge on water that are produced from the Global Souths, including traditionally marginalised actors and approaches.

Key Words: Knowledge dialogue; co-creation; water conservation; Global South

1. Valuing water: between clashes and dialogues

The improvement of water conservation practices and knowledges sharing is central to ensure the sufficient provision of and access to drinking water and sanitation services in the Global Souths, as stated in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, Target 6.1: “By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all”, and Target 6.b, aiming to “Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management.” The global SDG framework adopted in 2015 is intended to ensure the effective implementation of the human right to water at the local level for the most marginalised people (Weststrate et al. 2019; Herrera 2019).

Beyond the global recognition of water conservation and access goals, there are competing forms of knowledge and practices in relation to water resources. On 22 May 2021, the main topic debated during World Water Day was “Valuing water” demonstrating the importance of recognising the various forms of knowledge and practices around water resources which range from productive and economic values to socio-organisational and cultural values, politico-legal values, and technoscientific values (Dupuits et al. 2023).

At the global level, the production of expert knowledge (Jasanoff 2004) about water is often associated with technoscientific and market-based approaches to water. These approaches are present in discourses of integrated water resources management (IWRM) as well as ecosystem services (ES) and other types of market-based mechanisms that reveal economic and technical valuations of water. Water resources are at the cornerstone of payment for watershed and hydrologic ES programs, through the implementation of local and regional water conservation funds, and the promotion of integrated watershed management practices (Porras et al. 2013). In the same vein, ES programs are often produced in the Global North and associated with scientific and technical knowledge. Consequently, global and regional ES conservation initiatives tend to produce a ‘commodification’ of water territories and clashes with local water rights, as well as a ‘depoliticisation’ process (Boelens et al. 2014; Dupuits et al. 2020).

Instead, at the local level, actors from socio-environmental movements and grassroots organisations are rethinking sustainability and conservation schemes from a water justice approach. This approach pays more attention to political dynamics and draws attention to the existing inequalities around access to and control of water, and the distribution of benefits associated with its use. Discussions on water justice also consider debates about the rights of nature and the use of local/traditional knowledge and cultural practices. Water justice movements tend to interpret the global SDG agenda more from a cross-sectoral and integrated perspective, compared to the deterritorialised and functional ES schemes (Rodriguez-de-Francisco & Boelens 2016; Boelens et al. 2016; Boelens et al. 2018).

This special issue seeks to offer empirical evidence of the forms of knowledge valued by different actors involved in water conservation practices, the dynamics of cross-fertilisation dynamics, and the possible tensions. It contributes to this reflection by investigating knowledge dialogue and cocreation around water conservation through case studies at the local, regional and global levels, and including various types of actors – local and indigenous communities, parish and municipal governments, national governments and private businesses. It draws attention to the diverse voices and knowledge on water that are produced from the Global Souths, including traditionally marginalised actors and approaches.

The special issue is a call for a knowledge dialogue that questions decontextualized global approaches to the study of water and that requires a continuous repositioning and relearning based on the concepts and values that are produced by grassroots movements and organisations. It pays particular attention to the processes of cocreation, negotiation and resistance around the production of water conservation knowledge at different interfaces, including urban-rural, academic-activist, local-global, public-private-community, and empirical-scientific contexts.

The key questions that inform this reflection are the following:
• Who are the actors involved or excluded from the processes of knowledge cocreation and what types of water conservation knowledge do they promote?
• Under what conditions and in what contexts do water conservation knowledges complement each other, are able to enter into negotiation, or instead promote conflict?
• What strategic encounters and conflicts can be identified between local and global knowledges on water conservation?
• How do different approaches to knowledge, learning, wisdom and information in the field of water conservation differ or complement each other?

The special issue features contributions from various perspectives of transdisciplinary research. On the one hand, it opens up reflections at the crossroads of different disciplines and theoretical approaches - political ecology, international law, anthropology and science and technology studies (STS) - around core concepts of environmental studies such as science, knowledge, justice and sustainability. On the other hand, it offers a combination of various research methods, including local case studies, interviews, surveys and focus groups.

2. Identifying knowledge cocreation dynamics in the field of water studies

Approaches that highlight the cocreation, co-production and dialogue of knowledge are gaining currency in water studies, mostly inspired by debates in political ecology and STS. The interactions between different forms of knowledge have been widely studied from a political ecology perspective, through the notion of environmental knowledge politics (Horowitz 2015; Foyer & Dumoulin 2017; Ulloa 2019; Boelens et al. 2019; Ulloa et al. 2020). This literature has analysed the emergence of knowledge co-production in community water management (Goodwin, 2021; Dupuits, 2021), multi-stakeholder negotiation processes in the midst of water conflicts (Dupuits et al. 2020), and the encounters and tensions between different types of knowledge around water (Boelens et al. 2019; Ulloa et al. 2021), among other things.

Another approach to knowledge cocreation is found in work on knowledge ecology and the coloniality of knowledge (Quijano, 2008) that considers the capitalist and colonial dynamics of knowledge imposition and the need for more knowledge dialogues, where “the demand for new production processes and assessment of valid knowledge, scientific and non-scientific, and new relationships between different types of knowledge, based on the practices of classes and social groups who have systematically suffered unfair inequalities and discrimination caused by capitalism and colonialism” (De Sousa Santos 2011: 35).

The definition of knowledge cocreation remains open, however: it lacks empirical evidence of how knowledge dialogue occurs in practice, as well as of the main obstacles to its emergence and the tensions that it can generate among actors. In this special issue, we identify four categories of water knowledge cocreation around values, scales, epistemologies and spaces, and their potential connections or tensions. These four categories are articulated around four themes: global/local knowledge cocreation; technoscientific/traditional knowledge cocreation; academic/activist knowledge cocreation; and urban-rural knowledge cocreation.

Additionally, we identify three steps in cocreation processes: knowledge co-production (when two or more knowledge systems are completely articulated and integrated); knowledge negotiation (when knowledge systems are debated by different actors and adapted on specific dimensions); and knowledge resistance (when knowledge systems are in conflict, dialogue is absent, and one actor must sacrifice or abandon its knowledge system to adopt another one). Below, we elaborate the classification of the different knowledge cocreation dynamics and how the contributions to this special issue address these challenges.

Cocreating values: technoscientific/traditional knowledge

Water resources are related to different interpretations and values depending on the actors, revealing the multiple competing ontologies of water (Bonelli et al. 2016; Blaser & De la Cadena 2018). Two main values that stand out in the interpretation of water resources are local and traditional knowledge and technoscientific knowledge.

On the one hand, local environmental knowledge – or, alternatively, indigenous knowledge or traditional ecological knowledge – refers to a “cumulative body of knowledge, practice, and belief, evolving by adaptive processes and handed down through generations by cultural transmission, about the relationship of living beings (including humans) with one another and with their environment” (Berkes 2012: 7). In his analysis of the epistemologies of the South, De Sousa Santos (2011: 27) explains how “the movements of the Latin American continent, beyond contexts, build their struggles based on ancestral, popular, spiritual knowledge that they were always alien to the scientism typical of Eurocentric critical theory.” In their contribution to this special issue, Duarte, Galarza and Hidalgo-Bastidas analyse how for the peasant and indigenous communities of the Tungurahua paramo in Ecuador, irrigation canals are essential to make their land green, feed themselves, and offer products to the market. The management, control and direct access to water guarantees their daily subsistence.

On the other hand, for public authorities and the private sector, water is mainly defined as a resource of vital importance for the industrial and energy production processes necessary for the reproduction of the neoliberal model (Swyngedouw 2015; Jasanoff & Kim 2015). This productive and economic value of water is often related to technoscientific and sociotechnical knowledge (see Peytavi, Bouard, Le Meur and Lejars in this issue). One particular characteristic of modern Western society is the historical and colonial imposition of scientific knowledge and the claim of its superior credibility over other forms of knowledge (De Sousa Santos 2011; Leff 2015). Duarte, Galarza and Hidalgo-Bastidas provide a concrete example of technoscientific knowledge about water though an analysis of how water funds adopt technical indicators to measure water conservation, leaving aside socio-cultural indicators. Consequently, they argue that technoscientific knowledge is gaining legitimacy against more traditional and cultural knowledge, justifying processes of exclusion of local communities from decision-making and participation processes.

In their article, Peytavi, Bouard, Le Meur and Lejars study how indigenous water perspectives of the Kanak people in New Caledonia interact with official norms, designs and laws. They reveal how New Caledonia’s current land tenure and water management situation is characterised by the co-existence of a public domain, private land ownership and customary land. They analyse the co-production and frictions (Tsing 2005) between two different interpretations of water: water management and water care. On the one hand, water management considers water as a technical object encapsulated in tubs and pipes, transformed and cleaned through different physical and chemical treatments. On the other hand, water care highlights the reciprocal relationship between water and the surrounding world (Domínguez-Guzmán et al. 2021).

Various contributors to this special issue trace the conflicts that emerge between local and traditional water knowledge, on the one hand, and global processes of commodification and privatisation of water, on the other (See Nagarajan Durai and Babuji in this special issue). In her article, Yate highlights how the notion of injustice is at the centre of conflicts between the privatisation of water and collective forms of governing water at the community level. She cites the emblematic example of the ‘water war’ in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in the 2000s, where communities protested against the privatisation of water. She also analyses how the inclusion of the indigenous notion of Sumak Kawsay, or Buen Vivir, in the 2008 Ecuadorian Constitution did not mean a concrete recognition of plurinational values of water at the national level.

At the same time, several authors emphasise the need to go beyond dichotomous approaches that oppose scientific and local knowledge and rather highlight their strategic encounters, political use and dynamic entwining, albeit in contexts of unequal power structures (Robbins 2003; Li 2013). It is necessary to question the borders between technoscientific and local/traditional knowledge and focus on the situated practices of different actors in the co-production and cocreation of knowledge around water conservation. For example, grassroots and indigenous movements may strategically use expert and scientific knowledge in order to gain credibility and support through community environmental monitoring or the co-management of natural protected areas (Bäckstrand 2004; Sanchez-Vasquez 2019).

Peytavi, Bouard, Le Meur and Lejars mobilise the concept of ‘tinkering’ (Mol et al. 2010) to understand the intertwinements between different water knowledges beyond their apparent opposition. Tinkering refers to the small social adjustments and continuous adaptations and negotiations between humans, institutions and their environment. It allows us to consider elements of water management and water care together and to show how they are continuously and variously linked in the daily practices of the Kanak people in New Caledonia.

Another example of knowledge cocreation is the attempts to integrate indigenous and local knowledge in the production of scientific expertise at the global level. Authors analyse how nature-based solutions (NBS) should combine various nature’s values and knowledge types, community engagement processes, and ecosystem management practices (Palomo et al. 2021). They find that over 80 percent of NBS combine various knowledge types, highlighting the usefulness of knowledge combination for transformative change, from scientific knowledge to indigenous and local knowledge. However, NBS also tend to reproduce the domination of technoscientific knowledge and marginalise traditional and local knowledge.

Conservation and payments for ecosystem services (PES) policies driven at the global level crystallise the interactions between technoscientific knowledge and local knowledge, as well as the central place of power relations between actors (Vadrot 2014). ES were originally designed to highlight the importance of ecosystems in providing goods and services to society. Yet authors have warned against the limited conception of ES through an economic and monetary lens that ignores other interpretations based, for example, on cultural and traditional values (Norgaard 2010; Rodríguez-de-Francisco 2013, 2015). To respond to this limitation, some authors suggest rethinking ES through their co-production between biophysical and social dimensions and their co-constitution with humans and non-humans (Schaich et al. 2010; Budds & Zwarteveen 2020). One alternative concept to do so is ‘cultural landscapes,’ which highlights the implications of social, cultural and discursive dynamics in shaping ecosystem services.

An illustration of how global schemes are being reframed at the local level is the recent proposal by the Confederation of the Kayambi people in Ecuador of a funding mechanism for water resources conservation, named the Plurinational Water Fund (Fondo Plurinacional del Agua) (Dupuits & Mancilla Garcia 2022). This eco-territorial alternative aims to integrate urban centres, flower industries and private companies in the conservation of high tropical mountain ecosystems, known as páramos, as well as to redistribute benefits to social development for indigenous communities and community resilience. It illustrates the local adaptation of global PES programs (Rodary et al. 2016), but also the possible tensions and necessary negotiations that may emerge during these processes.

In her article, Cottyn analyses the knowledge cocreation dynamics at stake around the disappearing Lake Poopó in Bolivia. The Uru people, who live around the lake and who self-identify as Qot Zuñi or “people of the lake”, have developed an intimate relation of identity and belonging with the lake (more-than-human), which they guard and worship as Qota Mama (Mother Lake). Together with totora and other reeds, aquatic birds and fish, the wind, and the water itself, the Urus have co-created water knowledges between humans and more-than-humans. However, imposed Western technoscientific schemes to manage Lake Poopó tend to reduce the lake’s disappearance to a quantifiable loss of water content and equate this with the loss of cultural expressions. This has resulted in management schemes to enforce rational water use criteria that overlook Uru water needs and ancestral practices and rituals around the variability that characterised the lake’s cyclical movements.

Cocreating scales: Global/Local knowledge

Despite the differences that exist between global and local approaches, there is no clear delimitation of the levels in which water knowledge intervenes (Smith 1993). On the contrary, there are various dynamics of co-production between levels, for example regarding the interaction of normative systems between global, national and local scales. In her article, Yate mobilizes the concept of ‘normative pluralism’ (Kyed, 2009; Boelens, 2009) to grasp the mutual influences or resistances between water governance normative systems at the global and the local scale. She analyses to what extent the global capitalist framework around water resources clashes with national and consuetudinary legal frameworks in the context of Ecuador.

One concrete example of how scales are interconnected is the promotion and adoption of the human right to water as a new legal framework (Bakker 2007). Yate explains how the human right to water intends to address the contradictions between public and private management of water, through the promotion of citizen participation as a neoliberal approach. While this process is an example of knowledge cocreation occurring at the international scale, it does not fit with local interpretations of the human right to water as defended by social and grassroots movements during the past decades.

In their article, Nagarajan Durai and Babuji study the interactions and tensions between global capitalism and the local economy as they apply in the case of shrimp aquaculture in a coastal village located in the Mayiladuthurai district of Tamil Nadu, India. Their research suggests various relationships to water resources, from subsistence practices of local farmers to industrial and productive interests of private businesses. The authors analyse the history of shrimp aquaculture in the 1990s and 2000s, and how the collapse of big corporations due to diseases and bad management turned into an opportunity for local shrimp farmers to catch hold of the economy of the village. However, within a decade of shrimp aquaculture, the subsistence economy of the village was transformed into a market economy captured by local elites who monopolised power over lands and resources. This is again an illustration of the blurring categories of local and global scales in water knowledge cocreation dynamics.

The transnational processes of knowledge co-production may lead to different forms of social interaction between actors inserted in specific scales and interests. On the one hand, grassroots movements can act at the global scale in support of territorial water justice initiatives; on the other hand, the technoscientific approaches produced at the global scale are adapted and negotiated to be implemented locally. However, knowledge co-production may lead to tensions and conflicts between actors and scales. While knowledge co-production can improve the visibility and recognition of grassroots actors (Goodwin 2019), the increased professionalisation and the acquisition of global expertise by grassroots organisations can also lead to a disconnection with local realities and diversity (Laurie et al. 2005).

Many global norms are framed as blueprints and best practices that should be replicated in different contexts to improve water conservation. This is the case of water funds promoted by international experts as a successful tool for water conservation, silencing the existing tensions in their implementation locally (see Duarte, Galarza and Hidalgo-Bastidas in this special issue). It is an illustration of a non-functioning knowledge cocreation process between scales. As mentioned by Nagarajan and Babuji in their article, another example of global norms promoted by international experts is the notion of ‘Blue revolution’ as a best practice of water agribusiness applied in India (Immanuel & Narayanan 2022).

The local appropriation of globally produced knowledge can also mean conflicts and tensions between actors inserted in specific scales and interests (Dupuits et al. 2020). Numerous authors have analysed the negotiation, adaptation and co-production processes at stake between global watershed and hydrologic services, on the one hand, and local water justice knowledge on the other (Southgate & Wunder 2009; Martin-Ortega et al. 2013), through a focus on the political and power dynamics of knowledge co-production at the science-grassroots interface (Vadrot 2016; Brethaut et al. 2019).

Cocreating spaces: urban/rural knowledge

The connections or tensions between urban and rural spaces around water conservation are another key challenge for knowledge cocreation and dialogue (Hommes & Boelens 2017; Hommes et al. 2022). Many conflicts arise from the appropriation of rural watersheds to respond to urban water needs. Many times, the objective of water security for urban areas produces water insecurity for rural areas (see Duarte, Galarza and Hidalgo-Bastidas in this special issue). These conflicts illustrate the absence or limitation of knowledge cocreation and dialogue between spaces, as well as the power dynamics at stake between diverse actors.

In their research, Peytavi, Bouard, Le Meur and Lejars adopt a spatial and socio-ethnic viewpoint to analyse the historical and colonial process of Kanak indigenous populations’ marginalisation from public services, including water access, through tactics of denial, de-legitimation and invisibilisation. This historical context contributed to creating two co-existing life-worlds and a dual separation between people and land: the Kanak people living in tribes on reclaimed land, and the New Caledonian institutions and economic centres mostly concentrated in the Noumea urban area.

In their article, Duarte, Galarza and Hidalgo-Bastidas study how various water funds have emerged in recent years to improve water conservation in rural areas to ensure water availability in the face of increasing urbanisation in the Global South, and to try to foster dialogue between the different actors involved. However, many experiences of water funds are failing to address equity and development issues for the most marginalised people and tend to give priority to technical conservation issues. Water funds have the potential to be spaces of dialogue, participation and knowledge cocreation. By contrast, the authors show how power inequalities and asymmetries reduce the possibility of knowledge cocreation and negotiation. Consequently, there is still limited direct and active participation of local communities in water funds management and strategies regarding water conservation, in comparison with more powerful actors (private companies, State, international NGOs). The authors conclude by suggesting that local peasant communities accept to ‘sacrifice’ and abandon their ancestral knowledge to the benefit of water conservation for urban areas.

In a similar vein, Yate analyses how the Tungurahua water fund in Ecuador has been prioritising watershed conservation over the need to improve water access and social development for local communities living in watershed areas in páramos. One illustration of the tensions between different knowledge systems is the requirement defined by the State to create and consolidate water boards in the communities, imposing legal and technical requirements that may go against traditional forms of community organisation and management. If the creation of water boards could be considered as a logic of knowledge negotiation, it can easily turn into a dynamic of knowledge resistance.

Another illustration of tensions between spaces is provided in the study of Nagarajan Durai and Babuji, who analyse the inadequate formal regulations adopted by the Coastal Aquaculture Authority (CAA) to respond to aquaculture difficulties in Indian farmer villages. These tensions reveal a limited knowledge cocreation process between centralised public authorities mainly based in urban areas and rural villages. Moreover, tensions occur inside rural spaces between local shrimp farmers and agriculturalists because of land degradation, water salinisation and groundwater depletion caused by intensive shrimp aquaculture led by local farmers. This shows how knowledge cocreation can also be tied to tensions and resistances among a same type of grassroots and local actor that may have divergent knowledge systems and interests around water use and conservation. The authors explain how the most marginalised people - the Dalits and women - have suffered the most from the dispossession and commodification of their lands, resulting in migration and water scarcity in their daily lives.

Cocreating epistemologies: academic/activist knowledge

The growing literature on participatory action research highlights the need for cross-fertilization between academic and activist forms of knowledge and methodologies (Fals Borda 2006). One of the fields that pays particular attention to these challenges is the feminist technoscience approach, which is linked to the broader science and technology studies scholarship. This approach focuses on invisible, marginal or excluded actors who often remain outside conventional analyses. Donna Haraway (1995) developed the concept of ‘situated knowledge’, understood as the valorisation of localised knowledge and the understanding of science and technology from their places of enunciation and production. It invites us to go beyond the dichotomy engendered by rational modernity to study the interactions between subjects and objects. It also seeks to analyse the processes of technoscience's domination over nature and the oppressed peoples, and it stresses the need to translate local knowledge and assume shared responsibility.

Practitioners and grassroots actors’ participation and the inclusion of their expertise in transdisciplinary research processes have the potential to coproduce societally relevant knowledge and leverage the ability of research to empower marginalised actors and facilitate societal learning, especially in the Global Souths (Muñoz-García et al. 2022). Recognising participation and co-production of knowledge in transdisciplinary research as relational and social processes requires the disclosure of the power dynamics that shape them (Fritz & Meinherz 2020).

Participatory research (PI) occurs when researchers work cooperatively or collaboratively with members of the community (and sometimes other external actors) involved in a problem (Trimble et al. 2014). The different actors participate in each stage as co-researchers, from defining research questions to disseminating the results. In addition to the co-production of knowledge, this strategy allows addressing or solving local problems, articulating and enhancing academic knowledge with local ones.

Another way to enhance academic/activist knowledge cocreation is by involving ‘boundary objects’ (Pohl et al. 2010) between science and policy. On the one hand, key stakeholders (water boards, community leaders, local public authorities, and NGOs) should be involved in the whole design and analytical process. On the other hand, the research should respond to local needs in terms of information production and access to results.

Various authors of this special issue mobilise ethnographic methods to foster knowledge dialogue and the cross-fertilization between academic and activist practices, reflected in the notion of ‘ethnographic cosmopolitics’ (De la Cadena 2015). In their research, Peytavi, Bouard, Le Meur and Lejars use ethnographic methods to access and learn from indigenous tribes in New Caledonia, allowing for a more realistic understanding of their water knowledge and practices. This empirical involvement is key to deconstruct false imaginaries on indigenous water knowledge and practices originating in urban areas and from government.

In her article, Cottyn draws on ethnographic methods and oral history practices to analyse the tensions between imposed Western rational knowledge on Lake Poopó in Bolivia and ancestral rituals and cultural knowledge from the Uru people. She concludes that the imposed Western techno-scientific schemes to manage Lake Poopó seemed incapable of dealing with so-called “traditional” uses that exceed “rational,” “correct” and measurable procedures. As a result, Cottyn reports that over time many of the rituals the Uru used to perform, in relation to different jalsuri, animals, winds, etc., were discontinued.

3. Final thoughts for further analysis and debate

We found through the different contributions to the special issue and the literature that there are various forms of tinkering, interaction and co-production processes between actors, values, scales, spaces and epistemologies. This allows us to break with the classical dichotomies between different forms of technoscientific and traditional knowledge, local and global scales of knowledge production, urban and rural spaces, and academic and activist research production. The different actors involved in cocreation processes often need to adapt their knowledge practices and negotiate their claims and positions around water conservation. These blurring categories reveal the strategic use of different categories of knowledge by specific actors who seek to increase their power over water conservation issues, as seen for example in the case of local shrimp aquaculture in India. These processes echo the need for more creative encounters between scientific and non-scientific knowledge without leading to their mutual destruction (De Sousa Santos, 2011). This cocreation entails talking about new creative categories of ‘scientific science’ or ‘people’s science’ (Leff 2015).

Yet, in all the contributions to this special issue, the designed spaces and institutions for water knowledge cocreation are failing at some point to facilitate a real dialogue between actors, enhance the effective participation of the most marginalised actors, and recognise the legitimacy of ‘other’ values and ontologies to water. This indicates a missed opportunity to take advantage of existing water conservation institutions to facilitate knowledge dialogue. In the cases of water funds in Ecuador and Colombia, as well as in the case of water management in New Caledonia and local shrimp aquaculture in India, local and traditional knowledges fail to be fully integrated into formal governmental rules and institutions and remain marginalised and delegitimised. In a more radical illustration of an inexistant knowledge dialogue, the traditional cultural knowledge of the Uru people around Lake Poopó have almost completely disappeared with the dying lake because of the imposition of scientific and rational knowledge approaches to the lake.

More broadly, the limited cocreation dynamics studied by the different authors also reveal the need for the decolonization of knowledge production and diffusion, aiming to “liberate them from cultural as well as political-economic exploitation, inequality and subjugation that hinders the realisation of alternative life-worlds” (Leff 2015: 48). This appears as a determinant precondition for implementing a true knowledge dialogue among the diversity of people. As stated by Leff (2015: 49): “decolonizing knowledge is therefore an epistemological condition for deconstructing the exploitative trends of the global economy and reviving the ecological potentials and cultural meanings of local people, thereby giving life to alternative modes of production, thinking and being”.
Finally, all the contributions reaffirm how water conservation and environmental degradation challenges interact with historical social inequalities and power asymmetries. This special issue thus invites a reflection on the necessary mechanisms for ensuring water knowledge cocreation processes that would benefit water conservation for all, instead of designing and implementing partial solutions and spaces that reproduce power inequalities among actors.


[1] International Relations Department, University San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), Ecuador

[2] Environmental Management School, International University of Ecuador (UIDE), Ecuador

[3] Institute of Environmental Governance and Territorial Development, University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland


Bäckstrand, Karin. 2004. “Scientisation vs. Civic Expertise in Environmental Governance: Eco-feminist, Eco-modern and Post-modern Responses”. Environmental Politics 13, (4): 695-714.

Bakker, K. (2007). The “Commons” Versus the “Commodity”: Alter-globalization, Anti-privatization and the Human Right to Water in the Global South. Antipode, 39(3), 430–455.

Berkes, F. 2012. Sacred ecology. Third edition. London and New York: Routledge.

Blaser M., de la Cadena M. 2018. "Introduction: Pluriverse Proposals for a World of Many Worlds", In de la Cadena, Blaser, A World of Many Worlds, Duke University Press.

Boelens R., E. Shah, B. Bruins (2019). “Contested Knowledges: Large Dams and Mega-Hydraulic Development”, Water, Vol. 11, No. 3, 416.

Boelens R., T. Perreault and J. Vos, Water Justice, Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Boelens R., Jaime Hoogesteger, Erik Swyngedouw, Jeroen Vos & Philippus Wester (2016) Hydrosocial territories: a political ecology perspective, Water International, 41:1, 1-14.

Boelens R., J. Hoogesteger & J. C. Rodriguez de Francisco (2014) “Commoditizing Water Territories: The Clash between Andean Water Rights Cultures and Payment for Environmental Services Policies”, Capitalism Nature Socialism, 25:3, 84-102

Boelens R. (2009). Aguas diversas. Derechos de agua y pluralidad legal en las comunidades andinas. Anuario de Estudios Americanos, Vol. 66, No. 2, pp. 23-55.

Bonelli C., Roca-Servat D., Bueno de Mesquita M. 2016. “The many natures of water in Latin-American neo-extractivist conflicts”, Alternautas, Vol. 3, No. 2.

Bréthaut C., L. Gallagher, J. Dalton, J. Allouche, (2019). “Power dynamics and integration in the water-energy-food nexus: Learning lessons for transdisciplinary research in Cambodia”, Environmental Science and Policy, Vol. 94, pp.153-162.

Budds, J., and M. Zwarteveen. 2020. "Retheorizing Ecosystem Services as Cultural Landscapes: Co-constitution, Power Relations, and Knowledges." The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic, and Social Sustainability: Annual Review 16 (1): 41-59.

De la Cadena, M. 2015. Earth Beings: Ecologies of Practice Across Andean Worlds. Durham: Duke University Press.

Domínguez-Guzmán, C., Verzijl, A., Zwarteveen, M., & Mol, A. (2021). Caring for water in Northern Peru: On fragile infrastructures and the diverse work involved in irrigation. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, 251484862110522.

Dupuits E. Baud M. Boelens R. de Castro F. Hogenboom B. (2020) “Scaling up but losing out? Water commons' dilemmas between transnational movements and grassroots struggles in Latin America”, Ecological Economics, Vol. 172, 106625.

Dupuits, E. (2021). Coproducción de imaginarios de justicia hídrica y desarrollo verde en Ecuador. European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, (111), 19–37.

Dupuits, E. & Mancilla Garcia, M. (2022), Knowledge politics around water, development and ecosystem services in Ecuador: creative encounters and resistances. Alternautas, 1-35.

Dupuits, E. Puertas, C. Guadamud, J. A. (2023). “Resistencia, negociación y cocreación de saberes para la construcción del Fondo Plurinacional del Agua en el territorio Kayambi, Ecuador”, Allpanchis, Forthcoming.

Fals-Borda, O. 2006. Participatory action research in social theory: origins and challenges. In P. Reason & H. Bradbury (Eds), Handbook of Action Research: Participatory Inquiry and Practice, pp.27-37. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Foyer J., D. Dumoulin. 2017. “Objectifying traditional knowledge, re-enchanting the struggle against climate change”, In S. Aykut, J. Foyer, E. Morena. Globalising the Climate. COP21 and the climatisation of global debates, Routledge.

Fritz L., Meinherz F. (2020). “Tracing power in transdisciplinary sustainability research: an exploration”, GAIA Vol. 29, No. 1, pp. 41-51.

Goldman M., P. Nadasdy, M. Turner (2011) Knowing Nature. Conversations at the Intersection of Political Ecology and Science Studies, University of Chicago Press.

Goodwin G. 2019. “The problem and promise of coproduction: Politics, history, and autonomy”. World Development, Vol. 122, pp. 501-513.

Haraway D., Ciencia, Cyborgs y mujeres. La reinvención de la naturaleza. Madrid: catedra, 1995.

Herrera V. (2019). “Reconciling global aspirations and local realities: Challenges facing the Sustainable Development Goals for water and sanitation”, World Development, Vol. 118, p. 106-117.

Hommes, L., & Boelens, R. (2017). Urbanizing rural waters: Rural-urban water transfers and the reconfiguration of hydrosocial territories in Lima. Political Geography, 57, 71-80.

Hommes, L., Hoogesteger, J., & Boelens, R. (2022). (Re) making hydrosocial territories: Materializing and contesting imaginaries and subjectivities through hydraulic infrastructure. Political Geography, 97, 102698.

Horowitz, Leah. 2015. Local Environmental Knowledge. Routledge Handbook of Political Ecology. (Eds.) Thomas Perreault, Gavin Bridge and James McCarthy. Pp.235-248

Immanuel, J. & Narayanan, N. (2022). A Brief History of Blue Revolution 2.0: Key Drivers, Actors, and Policies in the Indian Context. Economic & Political Weekly, 57(24).

Jasanoff S. (2004). States of Knowledge: the Co-Production of Science and Social Order. London, New York: Routledge.

Jasanoff S. and S.-H. Kim. (2015). Dreamscapes of Modernity: Sociotechnical Imaginaries and the Fabrication of Power. University of Chicago Press.

Kyed Helene Maria. (2009). The Politics of legal pluralism: state policies on legal pluralism and their local dynamics in Mozambique. Journal of Legal Pluralism, No. 59.

Laurie, N., Andolina, R., & Radcliffe, S. 2005. “Ethnodevelopment: Social Movements, Creating Experts and Professionalising Indigenous Knowledge in Ecuador”. Antipode, 37(3), 2005: 470-496.

Leff, E. (2015). Encountering political ecology: epistemology and emancipation. In The international handbook of political ecology (pp. 61-73). Edward Elgar Publishing.

Li F. 2013. “Relating Divergent Worlds: Mines, Aquifers and Sacred Mountains in Peru”, Anthropologica, Vol. 55, No. 2, pp. 399-411.

Martin-Ortega, E. Ojea, C. Roux (2013). “Payments for Water Ecosystem Services in Latin America: A literature review and conceptual model”, Ecosystem Services, Vol. 6, pp. 122-132.

Miller C. and Wyborn C. (2020). Co-production in global sustainability: Histories and theories. Environmental Science and Policy, Vol. 113, No. 2020, pp. 88-95.

Muñoz-García Ana Luisa, Andrea Lira & Elisa Loncón (2022) Knowledges from the South: Reflections on Writing Academically, Educational Studies, 58:5-6, 641-656.

Mol, A., Moser, I., & Pols, J. (Éds.). (2010). Care in Practice: On Tinkering in Clinics, Homes and Farms. transcript Verlag.

Norgaard R. B. 2010. “Ecosystem services: From eye-opening metaphor to complexity blinder”, Ecological Economics, Vol. 69, pp. 1219-1227.

Palomo Ignacio, Bruno Locatelli, Iago Otero, ..., Marie Fischborn, Rosmarie Metz, Sandra Lavorel. 2021. “Assessing nature-based solutions for transformative change”, One Earth Vol. 4, pp. 1-12

Pohl C., S. Rist, A. Zimmermann, P. Fry, G. S. Gurung, F. Schneider, C. Ifejika Speranza, B. Kiteme, S. Boillat, E. Serrano, G. Hirsch Hadorn and U. Wiesmann. (2010). Researchers’ roles in knowledge co-production: experience from sustainability research in Kenya, Switzerland, Bolivia and Nepal. Science and Public Policy, Vol. 37, No. 4, pp. 267-281.

Porras I., Alyward, B. and Dengel, J. (2013). Monitoring payments for watershed services schemes in developing countries, IIED, London

Robbins, P., 2003. Beyond ground truth: GIS and the environmental knowledge of herders, professional foresters, and other traditional communities. Hum. Ecol. 31 (2), 233–253.

Rodary E., Bonnin, M., Bidaud, C. & Méral, P. (2016). « L’influence des services écosystémiques sur les aires protégées ». In P. Méral éd., Les services écosystémiques: Repenser les relations nature et société, France: Editions Quæ, 229-248.

Rodríguez-de-Francisco, J.C., Budds, J., Boelens, R. (2013). Payment for environmental services and unequal resource control in Pimampiro, Ecuador. Society and Natural Resources 26: 1217–1233.

Rodríguez-de-Francisco, J.C.; Boelens, R (2015). Payment for environmental services: Mobilising an epistemic community to construct dominant policy. Environmental Politics, 24: 481–500.

Rodríguez-de-Francisco, J. C., & Boelens, R. (2016). PES hydrosocial territories: De-territorialization and re-patterning of water control arenas in the Andean highlands. Water International, 41(1), 140-156.

Sánchez-Vázquez, Luis. 2019. “¿Ciencia de resistencia? Monitoreos ambientales participativos en contextos de conflicto ambiental. Reflexiones desde una mirada decolonial”. Revista de Paz y Conflictos 12, (2), 57-79.

Santos, B. D. S. (2011). Epistemologías del sur. Utopía y praxis latinoamericana, 16(54), 17-39.

Harald Schaich, Claudia Bieling, Tobias Plieninger. (2010). Linking Ecosystem Services with Cultural Landscape Research, GAIA 19/4, pp. 269-277.

Smith N. “Homeless/Global: Scaling Places.” In Mapping the Futures: Local Cultures, Global Change, 87–120. Routledge. 1993.

Southgate D. & S. Wunder (2009). “Paying for Watershed Services in Latin America: A Review of Current Initiatives”, Journal of Sustainable Forestry, Vol. 28:3-5, pp. 497-524

Trimble Micaela, Iribarne Patricia, Lazaro Marila. 2014. “Una investigación participativa en la costa uruguaya: características, desafíos y oportunidades para la enseñanza universitaria”, Desenvolv. Meio Ambiente, Vol. 32, pp. 101-117

Tsing, A. L. (2005). Friction : An ethnography of global connection. Princeton University Press.

Swyngedouw, E. (2015). Liquid Power. Contested Hydro-modernities in Twentieth-Century Spain. MIT Press, Cambridge.

Ulloa A. et al. 2020. Gobernanzas plurales del agua: formas diversas de concepción, relación, accesos, manejos y derechos del agua en contextos de gran minería en Colombia y el Perú. Documento de investigación, 103. Lima: GRADE-UNAL

Ulloa A. 2019. “Indigenous Knowledge Regarding Climate in Colombia: Articulations and Complementarities Among Different Knowledges”. En: Climate and Culture: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on a Warming World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp.68-92.

Vadrot A. 2014. The Politics of Knowledge and Global Biodiversity, Routledge, 320 p.

Vadrot A. 2016. “The birth of a science-policy interface for biodiversity: The history of the IPBES”, In Hrabanski M. & Pesche D. The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Meeting the challenge of biodiversity conservation and governance, Routledge, 37 p.

Weststrate, J., Dijkstra, G., Eshuis, J. et al. (2019). “The Sustainable Development Goal on Water and Sanitation: Learning from the Millennium Development Goals”. Soc Indic Res 143, 795–810.