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​Predictive modeling of the relationships among infrastructure, resource extraction, and environmental governance in Latin American forests

National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center

The loss of tropical forest plays a significant role in climate change, biodiversity loss and livelihood disruption. Large-scale infrastructure, often linked to extractive industries and agro-industrial expansion, may catalyze forest conversion in sensitive socio-ecological zones. Global financial flows, national political settlements, and local rights also influence patterns of forest conversion in the context of new infrastructure. Extensive data on these elements exist, but consistent and careful analysis across boundaries and data types is lacking. This pursuit will synthesize geospatial data and existing qualitative research to ask: (1) what are likely future scenarios for relationships among infrastructure investment, forest cover and communities; (2) how do different forms of environmental governance affect these scenarios; (3) how are these different forms of environmental governance explained: what factors bring them into being?


The pursuit will: (1) collate existing qualitative data into data sets on environmental governance, policy processes and infrastructure investment; and (2) relate these to data sets on financial flows, forest loss, resource extraction, infrastructure, indigenous and community territories, and protected areas. These combined data sets will be used to (3) develop predictive socio-ecological models of the relationships among investment flows, large-scale infrastructure, resource extraction and forest cover; and (4) incorporate into these models forms of environmental governance and the socio-political factors that drive governance regimes. The pursuit focuses on Latin America with a view to developing models and frameworks of relevance to forested regions of Indonesia and Central Africa also experiencing increased infrastructure investment.  (Bebbington, Cuba, Rogan, and Sauls)

2015 - 2019

Assessment and Scoping of Infrastructure and Extractive Industries in Relation to Deforestation

Climate Land Use Alliance

Large-scale infrastructure and extractive industry projects have attracted significant private and public investment, with direct and indirect synergies between them. However, while the effect of roads on deforestation has been widely studied, the extent to which extractive industry affects forest cover and forest-dependent livelihoods is less clear. Although the actual footprint of operations is modest in absolute terms, the footprint of pollutant-based externalities can be far larger. In addition, the drivers of these different processes are multiple and complex. With a focus on three regions (Brazil, Mexico/Central America, and Indonesia), this project: (1) describes the recent geography of infrastructural and extractive industry investments; (2) assesses the current state of knowledge regarding the impacts of these investments on forest cover and quality, and the rights, organizations and livelihoods of forest-dependent communities; (3) examines the work different organizations are already doing on the relationships among infrastructure, extractives and forests, including what their successes and failures have been with different types of strategy; and (4) identifies feasible strategies for CLUA. (Bebbington, Humphreys-Bebbington, Rogan, and Sauls)

2015 - 2018

Governing Extractive Industries


Proposals for more effective natural resource governance emphasize the importance of institutions and governance, but say less about the political conditions under which institutional change occurs. Governing Extractive Industries synthesizes findings regarding the political drivers of institutional change in extractive industry governance. It analyses resource governance from the late nineteenth century to the present in Bolivia, Ghana, Peru, and Zambia, focusing on the ways in which resource governance and national political settlements interact.


In this volume, authors focus on the ways in which resource governance and national political settlements interact, exploring the nature of elite politics, the emergence of new political actors, forms of political contention, changing ideas regarding natural resources and development, the geography of natural resource deposits, and the influence of the transnational political economy of global commodity production.

2015 - 2016

Territorios en Riesgo

Oxfam America and Oxfam Honduras


The growth of extractive industries, particularly mineral extraction, in Honduras stands to change patterns of resource access and use that are central to agricultural and indigenous livelihoods, as well as conservation efforts. Extractive operations typically occupy a small area relative to other land uses such as agriculture or forestry, yet they may trigger tremendous, diffuse changes to land systems through unlocking access to land and resources via construction of associated infrastructure, movement of large amounts of overburden rock, and leakage of leaching agents or sulfuric acid. This project seeks to investigate the potential effects that the expansion of mining, leading to increased competition for access to and control over land and water, will have, or is likely to have, on peoples’ livelihoods in Honduras. Through geographic mapping, the project will explicitly visualize existing and potential overlaps in agricultural lands, indigenous lands, protected areas, watersheds and mining concessions in Honduras. Tracing the implications of territorial change for mining activities on livelihoods at different spatial scales will provide important insights for exposing the indivisibility of poverty and inequality. In addition, the project incorporates qualitative fieldwork to analyze the socio-ecological impacts and relations in communities near existing and proposed mines. (Cuba, Fash, and Rogan)

2012 - 2014

Geographies of Conflict

Oxfam America


Ghana and Peru have experienced dramatic growth in their mining and hydrocarbons sectors in recent years, and both countries have also experienced conflict between local communities and extractive operations. These conflicts are often rooted in small-scale farmers' concerns about pollution of both land and water.  Addressing the causes of these conflicts is critical for ensuring more beneficial outcomes from extractive industries investments.

This report is a collaboration between Oxfam America and geographers from Clark University. It charts the dramatic expansion of oil, gas, and mining operations in Peru and Ghana, and seeks to contribute to productive dialogue on the tensions between extractive industries and agriculture by graphically depicting where these activities overlap.



2010 - 2014

Extractive Industries, social conflict and institutional innovations in the Andes-Amazon region

Ford Foundation


Under certain conditions, social conflict can be a potent source of institutional innovation. This potential channel of institutional innovation is poorly understood because conflict is viewed as a problem to be managed, and a more constructive view will open up new ways of responding to conflict that increase its propensity to facilitate institutional changes that, in turn, will increase synergies between extraction and sub-national development that are recognized by a range of actors. This project generates new knowledge regarding the relationships between socio-environmental conflict, extractive industry and sub-national development by focusing on the relationships between conflict and institutional innovation in the Andean-Amazonian region.  By “institutional innovation” we refer to changes in practices, rules, regulations and arrangements for enforcement that show signs of long-lastingness and that exist in practice and not merely on paper.  We document innovations that appear to enhance synergy between extraction and development and prevent significant environmental damage, as well as those institutional changes that have caused further conflict. 

Aerial photo of truck traffic on an Amazon highway. Cover image of a report for the Climate Land Use Alliance
Honduras extractive energy system infographic
People engaging in extractive industry livelihood activities
workover rig at sunset, this is the cover art for the book Governing Extractive Industries
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