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Dr Iván Lobo Romero

Agency in Collective Action: The Role of Afro-Colombian Community Leadership on Environmental Entrepreneurship in the Colombian Pacific Region

Supervisors:

Dr Graham Woodgate and Dr Par Engstrom

PhD Completed in 2020

I study the political economy of socio-environmental conflicts in the Colombian Pacific lowlands, arguably one of the most biodiverse, resource-rich and conflict-ridden regions in the world. Specifically, my research is focused on the role played by community leaders from rural Afro-Colombian communities -a historically marginalised ethnic minority in the country- in two closely interrelated outcomes. First, the development of small-scale productive enterprises -mostly based on the extraction of natural resources- as an economic alternative for communities beyond subsistence economies. Second, collective resistance to the penetration and expansion of illicit economies (e.g. mining and coca).

As 'brokers' who are able to mobilise different forms of capital and connect communities with external actors, leaders seem to be potentially better endowed -and, from a structural point of view, more advantageously located- to help achieve two long-standing aspirations of Afro-Colombian communities. Politically, strengthening their voice in the public sphere. Economically, developing more productive enterprises that use the region's natural resources sustainably. Whether the leaders' potential is effectively deployed and whether it helps alleviate conflicts (rather than exacerbate them) are both questions of empirical rather than normative value to which this research provides possible answers.