Colgate Assistant Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies Teo Ballvé has been awarded a Fulbright Scholar Grant to spend the next year in Colombia researching how environmental peacebuilding can help strengthen a nation recovering from decades of conflict.
“A lot of my research has been about how armed groups fight over land and natural resources, but this project flips the script,” Ballvé said. “I’ll be looking at how grassroots environmental management might help peacebuilding efforts and offer more sustainable livelihoods for people previously involved in the conflict.”
Conducting the research at this time in Colombia is perfect, Ballvé explains, as the nation’s peace agreement between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is still in its infancy.
“Environmental peacebuilding can also address some of the more traditional challenges of post-conflict transitions, such as the reintegration of former combatants and reconciliation,” Ballvé said. “If you take the case of the FARC guerrillas — for the last 50 years, they’ve been hiding and fighting in the jungles — they know these places better than just about anyone else. They would make great park rangers.”
Much of Ballvé’s research will be ethnographic in nature, talking with local residents formerly involved in the conflict, and trying to understand the environmental and social needs of the communities impacted by the decades-long conflict.
He has identified three key “theaters” of post-conflict environmental peacebuilding: conservation livelihoods, community reconciliation, and combatant reintegration, and he plans to focus on rural areas around the coastal city of Santa Marta.
Ballvé, who leaves for Colombia in July, expects that his work will ultimately inform a new book, and will provide additional content for his interdisciplinary Colgate course titled Environmental Security, which is jointly offered by the Peace and Conflict Studies and Geography.