Pakistan Field Research Programme

Pilio and HIMA^Verte co-convene the Pakistan Field Research Programme (Pak FRP). Each year this programme gives two masters scholars from the University of Oxford’s School of Geography the opportunity to undertake their summer thesis projects in Pakistan with WWF Pakistan as their host institution. The Pak FRP provides valuable applied learning for scholars and practitioners on sustainability pathways. 

Objectives for students

  • Undertake guided research to fulfill their MSc degree requirement whilst addressing real life environmental questions in a developing country.
  • To apply research to fields where there is a felt need and feedback findings into national policy and applied development discussions.
  • Be mentored by world class Pakistani institutions doing conservation and development work.
  • Be introduced to Pakistan, its diverse ecosystems, peoples and institutions and contribute to gaps in research on nature based solutions.

Pak FRP in 2023

Dissertation Topics and brief description of research
David Warnes:

Influence of Risk Perceptions on the Implementation of Disaster Adaptation: Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) in Bagrote Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan.
Despite being the 2nd most at threat country to GLOF risk, Pakistan lacks GLOF studies relative to other GLOF threatened countries (Taylor et al., 2023). This limited knowledge is even greater regarding risk perception studies, as most existing GLOF risk studies focus on identifying ‘objective’ risk through technical risk assessment studies. Therefore, this study aims to contribute to understanding of GLOF risk in Gilgit-Baltistan, by investigating GLOF risk perception and subsequent adaptive behavior of institutions and local communities in Bagrote Valley.

Anneleen Deruiter:

Climate Change and Conservation:
Reductive Translations of the Indus Delta Human-induced climate change significantly affects countries such as Pakistan, leading to significant loss of life and ecosystem damage. However, in order to fully understand the impacts of climate change, its effects must be placed in a wider context of socio-economic forces and embodied experiences of communities. The people living in the Indus Delta in Pakistan are subject to a much more social, political, and historical struggle than just climate change. This dissertation explores how reductive translations of the socio-environment in the Delta can enable types of governance interventions that, perhaps unintentionally, contribute to the Indus Delta becoming a necrocapitalist sacrifice zone. Using Latour’s (1996) concept of “translation”, and Mosse and Lewis’ (2006) and Dewan’s (2021, 2022) continuation of this concept as “reductive translation”, this dissertation explores how the use of different meta-codes (climate change, disaster, and conservation) by state and NGO actors can lead to reductive translations of the Delta’s socio-environment. State actors govern through ‘biopower’ to save biological lives during natural disaster, but for the rest, state governance is largely absent. Instead, state actor’s climate-reductive translation of the freshwater shortage in the Delta obfuscates the political decisions that prevent the water of the Indus from reaching the Delta, as dam infrastructure and irrigation decisions prioritise upstream agriculture. This is arguably a form of necrocapitalism (Banerjee, 2008), as people are seen as surplus and basic livelihoods are withheld for capitalist, which entails that the Indus Delta can be seen as a sacrifice zone (De Souza, 2021). As a result of the state absence, conservation NGOs are the main governing force that interact with the communities. However, as the main priority of conservation NGOs is mangrove conservation, they were found to reductively translate the needs of the communities around conservation objectives. This can lead to biopolitical governance where mangrove conservation is prioritised over community needs. Although the necropolitics and biopolitics of the state and NGO actors is messy and full of contradictions, this dissertation hopes to serve as a cast study of how reductive translations can obfuscate the ways that governance is complicit in making the Indus Delta into a sacrifice zone.

Catriona Flesher:

The Role Of ‘The Community’ In GLOF Adaptation Programming In Gilgit Baltistan:
Following the epistemological approach of scholars in the anthropology of development, this dissertation considers ‘the relationship between the aspirations of policy and the experience of development’ and adaptation programming (Mosse, 2005, 2). The research methods were accordingly multi-sited, intended to capture both the ‘interpretative community’ of community-based livelihood and adaptation work among institutional policymakers working in Gilgit (RQ1), and place this in conversation with the experience of such programming in Bagrote Valley (RQ2). I held fourteen semi-structured interviewed held in-person with institutional policymakers in Gilgit and two semi-structured interviews with institutional policymakers online. In Bagrote Valley, we spent seven days’ research spread over two field trips. Here, we learnt from many informal conversations with SN, two interviews, and nine focus groups with Indigenous leaders, young men, and women. This culminated in a total of seventy-four participants in Bagrote Valley (SN included). Focus groups were organised through a kind of snowball sampling, led and organised by SN through phone calls and calls to acquaintances as we walked through villages (Naderifar et al., 2017),

Sadie Decoste:

The 2022 monsoon floods had disastrous impacts in Pakistan, affecting more than 33 million people and causing an estimated £26 billion in damages. The floods are used as a key example of loss and damage from climate change, a topic of growing importance in international climate policy.

Jackson et al. (2023) delineate an emerging governmentality of Loss and Damage, using Dean’s (2009) Analytics of Government framework to examine the what is made visible, what technologies and forms of knowledge are used, and what identities are formed in the governance of Loss and Damage.

In this dissertation, I apply these frameworks to examine the governmentalities of Loss and Damage in the Indus Delta. My research took place in Pakistan over six weeks through qualitative interviews and focus groups with Delta communities and key stakeholders from government, NGOs, academia, and journalism.

I identify three main governmentalities of loss and damage in the Indus Delta. First, communities affected by loss and damage are largely self-governing, and cope with environmental hazards through their own networks and by relying on a cycle of debt. Second, the government is present in Indus Delta communities only at times of disaster; they evacuate people against their will but otherwise provide little to nothing in terms of basic services or reconstruction; and they actively deprive communities of freshwater, contributing to their underlying vulnerability. Third, WWF is one of the only NGOs engaged in the Delta communities; as a conservation organisation-turned-service provider it aims to build community resilience but is very limited in its capacity to reduce vulnerability in the region.

I argue that communities in the Delta are facing loss and damage due to human-induced environmental change, in addition to loss and damage from climate change. As this environmental loss and damage was inflicted by the Government of Pakistan, I argue that they owe compensation to communities in the Indus Delta.

Pak FRP in 2022

In 2022, Pilio and HIMA^Verte is offering the opportunity for two new scholars to undertake the programme and be involved in the following two projects:

  • Plant for Pakistan (Ten Billion Tree Tsunami), aimed at reviving Forest and Wildlife resources in Pakistan, improving conservation and creating jobs through conservation.
  • Village Insetting Project, aimed at bridging the gap between UK fashion brands and Pakistani cotton farmers.

Pak FRP in 2021

The two University of Oxford School of Geography scholars in 2021 were:

Adnan Zikri Jaafar, a Rhode Scholar who earned his MSc in Environmental Change and Management.  Adnan investigated and compared meanings of sustainable cotton certification between brands, certifying bodies, and farmers.

Emil Beddari, earning his MSc in Nature, Society & Environmental Governance. Emil studied the role of the farmer as an innovator in contributing to the transition to sustainable cotton practices.