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Year : 2012  |  Volume : 10  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 330-343

Conservation's Ambiguities: Rangers on the Periphery of the W Park, Burkina Faso

Institute for Anthropological Research in Africa, Faculty of Social Sciences, Catholic University Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

Correspondence Address:
Julie Poppe
Institute for Anthropological Research in Africa, Faculty of Social Sciences, Catholic University Leuven, Leuven
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.105538

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Date of Web Publication3-Jan-2013


This article demonstrates the central role of ambiguity in the (re)production process of conservation practice. It argues that some current political economy as well as environmentality approaches to research conservation practice fail to capture the complexity of the lived experience of local conservationists. The article focuses on the multiple identities of rangers in interaction with other residents at the periphery of the W Park in Burkina Faso, as rangers are local conservationists who simultaneously submit to and produce conservation practices. Park rangers are village men who are recruited under the banner of community participation in conservation projects and state forestry. On a day-to-day basis, these rangers help the foresters with the management of the natural resources on the one hand, and guide tourists, especially in the hunting concessions, on the other. They occupy ambiguous positions at the crossroads of conservationist, state, political, economic, spiritual, social, and cultural practices, inherent to their conservation occupations at the lowest echelon, where residents have to transform conservation policies into practices. It is precisely this ambiguity that turns out to ensure the conservation implementation.

Keywords: Conservation, communities, development, labour, Burkina Faso

How to cite this article:
Poppe J. Conservation's Ambiguities: Rangers on the Periphery of the W Park, Burkina Faso. Conservat Soc 2012;10:330-43

How to cite this URL:
Poppe J. Conservation's Ambiguities: Rangers on the Periphery of the W Park, Burkina Faso. Conservat Soc [serial online] 2012 [cited 2020 Sep 23];10:330-43. Available from: http://www.conservationandsociety.org/text.asp?2012/10/4/330/105538

   Introduction Top

This article demonstrates the central role of ambiguity in the (re)production of conservation practice, as a form of capital that needs to be maximised and exploited by conservation NGOs, Governments, and local communities, in order to reach their different stakes and to guarantee the conservation process. It specifically focuses on the multiple roles and positions of local-level conservationists, meaning those who implement conservation policies and projects in situ. These interlocutors occupy specific positions between conservation and society in which they constantly negotiate and face the ambiguities of the conservation labour process, and hence co-author the ambiguities essential to conservation.

As community participation became the new paradigm of both conservation and development cooperation over the past two decades, conservationists, researchers, and politicians have attributed an increasingly bigger role to the local-level conservationist. Since the 1990s, residents living in the vicinity of protected areas in developing countries are no longer seen as scapegoats of environmental degradation. They are instead presented as the stewards of conservation practices in the currently ruling Integrated Conservation and Development Programs (ICDPs). Despite the pivotal role of the local-level conservationist however, little research has been focusing on those residents who actually implement conservation. Furthermore, there has been a pertinent interest from the social sciences to focus on the "displacement" of residents living in the vicinity of a protected area in developing countries when discussing the social impact of protected areas (West et al. 2006; Agrawal and Redford 2009). This has, however, put the residents, including the local-level conservationists, into a one-sided position of victims rather than presenting them as they are: as both subjects and co-authors of intercultural encounter and directed change.

One of the current theoretical approaches in social sciences to community-based conservation which "underestimates the degree to which people are capable of forging a critical, self-aware, and culturally framed perspective on collaborative projects for socio-ecological transformation" (Cepek 2011: 501), is the governmentality approach based on Foucault (see Darier 1999; Agrawal 2005; Li 2007; Fletcher 2010). Agrawal (2005), for instance, popularised an interesting analytical tool called "environmentality"-a combination of the words 'environment' and 'governmentality'-to grasp the "environmental subjectivities" that emerge after decades of imposed conservation regimes. He frames local populations as environmental subjectivities who have adopted more environmentally sustainable ways of life as a result of new, initially imposed, ethics vis-à-vis the environment. He then proposes to analyse the ways in which local populations internalise conservation beliefs, desires, and values in the context of environmental projects, which function as "regulatory regimes" in the Foucauldian sense. Despite this promising theory, reading Agrawal's book still left me wondering how imposed conservation regimes actually become part of the everyday practices and ideas of residents living in the vicinity of reserves, as the analysis does not immerse the reader into the life worlds of the residents themselves. Furthermore, I wondered whether the internalised conservation beliefs, desires, and values are always, or directly, leading to more environmental sustainable ways of life. My field experiences were often that the local-level conservationists, who are the pre-eminent environmental subjectivities, are forced to tolerate and even continue some of the environmentally unsustainable practices, such as poaching and clearing large plots of land for agriculture, in order to maintain their livelihoods. As Sodikoff (2009) demonstrates with a Marxian theoretical framework, the current conservation labour structure of the neoliberal conservation processes pushes local-level conservationists into a subordinate position, which is poorly rewarded, and thus forces the residents into destructive practices. A more political economy- or economic anthropological-approach thus seemed to offer a better way to scrutinize how people become environmental subjectivities in practice.

My case study of the moral and objective economy of conservation labour on the periphery of the W park in Burkina Faso, however, reveals that the Marxian approaches to conservation (as proposed by many authors: see for e.g., O'Connor 1988; Sodikoff 2009; Cepek 2011; Kelly 2011) or, more generally, the political economy approaches to conservation fail to capture the multiple ambiguities faced and produced by local-level conservationists. Furthermore, these current approaches sometimes underestimate the agency inherent to conservation labour, although in various ways, it is the local-level conservationist who negotiates and reproduces conservation's ambiguities.

Broadly, this article highlights the importance of culture and history in the production of conservation by presenting an empirical analysis of the multiple identities of rangers both at the Burkinabe forestry service and in society. Rangers are the most encountered local-level conservationists or conservation Labourer who, as community-members, conduct the daily conservation acticiites at the wildlife reserves in Burkina Faso. Rangers live and work in the villages adjacent to the protected areas, in contrast to the foresters (public servants dedicated to conservation) who mainly reside in and work from nearby towns. Therefore, the rangers' positions are more revealing concerning the implementation of conservation at the village level than those of Burkinabe foresters, who are also local-level conservationists.

I begin this account by describing the rangers' identities throughout history as representatives of stately repression. Secondly, I explore the economic assets of rangers' livelihoods to show how they are perceived as villagers who are able to provide and sustain a livelihood, which is perceived to be the core of an honourable masculine identity. Thirdly, I describe the hunter identities of the rangers, which grant them access to resources such as the spiritual powers to master the dangers (of the bush, of society, of state practices). Through their masculine hunter's identity, rangers may claim an insider's identity which stands in opposition to the public servants' outsiders' identity. This turns them into allies within the local communities to withstand the repressive outsiders; public servants and foreign conservationists. Describing these four different positions or identities of rangers enables me to reveal the multiple ambiguities inherent to the objective and moral economy of conservation labour, which are at the core of the conservation enterprise.

   Materials and Methods Top

This article is grounded in anthropological fieldwork, which was conducted between January 2007 and December 2008. The initial aim of the broader research was to study some socio-political and -economic effects of community-based and privatised conservation initiatives on local populations, in and around an internationally popular protected area, in this case the W park. The W park is named after the double bend of the Niger river, which runs through the park in the shape of a 'w'. The park spans a transnational territory of 1,030,200 hectares over three countries: Burkina Faso, Niger, and Benin. It is renowned for its savannah wildlife populations, and has been designated as a Ramsar Site and a Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme (UNESCO-MAB 2005). It therefore attracts a lot of attention and support from international institutions: between 2001 and 2008, for instance-when I conducted my fieldwork-the European Commission funded the park's management through the ECOPAS programme (ECOPAS: Ecosystèmes Protégés en Afrique Soudano-sahélienne or Protected Ecosystems in Soudano-Sahelian Africa). Since 2011, another large-scale project called PAPE (Programme d'Appui aux Parcs de l'Entente, Support Program for the Parks of Harmony) funded by the European Commission's Development Fund has followed up this programme in order to govern the W park and some neighbouring parks (jointly called the WAP 1 ) together. Despite the envisioned transnational management, the actual management of the W park on the ground differs significantly from country to country, as park managers of different countries face different realities and legislations. The Burkinabe part of the W park is particularly interesting for this research on community-based and privatised conservation initiatives because Burkina Faso is internationally tagged as "one of the first and only African countries to have a legislative basis for participatory natural resource management" (Vermeulen 2004: 314). Furthermore, since 1996, Burkina Faso's government, unlike those of Niger and Benin governments, has privatised its wildlife tourism within protected areas. It therefore attributed state-owned wildlife reserves as concessions to private operators in order to be exploited for hunting tourism. Taken together, the Burkinabe government currently advocates a tripartite wildlife management system, which aims at distributing benefits and responsibilities among the three partners, namely the state (represented by its public servants), the local communities, and the concessionaries.

The Burkinabe part of the W park is situated in the scarcely populated Tapoa Province. The park is buffered in this region by several other protected areas which jointly form one wildlife conservation unit (locally called Unité de Protection et de Conservation); the partial wildlife reserve of Kourtiagou, the hunting concession of Tapoa Jerma, and the various village hunting zones in that area 2 . Several ethnic groups live in the vicinity of this cluster of protected areas, mainly Gulmanceba [3] , Fulbe [4] and some Jerma [5] . The majority of rangers in the W region are men from the Gulmance and Jerma communities, as Fulbe generally do not consider ranging as an honourable job because of its repressive character towards (Fulbe) herders.

Although the focus of this article is on rangers, the analysis rests on the broader interview work and participant observation conducted among different groups of residents (herders, farmers, hunters, black smiths, griots, healers, traditional chiefs, cotton factory workers, fishermen, foresters, rangers, hunting lodge workers, administration workers, and NGO workers) in the northern periphery of the W park (which equals more or less to the department of Diapaga), where I conducted the most substantial portion of my fieldwork [6] . In the initial phase of my fieldwork, I conducted survey and mapping work and initial group focus discussions on the settlement and resettlement histories of the different groups of people living in the area. After that, I conducted in-depth research with key informants among every group. Thanks to my interpreters, friends, and my own diverse background (as a PhD candidate in anthropology with an earlier Masters in Forestry Engineering, and as a white woman), I gained access to these different groups, and engaged with them in several ways: I was a member of a grassroots environmental organisation and a provider of information on environmental legislation or adviser in general.

I made two bases for my research, one in the town of Diapaga-the province's capital, where different state services and NGOs have their headquarters-and one in Tapoa Jerma, a village at the border of the W park and its adjacent hunting concession called Tapoa Jerma Safari. To maintain representativeness, I started "snowball sampling" from many key informants of different age, profession, and sex groups (Bernard 1998: 97), and used "stratified sampling" to add informants from certain groups who were underrepresented at the start and mid-term evaluation of this research (Bernard 1998: 84). Besides the participant observation and the 180 semi-structured interviews conducted among the different groups, I have been scrutinising specific discordant events between foresters and rangers, as well as between Fulbe herders and park managers, on the basis of the extended case method (Burrawoy 1998). Furthermore, I collected project- and research- texts of the ECOPAS programme and the NGOs present in the field, and analysed the environmental legislation of Burkina Faso, national newspapers, and documents produced by the state's forestry service, in order to place my findings within the context of the (inter)national discourses and ideas on environmental protection.

Homing in on the work and private lives of rangers, I spent approximately a fourth of my time during one full year in the village of Tapoa Jerma. Besides observing and assisting in their daily activities and observing their interactions with other residents in and around Tapoa Jerma, I conducted semi-structured interviews on different topics (their relationships with foresters and tourists, their livelihoods, their career tracks, their aspirations, their family lives, their migrations, their backgrounds, etc.) among the rangers of both Tapoa Jerma and Diapaga (30 persons in total) in order to track their life histories.

   The Rangers at The Burkinabe Forestry Service Top

Rangers represent state repression

Rangers are locally called pisteurs or forebe. The French word pisteur is much more appropriate than the word ranger to connote and capture their double task, since the French verb pister means both tracking and spying. On the one hand, Burkinabe rangers are employed in hunting tourism to track wildlife for tourists, appoint the right animals to shoot and guarantee the security of those they accompany. On the other hand, rangers are recruited by foresters to help them with surveillance of natural resources against environmental offenders. Foresters use rangers as whistleblowers (indicateurs) [7] to search for and signal hunters, herders, woodcutters, or charcoal producers who operate illegally. As indicateurs, rangers are expected to report [8] perceived infringements on environmental regulations to the foresters even when the rangers are not on surveillance missions in the reserves, such as when they are at home.

Because of the rangers' involvement in natural resource surveillance, many residents refer to them as forest guards (gardes forêt), "des eaux et forêts" or a derivative of the phrase, such as forebe[9] . These terms are remnants of the colonial period in which the forestry service in French West Africa was called le Service des Eaux et Forêts (Service for Waters and Forests) and the 'indigenous bureaucrats' (fonctionnaires indigènes) at the forestry service were referred to as 'forest guards'. While talking about rangers and foresters as forebe today, residents mainly refer to the fact that they embody terror, forced labour and repression, comparable to how they perceive the colonial state administrators. State forestry is still said to be "a white matter" (o bonpieno) (Poppe 2010: 130-131, for other regions in Burkina Faso; Hagberg 2001a: 487; Gomnimbou 2001: 236). Rangers are, in other words, feared for their involvement in conservation practices, which have been based on surveillance against environmental offenders since their origin in the colonial period (Poppe 2010). The fear of the current conservation regime and its perpetuators is such that residents talk about rangers as "vultures who feed on the backs of poor peasants" (hunter, Nassobidi, 2008). They then comment that the current conservationists are much more restricting and repressive than those of the colonial period: "In contrast to today, forest guards were still reasonable in the past" (farmer, Barpoa, 2007).

Calling the rangers forebe and vultures puts the rangers somehow at the same level of foresters as state representatives. The residents' classification of rangers as state representatives is instigated by the fact that rangers and foresters who are responsible for the management of the protected areas share a similar 'professional identity' (de Sardan 2005; Mosse 2005), at least to a certain extent. Rangers and foresters declare themselves to be paramilitary guardians of the commons, both in words and in deeds, and share a similar, camouflage coloured uniform as well as some military gestures and language, as I explain in another article dedicated to this subject (Poppe Forthcoming). The forester's paramilitary identification is related to their attachment with the National Direction of the Paramilitary Corps of Waters and Forests, which is responsible for the management of protected areas in Burkina Faso. However, rangers are currently not public servants legally. They are no longer on the payroll of the forestry service; and residents also perceive them to be different from foresters in many contexts, as we will see in the following paragraphs.

The pisteur throughout history

The history of the different names and tasks attributed to rangers, and their alternate statuses of being public servants or informal auxiliaries of other public servants, has certainly contributed to the rangers' ambiguous positions in conservation, in society, and in state administration. Literature research on the use of the term pisteur (the local term for ranger) in colonial West Africa reveals that the term was initially applied to collectors, who were engaged by French or foreign traders to speed up the pooling of their supplies of marketable goods in the bush (Chaléard and Pélissier 1996; Contamin and Memel-Fotê 1997). Similarly, pisteurs were engaged in hunting tourism to advance the tracking of wildlife for the hunters, mostly white bureaucrats who hunted during their leisure time (Rouré 1956: 161). In this context, the term pisteur stood merely for tracker, and not for spy, during the colonial period. However, my talks with the son of a deceased tracker who was working for the white forester in Diapaga during the late colonial period revealed that the pisteur was also functioning as a whistle blower or indicateur, although in a more secretive way than that of the contemporary rangers who openly patrol in uniform in search of environmental offenders:

My father was also expected to report on illegal activities of people to the forester, in exchange for gifts from the mesbua [the colonial forester was called Monsieur Bois]. He functioned as the right hand of the white forester in every conceivable way (administrative school employee, Diapaga, 2008).

In contrast to the forest guards though, the colonial pisteur was not on the payroll of the state. Rather, he sold his services to the foresters in exchange for rewards and access to stately services.

After the independence of Upper Volta, little money and attention was invested in the conservation of the protected areas, as conservation was not the governments' prior concern. The few pisteurs of the colonial period kept on conducting their work occasionally in exchange for rewards, and tracking for tourists remained their core business, until the Conseil National de la Révolution (CNR)-government around President Thomas Sankara seized power in 1983. Sankara's 'three struggles' policy (les trois luttes) to combat desertification injected new life into the rangers' occupation. Firstly, the CNR-government adopted a decree on the recruitment of 'occasional rangers' (pisteurs occasionnels) in 1985, which declared: "every person of good conduct, possessing hunting skills and knowledge on wildlife protection, can be occasionally recruited to assist in tourism and sportive hunting" [10] . In other words, hunters from the rural areas of Burkina Faso could, and should, be recruited as trackers for hunter-tourists, in line with the participation ideologies that arose in Burkinabe forestry at that time (Hagberg 2001a: 495; Poppe 2010: 133). Secondly, during the late 1980s, the forestry service started to recruit some "state rangers" (pisteurs d'état) in order to assist and advice foresters in a similar manner as the colonial forest guards. As state employees, these state rangers received, and continue to receive, a monthly wage and social security rights, such as a pension.

The contemporary ranger and his indispensability

Currently, the one and only state ranger in the northern periphery of the W park-the official but, due to frequent drunkenness, disregarded village head of Tapoa Jerma-is retired. Other rangers are currently not "agents under oath" (agents sermentées) like the foresters, as they are recruited among the rural population who have had little or no schooling and no additional training to become a ranger. In this way, contemporary rangers are not officially public servants, although they act like public servants.

Instead of being on the payroll of the state, rangers have been depending on a neoliberal meritocratic system of payment for their services since the late 1990s. This has been enforced by the support of international conservation programmes, such as the ECOPAS-programme that invested in the rangers in order to back up the community-based and privatised wildlife management conducted by the Burkinabe forestry service. More specifically, the ECOPAS-programme provided surveillance fees, bikes for patrol and military-looking uniforms for 15 park rangers at each of the three Burkinabe forestry offices at the borders of the park, 45 in total. On top of that, many more men than the 45 listed offered their services occasionally in order to get some of the benefits provided by the conservation cooperation programmes. In Tapoa Jerma, for instance, 28 men are known by foresters and villagers to be active rangers instead of the 15 listed by ECOPAS. This number of rangers is much higher than that present before the arrival of ECOPAS: about 5 rangers. In this way, the international and national itch for community participation in natural resource management has caused an incremental expansion of the rangers' team and hence installed a panoptical surveillance system against environmental offenders. This explains why residents feel that "the forest guards are everywhere" and "the park has even entered the villages now" (chief of herders, Diapaga, 2008).

The historical dependency on local auxiliaries to implement conservation policies in French West Africa has definitely been determined by the lack of means and numbers of foresters to manage the vast protected areas, certainly when management mainly rests on surveillance against environmental offenders. Besides, rangers have become indispensable for forestry in Burkina Faso because of the foresters' relative strangerhood to their duty-bound region. Foresters in Burkina Faso are centrally recruited public servants who generally do not serve in their region of origin, at least not at the beginning of their careers. The foresters are rotated to another forestry office every few years, as this is a mandate of the policy for Burkinabe public servants. This is done in order to prevent corruption, which is seen as a lurking matter once public servants become integrated into the community. It is thus the rangers who have to introduce and guide the foresters in the local settings. Because of the heavy work load and the fact that petty bureaucrats such as the foresters identify themselves as "intellectuals" and hence do not want to live and work in the bush (Hagberg 2005: 45), rangers do the actual surveillance work "in the field" (le terrain), while foresters are more occupied with paper work at their offices. Foresters write out the "Procès-Verbal", issue permits for natural resource use and complete slaughter numbers as well as other ecological data reports, while rangers need to prospect the territory for the foresters in order to let the foresters conduct their work more efficiently. That is why both foresters and other residents sometimes call the rangers "the foresters' eyes" (the Conservator of W park pers. comm., Diapaga, 2008) [11] .

   Economic Assets of Rangers' Livelihoods Top

Low-wage labourers

As explained previously, the contemporary rangers are not on the payroll of the state, except for the few state rangers who were recruited during the late 1980s. Rather, the rangers' salaries depend on different rewards and fees they get from the foresters and hunter-tourists with whom they work, even for those who were listed by the ECOPAS programme.

According to the decree on the regulation of wildlife exploitation in Burkina Faso of 1996 [12] , tourists are obliged to be accompanied by an "occasional tracker" when going into the reserves, and therefore need to pay "tracking fees" (frais de pistage) to the state's forestry service. These tracking fees amount to FCFA 4,000 (about EUR 6) per day per tracker, of which 50 per cent is reserved for the tracker himself. A ranger thus gets about EUR 3 a day to accompany a tourist in his hunt. During my fieldwork, rangers were appointed the same amount per day by the forestry service to accompany scientists and to go on surveillance missions. This is due to the ECOPAS programme that paid the amount of FCFA 2,000 per day of surveillance mission for every tracker to the forestry office, within the limits of maximum of FCFA 18,000 per month (about EUR 27) per tracker. Despite the price fixing of the trackers' fee in legislation, a ranger who is still in the beginning of his career and carries the supplies and the guns-and is therefore called porteur-only gets FCFA 1,000 (EUR 1.5) a day.

Additionally, when the surveillance missions lead to an arrest, rangers may get a fee from the foresters, with whom they collaborate, as a reward for their "indications" (indications) on the position of environmental offenders. Foresters explain that within every Procès-Verbal, "21 per cent of the penalty paid by the environmental offender is reserved for all indicateurs involved, 9 per cent goes to the forestry office involved, and the remaining 70 per cent are state revenues" (retired forester, Diapaga, 2007). In total, 30 per cent of the penalty thus flows back to the local forestry office to ensure its continued functioning. The 21 per cent within this 30 per cent is locally called the "money of the agent" (l'argent de l'agent), because it is the forester who writes the PV (le verbalisateur) who personally gets the money and has to divide it between himself and his whistleblowers, who could be rangers or any other villager who has reported an environmental offence. In this way, the actual whistleblower fee that rangers receive is quite arbitrary. To decide on the whistleblower fees for rangers, foresters take different factors into account, such as the difficulty of the arrest and the total gain for the forestry service. In response to being asked what the fee for arresting herders is, a ranger said "it depends on the number of animals in the herd brought to the forestry office, and the efforts made by us to get the herd at the office. An arrest can for instance be preceded by a week of spying in the bush in which a ranger is thirsty, hungry, and without shelter. Foresters can take this hardship into account and give the rangers FCFA 25,000 or 30,000 (EUR 38-46) for one arrest" (ranger, Pampanli, 2008).

Although uncertain, these fees for whistleblowers generally exceed the salaries of rangers for surveillance missions, as the example above demonstrates. The whistleblower fees are therefore a significant incentive for the rangers to actually arrest people.

When rangers arrest herders, they may receive another reward from the foresters, namely a part of the "driving and guarding fee" (frais de conduite et de gardiennage), which herders in infraction need to pay to the local forestry office on top of the penalty for their infraction. "Driving" refers to the bringing of the herd to the forestry office, while "guarding" means in this case watching out that the herd stays at the forestry office, and giving the animals water and fodder to survive. The driving and guarding fees are not made explicit in the forestry code, unlike the penalties for environmental offences that are detailed per infraction. At the time of my fieldwork, foresters had fixed the driving and guarding fees at the periphery of the W park at a rate of FCFA 1,500 per animal head per day for Burkinabe herders, and FCFA 3,000 per animal head per day for non-Burkinabe herders. The number of days that the herd stays in custody depends on the speed with which the penalty is paid. The part of the driving and guarding fees that is given to rangers is not fixed. According to Burini and Ghisalberti (2004), rangers of Tapoa Jerma earn about FCFA 300 per day per head of cattle that they guard. According to the rangers themselves, their part of the fee is in proportion to the total amount of driving and guarding fees collected by the foresters for whom they work. It "never exceeds FCFA 10,000 (EUR 15) in practice, when we are called to the forestry office to cash our fees" (ranger, Tapoa Jerma, 2008).

The latter part of the quote refers to the fact that the different fees mentioned are issued all at once for all rangers of a forestry office, at arbitrary moments. As such, it is very difficult for rangers to estimate how much their reward is for each separate service provided. In many cases, the rangers' payment comes some months after having completed the work or even after the closure of the hunting season. The consequential delay in payment for the accomplished work causes resentment among the rangers. Rangers feel that they do not get what is legislatively put aside for them:

Our job is sometimes rewarding. And at other times, we do not gain anything with it. We are not yet paid for our surveillance missions of May [at the end of June] and I do not know whether we will ever be paid or not, because ECOPAS will finish its project at the end of this month. With ECOPAS, we did not always get our money. Last year, we have been executing early fires; we spent two days in the bush from 6 o' clock in the morning until 6 o' clock in the evening. After returning, I waited for my reward during 10, no 13 days in Tapoa Jerma before going home. But I did not get anything. I could not even bring some soap home after this mission (ranger, Tanfolkuna, 2008).

The waiting period raises murkiness in the relatively stable position of the rangers (of being salaried labourers), which lends itself quite easily to embezzlement of parts of the rangers' salaries by the foresters. Furthermore, due to the ongoing decentralisation process in the Burkinabe environmental management and poverty reduction strategies (Sanou 2006: 6), the municipality of Diapaga has been increasingly claiming its part of the driving and guarding fee, to the detriment of the rangers' proportion of the fee. Decentralisation processes and the increasing involvement of international institutions-which are different aspects of the current (neo-)liberalisation within conservation and development cooperation-thus certainly have an impact on the wages of the rangers: it makes the local conservationists' position as (low-wage) labourers more insecure (cf Sodikoff 2009).

Remunerative jobs

Although the wages for the rangers are rather low, and highly insecure, ranging is nevertheless a remunerative job for the rural populations in Burkina Faso. [Table 1] enumerates the different incomes of rangers through hunting tourism and surveillance, in terms of payment, rewards, material presents, bribes, and cattle. Besides the fees mentioned before, which are gained at the forestry office, rangers earn big amounts of money through their contact with white tourists on the one hand, and informal arrangements with Fulbe herders on the other (highlighted in [Table 1]).
Table 1: The income of rangers

Click here to view

The tips provided by white hunter-tourists vary between FCFA 25,000 and 120,000 (EUR 38 and 183), and involve material "gifts" (cadeaux) such as Opinel brand pocket knives, green multi-pocketed hunter jackets, climbing boots from adventure stores, and caps or hats. These are given by tourists directly to the rangers at the end of their stay as tokens of appreciation for the services rendered. A tip of EUR 183, which rangers may get in one day, is the equivalent of the monthly salary of a middle ranked forester. Because of the high value of tips and popular European gadgets, rangers and hunting lodge personnel perceive these gifts as "the real payment" for their offered services instead of their salaries, even when these revenues are not ensured:

The [value of the] gifts of the white people exceed far beyond the payment. It is especially these presents which make the job interesting (son of a ranger, Diapaga 2008).

Underhand arrangements with herders (mostly of Fulbe origin), with or without consent of the foresters, are even more rewarding for rangers than the gifts from hunter-tourists. They make up the largest part of the income of the rangers. Fulbe herders frequently pay penalties up to half a million FCFA (EUR 762) and more for illegal grazing in protected areas 13 . Foresters and rangers pocket some of these penalties, or parts of it. Besides, herders give cattle to rangers to compensate their infractions:

When they [rangers] catch [herders in the reserves], they will take the whole herd, or the whole problem, to the forestry office, to the foresters, and it will become official [the offence will lead to a PV]. But when rangers catch somebody in the bush, they may also agree [with the environmental offender] not to take the case to the administration, if the herder in question gives them something [a bribe]. For instance, there is this forest guard [ranger in this case] who had seized a Fulbe. He said that when he [the Fulbe herder in infraction] would give him three cows, he would let him pass [without bringing the offence to daylight]. So, that is what the Fulbe did, he gave him three cows, which the ranger has put among his own herd (herder, Nassobidi, 2008).

Rangers might also have a deal with herders to let them graze in the reserve in exchange for the payment of a certain fee per grazing period of one week to a maximum of one month. This underhand arrangement includes warning when other natural resource managers are approaching. Because of the huge revenues gained by these arrangements with Fulbe herders, it is said that rangers earn their livelihoods thanks to Fulbe:

You will see that rangers marry several wives, just for the honor. They know they do not yet have the means to maintain two wives, but as a ranger, they might see a Fulbe and negotiate with that Fulbe. The Fulbe will give him [FCFA] 100,000 to graze his cattle in the park, and it is with that money he can buy things for his wife, he can buy a motorbike…They [rangers] profit a lot from us! Because, for instance, if somebody becomes a ranger, one year later he possesses a wife, although he is not older than that youngster there. And you know how much one spends to have a wife?! He is capable of having a wife, and a motorbike. Where do you think he got this money? It is not from his salary! (herder, Nassobidi, 2008).

As ranging is a remunerative job in comparison to other livelihood means for rural populations (next section), rangers are more or less the only men who are able to have several wives (which is only done by the more wealthy men in this region) and who can buy motorbikes and mobile phones. They are thus not solely low-wage labourers as Sodikoff (2009) demonstrates. Rather, they are low-wage labourers on a national or international level, but high-wage labourers on the local, rural level.

Climbing up in the hierarchy of rural livelihoods

All rural residents, including those employed in nature conservation, live from arable agriculture and cattle breeding in the first place, both for subsistence and for trade. In general, cattle breeding and cash crop production, such as the cultivation of groundnuts, rice, maize, sesame, and especially cotton [14] , make up the most common ways of earning money for the rural residents of Burkina Faso. Many rangers, however, explained to me that they and their families preferred not to grow pesticide-needing cotton, and therefore left cotton as the main source of income in this area behind. Figures of the cotton factory in the vicinity of Diapaga confirmed that the cotton production had been drastically decreasing in the northern Burkinabe periphery of the park since 2006 [Table 2]. The decrease is not, however, uniformly spread across the region. In Tapoa Jerma and its surroundings, fewer families are growing cotton in comparison to other places. In and around Mangou, for instance (which also borders the hunting concession and the park), residents continue to grow cotton. The decrease is thus not only due to the increasing prices of the means of production and decreasing prices for cotton on the global market. Rather, it seems that the residents around Tapoa Jerma are able to ensure their livelihoods, thanks in part to their nature conservation occupations. The money rangers earn is mostly invested in cattle, so ranging sustains cattle breeding activities of the rural residents and guarantees wealth accumulation in the long term.
Table 2: Evolution of cotton cultivation in the department of Diapaga

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Rangers can perfectly combine their agricultural and conservation activities, since both are spread in different seasons throughout the year. While all conservation activities are mainly executed during the hunting season from December until May, and thus during the dry season, the agricultural activities are carried out between May and October, during the rainy season. Just like wildlife tourism, surveillance missions are concentrated in the hunting season because the protected areas are difficult to access by bike during the rainy season. Poachers are, however, more often present in the protected areas during the rainy season because of the invisibility provided by the long grasses. Cattle, on the contrary, are mainly led into the reserves for pasture at the end of, or in, the dry season because of the scarcity of grasses outside the reserves during that period. As wandering cattle, and not poachers, are currently perceived as the main burden for nature conservation at the W park (Toutain et al. 2001: 8; Convers et al. 2007: 1), it does not matter much to the conservationists that the surveillance is executed less in the rainy season.

Some residents in the periphery of the W park practice craft professions, such as forging metal, weaving cloth, weaving sekos (fences made from grasses), carving calabashes, and making chairs or stools. Many of the natural resources, which they need for the production of these crafts, are only found in the protected areas. Therefore, rangers' families are advantaged since they work in the protected areas, and thus have access to these resources. Or, rangers work in cooperation with the foresters who may grant temporary authorisation to access these resources in the hunting concession. However, residents do not earn a lot with the sale of these crafts: about FCFA 100 per assignment.

Some youngsters of Tapoa Jerma fish for consumption within the family, or for women of their compound who fry the fish to sell on the market. The fishing occurs in the protected areas, and is tolerated by rangers and foresters most of the time, although the law on poaching forbids it. Fishing is mainly done by rangers' families, which may partly explain the tolerance towards fishing in the reserves. Moreover, killing fish (and birds) is not really classified as poaching in the minds of the Burkinabe natural resource managers, when compared to the killing of bigger animals.

Generally, women in the rural areas earn money by raising cattle and selling processed food (such as fried fish, millet cakes, fritters, millet beer, and rice dishes) and collected non-timber forest products (such as fruits and leaves) on the market. The wives of rangers make up the majority of these entrepreneurial women. Few men earn significant sums with trade, most commonly by transporting sheep and goats to sell in Benin and bringing cigarettes, petrol, and batteries to sell in the villages on their way back. Again, the majority of men who are involved in this business are men from the rangers' families, for they may have a starting capital to invest in this kind of business.

The rangers' families are socially at an advantage because of increased opportunity to be involved in different kinds of businesses instead of having to rely solely on subsistence agriculture. Physical hard labour on the land is not perceived as respectable among the residents, because they figuratively and literally occupy a lower position while bending over to cultivate with the hoe. Rather, it is the accumulation of wealth (displayed in the possession of cattle or a motorbike) from which residents derive dignity. On the flip side, poverty is perceived as a shame and therefore results in social exclusion in Burkina Faso (Hagberg 2001b: 5). Rangers display all kinds of signs of what they perceive as wealth and modernity such as smoking cigarettes, wearing the popular European gadgets described previously, and washing themselves at the forestry service in a concrete shower cabin instead of in the open air. All of this grants them esteem (ti cagiri) and can make them "a fat person" (une grosse personne), a person of political importance in society [this is what Bayart (1993) refers to when speaking of the politics of the belly]: "Rangers may become a fat person, as they earn money with surveillance" (youngster, Diapaga, 2008). To the residents, this kind of esteem of being a considerable person is important. It explains why rangers aspire to emanate the professional identity of a bureaucrat as this moves them up the social ladder.

The moral economy of being a good husband

The ability of rangers to reach money, resources, and hence esteem, explains why so many rural men want to become rangers, and a lot of young, rural women aspire to marry a ranger, despite the fear of conservation activities as expressed in the section above. Rangers are currently among the rare village men who can marry at a relatively young age and who are able to have several wives in contrast to the majority of men:

My father has married three times because he was a ranger. He was already married to the first wife when he became a ranger, but we can say that the other marriages were thanks to his income as a ranger (son of a former ranger, Diapaga, 2008).

This relative ease with which rangers marry is related to their "capability" to "take care of a livelihood" (prendre en charge) in a material and more symbolic way. Their income is certainly contributing to this. Although it seems quite essentialist and reductive to portray men as providers-both men and women do, in practice, contribute to the livelihoods-the general values of complementarities between husbands as providers and wives as procreators are a popular understanding of masculinity and femininity respectively among the Zerma and Gulmanceba (Cartry 1968: 190; Swanson 1985: 73; Sanou 2006: 20) [15] . Regarding the rangers, their job grants them access to money, which permits them to buy food, clothes, new construction materials, and other commodities in case of necessity, as well as access to much sought after bush meat (both bush meat confiscated from poachers and bush meat from hunting-tourism). Bringing home bush meat has been contributing to the acquisition of manhood in the rural areas of eastern Burkina Faso for a long time: for it does not only provide a nice meal but is also proof of the braveness and skills of a man as "a hunter" or "a warrior" (Swanson 1985: 73). When asking the rangers what it means to be a ranger, they commonly stress on their features of courage, dominance, and fearlessness in the following way:

Rangers have to be courageous and hard to face wild animals, such as buffalos and lions, dangerous bush spirits, armed poachers, and herders who will do everything to escape the enormous penalties (two rangers, Tapoa Jerma, 2008).

Because of their courage and "hardness", residents and rangers themselves perceive rangers as warriors or hunters who are to be revered, certainly when they are wearing their military-looking uniforms.

According to the popular understanding of masculinity among the Gulmanceba (Swanson 1985: 73) and Zerma, "a real man" also has to be a good "diviner", a "religious leader", and a "medicine man" who is able to protect and provide for the family and the village. The rangers' "protection skills" entail access to spiritual and material resources of "the bush" (la brousse in French, ladde in Fulfulde, li fuali in Gulimancema), which is an ontological rather than a geographical notion for the Gulmanceba (Cartry 1979: 268) and Zerma [16] . The notion of the bush stands in contrast to the notion of the village as a space in which the wildlife, the bush spirits and the unsocial (such as environmental offences) occur (see quote). Because protected areas are the only places where "bush" is left, their work in the protected areas puts rangers in a favoured position. Rangers are the rare villagers who easily access medicinal products, as these are made from parts of plants and wild animals, which are increasingly difficult to reach because of the panoptical surveillance. Furthermore, rangers- especially old hands in the ranging business-become experts of "secret" medicinal and spiritual knowledge, necessary to face disease, disaster, and misfortune in the family or the village, as this knowledge comes from the spiritual world or "the bush". This will be explained in greater detail in the next section. The knowledge about the bush is characterised as "secret", for it is not easily shared with others: not between the bush and the residents, not amongst the residents themselves and certainly not between men and women. However, as "knowledge of the bush" is a condition to sustain life, and it is secret and thus scarce, it is valued as much as the physical access to resources (natural and monetary). Hence, their work makes rangers respectable opponents for (rural) men and desirable matches for rural women.

   Mastering The Danger Top

Being a legitimate hunter

To face the dangers of "the bush" and hence to be able to work in the protected areas, rangers regularly practice divination and consult other diviners and healers; they have to use magical charms, potions, and sacrifices or prayers to protect themselves and their families against the spiritual world. In this way, and because they physically work in the bush, rangers accumulate medicinal and spiritual knowledge, and are therefore consulted by other men who want to restore the balance between the spiritual and the visible world in case of disease and misfortune in their families. As such, they partly replace the hunters and healers who have been traditionally the possessors of this "knowledge of the bush". Moreover, while hunters are currently labelled poachers because of the restrictive conservation regime, rangers can claim to be hunters in a legitimate way because of their legal access to bush meat and spiritual resources of the bush in their jobs. In other words, rangers are the new kind of hunting persona in eastern Burkina Faso, comparable to the West African hunting brotherhoods who are involved in conservation, national politics, warfare, and policing (Leach 2000; Bassett 2003; Hagberg 2004 and 2006; Hellweg 2011). The fact that rangers are perceived as hunters ("who hunt down wildlife and environmental offenders") is certainly enforced by the fact that older rangers were recruited from among the traditional hunter families in order to keep them away from poaching while letting them hunt for the forestry service. Although young rangers are not recruited any longer among so-called poachers (poaching has become rare), rangers are still linked to the hunters' identity because of their courage to work in the bush and their access to bush resources, both material and spiritual.

However, being perceived as a hunter is not univocally a story of glamour and authority in West Africa. Analogous to traditional hunters, rangers devote a part of their life to the bush to "negotiate the tricky shape-shifting of people, bush, spirits and animals" (Leach 2000: 557). Residents, for instance, state that real hunters cannot have children, and that too close an involvement with the spiritual world makes one blind. In local cosmology, both blindness and infertility put an end to meaningful human existence (Swanson 1985). In line with this perception of hunters, rangers are thus framed in ambiguous positions of being indispensable mediators and marginal persons in society. In this way, rangers are fear- and awe- inspiring at the same time.

Being an insider who protects

On the basis of their hunters' identities, rangers have become the indispensable mediators between the visible world of "the village" and the invisible world of "the bush" in society. Furthermore, their hunters' identities are attached to the notion of being "first comers" (autochthons), which also grants rangers a specific kind of political and religious authority in society. According to the oral accounts on settlement histories of the villages in this region, wandering hunters founded the villages. This is comparable to other regions in West Africa (e.g., Lentz 2000; Cassiman 2006: 135-137) in which a hunters' identity is closely linked to a village founder's identity. And, as first comers, rangers are perceived as insiders, "those from here", in contrast to the foresters who are denoted as "coming from elsewhere", "strangers" (Hagberg 2001a: 493), or "Mossi":

The rangers are those from here, every village has one. I know some of them very well. It is the foresters whom I don't know, they, they are Mossi (herder, Nassobidi 2008).

This positioning of rangers as insiders in contrast to the foresters as outsiders again puts the rangers into ambiguous positions, as on other occasions they are represented as state representatives just like the foresters (see "Rangers represent state repression").

Residents appeal to rangers in order to protect themselves against dangers, such as disease, bush spirit or wildlife attacks, but also to get "medicines" to confront public servants, such as foresters, judges, or police officers. When in the vicinity of public servants, residents for instance, want to disappear or be invisible. Therefore, they turn to the rangers' or hunters' magic protection skills as hunters who are believed to use these techniques to flee in battle from wildlife or bush spirits. When residents are caught committing an offence, they say they want to "tie up the speech" (ke cuo maama in Gulmancema, attacher la parole) of the public servants to keep the information from spreading to the forestry administration:

Even when it is already declared that it was you who committed the crime, the medicine to tie up the speech will obstruct the government official from speaking, so the danger will pass (young ranger, Tapoa Jerma, 2008).

This obstruction "medicine" with which one covers a secret, traditionally used to combat witchcraft, is currently used a great deal in interaction with public servants to cover an offence, both by rangers and other residents. As rangers may provide this protection against public servants, rangers are seen as peers or fellow-villagers who may help.

The position of rangers as insiders, in contrast to foresters as outsiders, thus certainly makes rangers possible partners, not only on a spiritual level, but also on a more material level. Residents commonly attribute the foresters' leniency in the fixation of a fine or in underhand arrangements to the rangers, because of the rangers' status as autochthons in contrast to the foresters' status as migrants. For instance, women are not easily fined for environmental offences, and this sparing of women is seen as the rangers' merit, for rangers are insiders "who know the traditional rules" such as the necessity to protect women. However, when talking to rangers and foresters, it becomes clear that foresters also do not easily penalise women who commit environmental offences, such as collecting and transporting firewood without having a legal permit:

When the rangers or foresters catch a woman in the bush [the protected areas], they say she has to get out of the zone [the protected area] and warn her to never enter again. But until now, we [the rangers] have never brought a woman to the forestry office, and we have never asked their husbands to pay [a fine]. One time, X [a forester] [had] caught some women of Garbongou [a village near Tapoa Jerma] in the [hunting] zone. He [the forester] brought the women back to the village and explained to their husbands that they should take care of their women by not letting them enter [the reserve] again (young ranger, Tapoa Jerma, 2008).

Despite the foresters' leniency however, a majority of the residents express that it is the foresters who profit from "peasants" rather than the rangers, because of their strangerhood. Strangers are perceived not to be lenient (not "to know forgiveness"), in contrast to insiders, because they do not share a common history with the residents like the insiders:

Today, one can find everything at Diapaga; there are Yoruba, there are Mossi, there are strangers of any kind. There are the public servants who have come here because their work has brought them here, but we do not even know where they are coming from. It is these kinds of persons who do not know forgiveness when your animal destroys something of theirs. But those whom you grew up with, those families with whom your parents have lived and with whom you have lived; they will forgive you in case of problems. The Gulmance who are born here will tell you, "ha, we know each other". They will send you home, there is no problem, no intervention of the state acquired. But this counts only for the Gulmance that we grew up with, not for the Gulmance who have been appointed here. A Gulmance forgives, he knows very well what forgiveness is. But a Mossi, he does not give a damn; you will have to pay for the destruction caused! (son of the jooro, Diapaga, 2008).

It is because of the idea that foresters are not lenient and pocket the charged fine for environmental offences, that foresters are called "Mossi", although during my fieldwork I did not encounter any forester of Moose 17 origin in the region of research. Instead of referring to the ethnic affiliation of the foresters, the designation "Mossi" then refers to the dominance of the Moose in Burkina Faso and serves as a synonym for "the power holders" (ceux en haut) or "those who prey" (ceux qui bouffent). Public servants other than foresters are also frequently called Mossi. Although some residents say that "rangers are vultures who feed on the back of poor peasants" (see "Rangers represent state repression"), many of them will eventually point a finger to the foresters in the end "as those who prey at the expense of peasants". Moreover, it is the ranger who builds bridges between the villagers and the public servants, thanks to their simultaneous familiarity with the state administration (and its language) as well as with village life. For all of these reasons, rangers have to be kept as friends or partners, according to the majority of the residents.

Being an insider who betrays

Besides positioning them as partners, the same insiders' position of rangers makes them possible traitors too. Rangers are frequently talked of as "village kids who denounce their own elders" (female village councilor, Tanfolkuna, 2008). In contrast to the foresters, rangers patrol in the villages and in the reserves, for several reasons, as stated above. Therefore, some residents express that they fear rangers more than foresters:

Rangers are much worse than the foresters, they know us. Foresters do not circle around like rangers do. Moreover, foresters fear farmers; but rangers don't, they are among us (farmer, Barpoa, 2008).

It is exactly because they are amidst the villagers, that rangers are possible sources of "betrayal" (la trahison in French, i janbi in Gulmancema), in contrast to the foresters who are outsiders and thus perceived as less dangerous in terms of betrayal. This is understandable, as insiders possess the knowledge to, for instance, report upon environmental offences or to use witchcraft or medicinal practices. According to the moral economy of witchcraft in West Africa-which is closely intertwined with betrayal-such practices come primarily from within the intimate circle and not from strangers, such as foresters (cf Geschiere 1997).

While being seen as sources of witchcraft, the possibility to become rich, and to access modern commodities, makes rangers also victims of witchcraft as it is practiced and seen today in West Africa (Geschiere 1997: 137). Rangers often complain that they have to be very careful with potential enemies in society due to their jobs:

I entered the ranger's occupation because I could earn with it. But now, I stay in the occupation because I need to secure myself. Once you are into ranging, you cannot withdraw! You know, the population does not like rangers. You may, for instance, arrest a poacher or a wood transporter. You are licensed to do so, but the offender wants to hurt you. And when you leave the job, you lose your power so the offender will have the opportunity to avenge himself, because you are not secured any longer. One time, when I entered my house, there was a fresh fish on my bed. I felt like vomiting, so I left the house and went to my parental village to sleep. After two days, I returned to my house, and the fish on my bed was still alive. You see, people may use wak [spiritual powers] to avenge themselves. That is dangerous! It might kill you! (ranger, Diapaga, 2008).

However, not every report of rangers to the foresters about the environmental offences of their peers is interpreted as "betrayal" by the residents:

When a ranger reports an offence of his relative to the foresters, this is not, per se, betrayal. He is just doing his job. However, when the ranger is doing this while they had made an agreement not to reveal the offence, then it is betrayal (older man, Tapoa Jerma, 2008).

Generally, when rules of social acceptable behaviour, such as breaking promises, are transgressed, rangers are denoted as those who betray. In many cases, denunciation practices are normalised as long as the rangers do not seek too much personal profit, and also try to negotiate on other people's behalf from time to time; for instance, by asking for leniency towards the offenders from the foresters.

It is exactly because of the described ambiguity of rangers as hunters and insiders, which foresters lack, that residents use metaphors for rangers such as "eyes" and "vultures". Both "eyes" and "vultures" are connected to the "secret knowledge of the bush", which is dangerous but indispensable. According to mythological accounts among the Gulmanceba, vultures brought the knowledge about (ritual) medicine from God's home to the people (Swanson 1985: 138). Furthermore, eyes are the seat of wisdom and sociability for the residents. To be fully social or to behave properly is expressed in Gulmanceba as "to see clearly", which means that one has the wisdom to do or not to do what one should in any given circumstance (Swanson 1985: 171). However, eyes are also the loci of the anti-social or the danger in a person. When one says in Gulmancema "he possesses the eye", it means that the person is jealous (Swanson 1985: 216). And jealousy and greediness-which are also expressed in the eyes-are morally condemned as the principal source of witchcraft and betrayal.

   Conclusion Top

As local-level conservationists, the Burkinabe rangers are constantly blurring the boundaries between conservation and society, the visible and invisible world, the individual and the collective, and between the state and its citizens. They are both insiders and outsiders at different, intertwined levels (political, economic, spiritual, and social) at the crossroads of society and conservation. They function as public servants-since conservation is a state matter-without being trained as public servants and having the official jurisdiction of being a public servant. Rangers are, therefore, not only agents of their own lives, but also of conservation and stately practices; for example, in shaping the unofficial rules to which residents (both foresters and citizens) have to subscribe. Furthermore, rangers are far more successful in implementing conservation policies than the public servants (foresters) because of their capability of drawing on all of these different registers. As such, the analysis of the multiple rangers' identities demonstrates that local-level conservationists simultaneously face and produce conservation practices, as they occupy a variety of ambiguous positions related to their simultaneous involvement in conservationist, stately, social, individual, economic, spiritual, and cultural practices. The analysis hence shows that the current theoretical approaches to conservation underestimate on the one hand the degree to which residents themselves are co-producing (the ambiguity of) the conservation enterprise, and, on the other, the necessity of producing ambiguity for the success of conservation.

As an alternative to the environmentality or governmentality approach to conservation-in which residents become environmental subjects who feel the desire to protect their environment due to the longstanding governmental and international conservation projects-Cepek (2011: 502) suggests a view of the residents' participation in environmental projects as a form of "alienated labour" in a Marxian way. According to Cepek (2011: 509), the Marxian approach fits closer to the ways in which the participants in conservation projects view the projects as an exogenous logic of which the usefulness may be debated. Hence, conservation projects do not produce the "environmental subjectivities" whom Agrawal (2005) talks about as people who are morally converted to conservationism. However, my experiences with residents at the W park is such that a strict Marxian approach still does not fully represent the agency that local conservationists have in conservation projects, nor does it show the ambiguity with which conservation projects are perceived and produced, both as exogenous and endogenous efforts. Therefore, "an immersed and open-minded ethnography" which starts from the lived experience of the residents themselves and opens up the Marxian analysis as presented in this analysis-"is essential to any investigation of contexts of cultural difference and intercultural encounter" (Cepek 2011: 512).

Sodikoff (2009) pointed out that local-level conservationists are pushed into a position of low-wage labourers, because the international conservation labour process looks for low-wage labourers in the developing countries in order to create biodiversity value in the developed countries. The low wages maintain one ambiguous feature of conservation, namely that local conservationists are forced both to implement conservation and to continue nature destructive practices, because they are not rewarded enough for their jobs (Sodikoff 2009). My analysis of the rangers' livelihoods adds to this by showing the multiplicity of conservation's ambiguity. It demonstrates that the local conservationists are not only low-wage labourers on a more global level, but also high-wage labourers with many opportunities in their local, rural settings. Their socio-economic position is thus quite ambiguous. Local conservationists themselves certainly feed these ambiguities of conservation, as it is in their own and other people's interest to stay within ambiguous positions. For instance, it is thanks to the rangers' ambiguous positions, both as a villager with an insider's knowledge and as a state representative/outsider who invokes fear, that rangers are able to ensure the arrests of environmental offenders and hence feed their own pockets (as well as the national cash desk and the foresters' wallets, which is a condition to further implement conservation policies).

Hence, it is exactly the described ambiguity inherent to conservation labour that makes conservation work in practice. At the W park, there has never been as much opposition or resistance, for instance, as in the Indian case described by Agrawal (2005), where villagers burnt forests to oppose the British colonial conservation regime. That lack of opposition is certainly due to the historical dependency on local auxiliaries at the core of state administration in the whole of French West Africa (see for e.g., Blundo 2006; Poppe 2010)-a form of indirect rule, although French colonial rule was known to be one of direct rule (Bayart 1993; Mamdani 1995)-which has made conservation much more embedded in the local setting. One could thus say that the ambiguity of conservation is (re)produced and strengthened by the colonial legacy of indirect rule and that the ambiguity negotiated by local conservationists continues to reverberate with legacies of indirect rule. Local conservation labourers make conservation livable as not solely a repressive practice, but also one that generates revenue and access to resources. Without them, conservation practices would be contested much more, as the ambiguity of local conservation labourers provides the feeling to residents that they are able to resist when necessary, which is less the case than with official public servants. It is the lack of ambiguity on the basis of a hunter's and insider's identity that causes people to reject foresters as outsiders, while the rangers are somehow marginalised but also indispensable for society because of their hunters' and insiders' identities. The ambiguity of rangers is thus necessary to be accepted in society and hence to make the rangers' public authority-which is set in motion by fear and awe at the same time-compelling (Hagberg 2006: 45). In general, these findings affirm the idea of community-based conservation that rural residents need to be involved in the management of natural resources as much as possible.

The community-based conservation approaches, however, do not only have to aim at involving residents in the conservation projects for the success of these projects, but also need to improve the residents' well being. In this way, local-level conservationists, such as the rangers, need to be rewarded in a more secure way and need to be able to operate in legality. The Burkinabe rangers themselves have been asking lately to be paid a stable salary instead of getting occasional fees, and to be recognised by preference as a public servant, or at least to have legal proof of their jobs in the form of a kind of professional card. This is without success until now. However, the state apparatus does not meet their demands, partly out of fear that the rangers would not ensure the conservation practice any longer. When rangers get a more secure position, residents may perceive them just like the foresters, as elite people and outsiders who prey, and hence, conservation projects might engender more protest. As such, community-based conservation projects are in its core ambiguous, and the ambiguity of the rangers' positions merely articulates the fundamental contradictions of contemporary global discourse on "community participation" and "participatory resource management".

   Acknowledgements Top

I am grateful to the VLIR-UOS (Vlaamse Interuniversitaire Raad - University Development Cooperation) for funding my research. Moreover, I owe gratitude to the researchers of both the research institutions where this research is being carried out for introducing me simultaneously to more actor-oriented approaches of anthropology of development and more phenomenological approaches towards ethnography. Special thanks go to Sten Hagberg and Ann Cassiman. This article has benefited a lot from the external reviews organised by the journal, and I certainly wish to thank the three reviewers as well as the subject editor for the meticulous reading and the interesting suggestions for my future research path. I also sincerely thank Sean O'Dubhghaill and Conservation and Society.


  1. WAP stands for the combination of the W park, the Arly park (Burkina Faso), and the Pendjari park (Benin).
  2. See Article 3, Decree n°2001-041/MEE/CAB of 27 October 2001 on the modification, attributions, and operations of wildlife conservation units (UCF) in Burkina Faso.
  3. Gulmanceba is a synonym for the French term Gourmantché, which is more commonly used in literature. However, I prefer to use terms that people use themselves to refer to their group, while specifying their ethnic affiliation. Therefore, I use the term Gul(i)manceba, people of the Gulma, which is a Songhai word for the left river bank (the river Niger). Gulmanceba live in a region stretching over eastern Burkina Faso, northern Togo, northern Benin, and southwestern Niger (Somda et al. 1983).
  4. Fulbe is the plural for Pullo. In French literature, Fulbe are commonly called Peul, which is their Wolof denomination. In English literature, they are called Fulani, which is their Hausa name.
  5. Jerma are, in literature, commonly called Zarma or Zerma.
  6. The northern part of the Burkinabe periphery of the W park compares roughly to the territory of the departments Diapaga and Botou.
  7. Indicateurs are people who signal problems, such as poachers, in exchange for a reward or a favour. Anybody, and so not only rangers, may function as an indicateur. Generally, indicateurs are not publicly recruited by the foresters because the reporting should occur in secrecy in order to be successful. All foresters in this region stress the fact that the identity of their indicateurs is therefore protected, meaning that their names cannot be recorded or listed: "It is the forester himself who decides to work with an indicateur on his own initiative" (forester, Diapaga, 2008). Nevertheless, rangers who work for foresters more publically frequently serve as indicateurs too.
  8. Throughout the text, I use different verbs (denounce, signal, and report) as synonyms for what an indicateur does.
  9. In Gulmancema, the suffix -be or -ba bears in plural form in reference to people. For instance, Gulmanceba are the Gulmance people. Also in Fulfulde, -be signifies children or persons.
  10. Decree n° 244/MF/MET (1985) detailing the conditions under which a person may function as an occasional ranger and what his tasks are.
  11. Similarly, Blundo (2006: 812) writes on civilians who function as the eyes of the customs officers in Senegal.
  12. Chapter 6 of Decree n° 096-061 PRES/PM/MEE/MEF/MATS/MICA/MTT of March 11, 1996 on the regulation of wildlife exploitation in Burkina Faso.
  13. I have seen many receipts of fines of half a million and some of about one million francs for illegal grazing in the park. On one receipt, the fine of a Fulbe herder amounted to FCFA 1,885,000 (EUR 2,847). In some cases, the amount mentioned on the receipt was even less than what was paid in practice.
  14. According to a 2004 report of the German-Burkinabe Development Cooperation, 60% of the total agricultural production in the central and southern periphery of W park is cotton, while 40% is cereal (Boirard et al. 2004). According to a monograph of the Urban Municipality of Diapaga, the selling value of cotton in the municipality of Diapaga exceeded FCFA 580 million (about EUR 884,146) in 2005 (Sanou 2006: 44). Toé and Dulieu (2007: 77) estimate cotton production in eastern Burkina Faso to have delivered on average FCFA 115,000 (EUR 175) per producer in the year 2004, a sum that makes up the principal source of revenue for the rural population at the periphery of W park.
  15. Masculinity is expressed differently among the Fulbe; however, conservation occupations exclude Fulbe for different reasons which are beyond the scope of this article, but explored in my dissertation (Poppe Forthcoming).
  16. As in many societies in West Africa, the notion of bush is not restricted to the place where natural resources and free land are abundant. Rather, it refers also to the "dangerous" sphere, the place where it is impossible to live because of invisible creatures, in contrast to the village as a secure and safe place of social relations and where life is regenerated (Cassiman 2006: 93). Cartry (1979), for instance, explains how the bush is not a geographical territory for the Gulmanceba but a moving space of the unknown, or the dangerous, which penetrates the village during the night or at noon. Both when it is dark, and when it is very hot, residents prefer to stay at home, for it is said that at that time the bush spirits, who may harm a person or his family, start to wander around.
  17. Moose (sing. Moaga) are in literature commonly called Mossi, a French corruption of their designation for themselves. Moose are the dominant ethnic group of Burkina Faso, living by majority on the Central Plateau of Burkina Faso where the capital is situated. As such, they have been engaged in state administration during the colonial occupation, much more than other ethnic groups.[46]

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  [Table 1], [Table 2]

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1 The Power of the Uniform: Paramilitary Foresters and Rangers at the W Park, Burkina Faso
Julie Poppe
Sociologus. 2013; 63(1-2): 11
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