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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 368-379

Tree Symbolism and Conservation in the South Pare Mountains, Tanzania

Senior Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, Goldsmiths, University of London, London, UK

Correspondence Address:
Pauline von Hellermann
Senior Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, Goldsmiths, University of London, London
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.197615

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This paper explores the trees that shape the Pare landscape in Tanzania, and the multiple meanings attached to them by local people. Three main groups of 'symbolic' trees are identified. First, indigenous trees that constitute hundreds of sacred groves dotted across the landscape symbolising communal identity, history, and belonging. Second, fast growing exotic species such as eucalyptus and grevillea, planted in a series of colonial and postcolonial initiatives, symbolising not only progress, modern land management and environmental improvement, but also wealth and landownership. Finally, (largely exotic) fruit trees and (largely indigenous) trees used for fertilisiling farms, signifying good homes and farms. The paper describes how these three types of tree symbolism embody different ways of relating to place and conservation practices, and discusses the insights a pluralistic understanding of such symbolism offers for conservation policy in this region.

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