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2006| April-June | Volume 4 | Issue 2
June 26, 2009
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Forests and Thorns: Conditions of Change Affecting Mahafale Pastoralists in Southwestern Madagascar
Jeffrey C Kaufmann, Sylvestre Tsirahamba
April-June 2006, 4(2):231-261
Through two case studies of Mahafale pastoralists living along the Linta River in the spiny forest ecoregion of southwestern Madagascar, the paper explores the human impact on forest cover. While the environmental history of spiny forests along the Linta River indicates anthropogenic changes to forest cover, it also confirms out that forests have long been part of Mahafale landscapes. Thorns and spiny forests have not been inconveniences but preferences, and as much a part of their pastoralist strategies as grass. Two factors affecting forest cover are examined in detail, highlighting both external and internal processes. The first involves the increased sedentarisation of transhumant pastoralists who have integrated the prickly pear cactus into their landscape for use as cattle fodder and as human food. The second concerns the recent displacement of mobile pastoralists by immigrant farmers who made clearings in a large forest held intact by pastoralists as a reserve for livestock during times of stress. In an attempt to understand the complex processes of environmental change along the Linta River we focus our study on flexibility and on accenting a nature-culture mosaic that is largely determined by both ecological and social pressures.
Mixed Results: Conservation of the Marine Turtle and the Red-Tailed Tropicbird by Vezo Semi-Nomadic Fishers
April-June 2006, 4(2):262-286
The operating factors surrounding the preservation of marine turtles (the green turtle, Chelonia mydas) and the red-tailed tropicbird (Phaethon rubricauda) at the same location in southwestern Madagascar reveal the process of nature heritage preservation as it is organised by political lineages, arranged by the Malagasy concept of tompontany (masters or guardians of the land), and managed by the descendants of the Sara clan among the Vezo ethnic group. Official attempts to protect marine turtles date back to 1923 when six small islands distributed all around the coast of Madagascar were designated as reserves. These attempts have included the ratification of international conventions in 1975 and 1988. Yet the preservation of the turtle remains uncertain. The red-tailed tropicbird, on the other hand, first observed only twenty-five years ago in the Toliara region, has garnered enormous attention and support from the villagers and members of a local grassroots conservation association. Whether local populations support and adhere to environmental policies or have consideration for growth in tourism and scientific knowledge depends on economic, social, and religious factors. It also depends on the power structure built around the exploitation of certain species.
Swidden Agriculture and Conservation in Eastern Madagascar: Stakeholder Perspectives and Cultural Belief Systems
Douglas William Hume
April-June 2006, 4(2):287-303
This paper describes and discusses several stakeholders' perspectives of agricultural change in eastern Madagascar. The historic and current government-sponsored attempts to facilitate the end of swidden agriculture in eastern Madagascar have largely failed due to particular cultural beliefs held by the rural farmers. The Malagasy government is implementing several agricultural and social policies designed to promote biodiversity conservation and increase crop yields to meet the increased needs of the rising human population. One key aspect of planned agricultural change ignored by the Malagasy government is the impact this change will have on the rural farmers' belief system connected with their traditional agriculture, tavy (swidden agriculture as termed and practised by the Malagasy). As the current plan of the Malagasy government stands, only the political, agricultural, ecological, and economic problems of the agricultural change are part of policymaking. In addition to perspectives from government-sponsored programmes, economic and cultural viewpoints from local rice sellers and rural farmers are presented.
Forest Cover, Condition, and Ecology in Human-Impacted Forests, South-Eastern Madagascar
Jane C Ingram, Terence P Dawson
April-June 2006, 4(2):194-230
The littoral forests of south-eastern Madagascar are a national conservation priority due to high degrees of biodiversity, but face pressures from regular human use and a future mining operation. A landscape scale assessment of deforestation patterns, forest condition and composition of remaining forest stands is important for understanding the nature and distribution of human pressures and could act to inform land use management and identify conservation priorities throughout the area. In light of these issues, the aims of this study were threefold: to document patterns of littoral forest loss at multiple spatial and temporal scales; to map littoral forest structure across the landscape; and to assess the abundance and diversity of littoral forest tree species valuable to both humans and conservationists. The methods applied include satellite remote sensing applications and groundbased ecological surveys. We demonstrate three results: first, patterns of forest loss are spatially and temporally variable; second, forest basal area, an indicator of forest condition, can be estimated using multi-spectral satellite data, artificial neural networks and ground survey data; and third, littoral forests possess high abundance and diversity of tree populations of importance for both conservation and human livelihoods, despite regular use by local people. A landscape perspective, combined with an understanding of the local human and environmental context, is crucial for understanding the nature and impact of human pressures on forest resources, and, thus, determining optimal management possibilities.
Situating Conserving Communities in their Place: Political Economy of Kullu
Sudha Vasan, Sanjay Kumar
April-June 2006, 4(2):325-346
The contemporary dynamics of two neighbouring Kullu devban (sacred groves) are analysed in this article. One of these devban is a model of community conservation based on indigenous belief system and management practices. The other suffered the opposite fate and was harvested in the last decade. While this latter devban is a challenge to simple models that view sacred groves as archetypical institutions of community conservation, the presence of the former shows that straightforward critiques of community-based conservation present only a partial picture. An ethnographic study of two devban reveals that while the immediate decisions regarding a devban are taken locally, the key influences determining their changing and diverse fate emanate from spheres of property regimes, state policy and an environmental discourse that originate beyond the local community. The pre-colonial communal property of Kullu devta's was transformed into private property in colonial records. The environmentalist turn in state, donor agency and NGO policies and discourse, and recent institutions of self governance and resource management that attempt to recreate community play an important role in devban dynamics. While the micro-political analysis of devban reveals fault-lines in the world of social actors whose actions directly impinge on devban¸ an understanding of current trends influencing them requires a macro-political economic perspective. The political economy of Kullu devban is complex, dynamic and under-determined, and due to all these characters it permits diverse outcomes on the ground.
Revisiting the Politics of Ecology and Identity
April-June 2006, 4(2):347-350
Of Personality, Ideology and Science in Tiger Conservation
MD Madhusudan, Pavithra Sankaran
April-June 2006, 4(2):350-353
The Kuhls of Kangra: Community-Managed Irrigation in the Western Himalaya
Ganesh P Shivakoti
April-June 2006, 4(2):353-355
Real and Imagined Landscapes: Land Use and Conservation in the Menabe
April-June 2006, 4(2):304-324
Despite conservation efforts, the remaining dry deciduous forests in the Menabe region of western Madagascar are severely threatened by deforestation. In order to examine the economic and socio-cultural factors underlying this problem, this paper uses a landscape approach. The local definitions for types of land, as well as different modes of land use, ownership and economic participation inherent in these definitions are examined. The traditional uses associated with each of these categories highlight important aspects of Sakalava culture, and economic and social structures of rural Menabe. The traditional and modern conceptions of the landscape contrast so starkly, that the local people and those tasked with promoting conservation are functioning as in two different realities. This disjunction has serious ramifications for conservation. Diverse local groups with different ideas about the landscape, and modern influences that run counter to conservation, further complicate the picture of deforestation. In order to be effective, conservation organisations should study the landscapes with their inherent complexities of local culture and economics.
The Sad Opaqueness of the Environmental Crisis in Madagascar
Jeffrey C Kaufmann
April-June 2006, 4(2):179-193
The deteriorating state of Madagascar's environments, constitutes an enigma that has so far proved insoluble. The island nation has turned to dissolving local land rights in nationalised parkland by turning to the Yellowstone conservation paradigm of instituting more exclusionary land from which local people are removed and excluded. The environmental crisis to which these measures respond are real and worrisome. Anthropologists involved in conservation have limited their involvement in the greening of Madagascar to their specialisations or sub disciplines. This has led to a muddled anthropology of conservation in which one side cancels out the other or, more often, the conservation core or elite peripheralises the side critical of conservation projects. I argue that anthropologists would be more effective if they sought a middle ground and conducted team fieldwork. The six papers in this special section investigate the theoretical middle ground, paving the way for future explorations of the methodological turn to work side by side and pooling our subdisciplinary training to resolve the environmental crisis by keeping people in the environment.
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