Title: Conservation, management and commodification of nature reserves in Burkina Faso: an anthropological approach of local and global perspectives and initiatives
Authors: Poppe, Julie #
Issue Date: Dec-2006
Conference: Day of the Young Researchers in African Studies, BVA-ABA location:Free University Brussels date:15-16 December 2006
Abstract: This research starts from the basic hypothesis that Western ideas and discourses on nature, environmental conservation and development are partially adopted by (West-) African societies, often first by local elite, but later on in a culture-specific and endogenous way. Fighting environmental degradation and especially desertification is now placed on top of the agenda by the Burkinabé government, as well as by the civil society of Burkina Faso and a range of donor institutions. At the same time, the particular modernity, created by Burkina people in relation to their environment, is reflected in the booming of local community-based initiatives concerning nature and environment, and in the use of the notion of écocitoyen, ‘eco-citizen’. Research on these new relationships between people and environment in West-Africa, is a must to guarantee the success of the current environment-development projects and programmes.
One pillar of the ‘received wisdom’ on environmental degradation is that Africa is in its ‘natural’ state an unpopulated wilderness, by which the population pressure and related overgrazing is destroying the environment. According to this dominant thinking, the demarcation and classification of nature reserves for conservation (mostly preservation) is put forward as the solution for environmental problems, whilst the ‘sustainable management’ of the natural resources is put forward as the solution for social and political problems around control over natural resources. In practice the environment-development projects, based on this thinking, still face serious problems although the use of participation methods and indigenous knowledge is recognized worldwide. This is mainly due to the lack of sensitivity for the culture-specific-being-in-the-world of the subject of development co-operation, and to the fact that the problems of environmental changes and the relations between local inhabitants and their environment is still seen from a Western point of view.
Sure is that the nature reserves of Burkina Faso reflect a ‘modern’ form of land use: the reserves were not only created and demarcated under influence of Western conservation and development thinking, but in a later stage, influenced by the same thinking, they were devoted to create an alternative income and economic development for the local population, the state and private companies with sustainable exploitation of the existing fauna and flora through tourism and cash-cropping. In recent decades ecotourism as well as cultural tourism in and around nature reserves in Africa is booming and local communities commodify their nature and material culture more intensively. This phenomenon is reflected in the eagerness with which the population now uses land and nature for commercial purposes and in their new initiatives on commodification and touristification of nature. Certainly, the commodification (also called objectification) of land and the environment is heavily intensified since the times of colonial rule, but the conditions of transnationalism, in which most people nowadays live, have created new and often contradictory cultural and economical values and meanings of objects. Therefore, in this research the processes of demarcation, conservation, domestication, commodification and touristification of nature will be researched from the local cultural logics with anthropological research methods.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Institute for Anthropological Research in Africa
# (joint) last author

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