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First the forest: conservation, 'community' and 'participation' in South West Cameroon

Sharpe, B; (1998) First the forest: conservation, 'community' and 'participation' in South West Cameroon. Africa , 68 (1) 25 - 45. 10.2307/1161146. Green open access

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Western concern with ‘conserving’ or ‘managing’ the rain forests of Africa has led to the setting up of a number of conservation projects. In such projects the ‘participation’ of the ‘community’ in forest conservation has become the new orthodoxy. However, proposals about local people's participation presume that defining the future of the forest is a straight contest between the alternatives of conservation or forest clearing. Such proposals also presume that the existence of communities is non-problematic. In contrast, this article documents that there is already considerable local debate about forest use and conservation, much of it among those excluded from the formal arena of politics and policy-making. Concern with ‘the environment’ includes concern about the perpetuation of society, and represents a clear continuation of West African village cosmologies focused on the societalisation of space. At the same time, conservation aims of ‘keeping the forest as it is’ have few resonances, since forest people see society itself as an artful, but often problematic, construction in which the conversion of the forest plays a central part. In conclusion, the article suggests that the key to environmental management must be for external agencies to articulate with the interests and values of those who hold a legitimate stake in African forest resources.

Title:First the forest: conservation, 'community' and 'participation' in South West Cameroon
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version:http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1161146
Additional information:Copyright © International African Institute 1998
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Anthropology

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