Panel 12: Conservation Territories

Christian Pilegaard Hansen, University of Copenhagen, (chair)

Abstract: Limits to governance? Struggles over land and forest conservation in the Gold Coast, 1889-1927

This paper examines attempts at governance in the form of forest conservation in the Gold Coast Colony between 1889 and 1927. The paper draws on Foucault’s work on governmentality and subsequent scholarly work, notably the work of Tania Li on “the will to improve”.  It further draws on works on processes of contestation/resistance and access. The paper examines what problems informed ideas of forest conservation and through what strategies and technologies governance interventions were considered. But it does not stop here, but also investigates what happened, and why, when these ideas and technologies met the nature and people they were to regulate and improve. The paper builds on a rich empirical material collected through my own archival research in Ghana and the United Kingdom, in combination with a review of the literature. It demonstrates how colonial plans of forest conservation were based on fears of severe dessication as a result of deforestation and how the proposed technologies of government relied on a repertoire of instruments generally known under the label “scientific forestry”.  I demonstrate the huge gap which developed between what was intended and what was actually achieved. The plans were strongly contested by an alliance of chiefs and the educated, indigenous elite for more than three decades and I show how the alliance benefitted from the opposition. In 1927, the colonial government after numerous attempts of reassembling was able to push through legislation that enabled forest conservation. I explain how and why. The paper hopes to make a contribution in two ways. First, in relation to theory, the developed analytical framework, the use of which is demonstrated in an empirical case, is generally applicable. Second, for practice and development, the paper contributes to contemporary discussions on forest conservation and dispossession, in Ghana and beyond. 

Beyisa Bedane, KU Leuven,

Abstract: Asymmetric Power Relations on The Frontiers of The State: Resistance to a Hunting Ban in Nechisar National Park of Southern Ethiopia

This paper concerns the ethnographic analysis of asymmetrical power relations created between actors holding competing views about nature conservation and preservation of cultural values in one of the highly conflict-affected protected areas in Ethiopia. The rhetoric of wilderness and the policies it implies were exported to Ethiopia to create protected areas in the 1960s. Since then, though resisted, it has been strengthened through conditional funding and technical supports by conservation NGOs of the global north. Taking the case of a hunting ban introduced through the creation of Nechisar National Park in southern Ethiopia, it is found that the top-down formation of the park and imposed hunting prohibitions have resulted in altering local values, targeted attacks and elimination of protected animals such as the Swayne’s hartebeest which the park was created to protect. A historical ethnographic approach was adopted from 2016 to 2018 to collect data alongside archival analysis, in-depth individual and group interviews, case appraisals, and observations.

Clare Lewis, University of Copenhagen,

Abstract: Beyond protected areas: expanding the conservation estate

In the context of impending environmental crisis, conservationists are proposing increasing radical solutions to halt the decline of biodiversity and reduce habitat degradation. The threats facing biodiversity are multi-scalar in nature and transcend ecological and social boundaries. However, responses to these challenges remain centered on questions of how to manage space, rather than addressing the structural and social causes of environmental degradation. In particular, conservationists are increasingly advocating for ‘landscape approaches’ that integrate conservation objectives into the management of the wider ecological matrix. This is reflected in the recent inclusion of so-called ‘other effective conservation measures’ (OECMs) alongside protected areas in spatial conservation targets. Proponents argue that OECMs will broaden the scope of conservation and facilitate greater inclusion and recognition of non-state actors. In this paper, I argue that OECMs are a continuation of top-down approaches to conservation. Identifying an area as an OECM transforms the physical environment and the biodiversity within it into a global environmental resource, and facilitates the involvement of international actors in its governance. As such, identification of OECMs is not an apolitical exercise and it is significant who has legitimacy to define value in this process. Furthermore, establishing conservation value in a place has consequences for the subsequent control and use of land. I thus contend that OECMs represent a replay of old forms of territorialisation. Whilst the policy is still in its inception phase, previous processes of territorialisation make it possible to foresee the potential consequences of policy implementation. The demarcation of certain landscapes as sites of global conservation importance is likely to have material consequences, as attempts are made to translate technocratic maps and measurements into tools of governance.

Jakob Worsøe, University of Copenhagen,

Abstract: Banking on Community: Community-based Natural Resource Management and Rural Capitalism in Uganda

Since the early 1990s community-based natural resource management has been widely embraced by governments, donors, and non-governmental organizations, as a sustainable resource governance strategy for combined conservation and development objectives. This paper explores the social dynamic of ‘community’ in community-based natural resource management. For nearly three decades, a community-based organization has been hailed for its successful use of ecotourism to promote environmental conservation and rural development around Bigodi in western Uganda. In recent years, Bigodi has experienced conflicts culminating with the emergence of various new types of organizations and individual actors that are challenging the position of the original community-based organization and its claims to ‘the community’ and its resources. It is argued that the experience with community-based ecotourism in Bigodi has facilitated deeper penetration of capitalism and consequently has reconfigured the social relations within the so- called community. This suggests that community is a dynamic social group form that is subject to change resulting from communal governing of resources. Paradoxically, while the sense of community in Bigodi is being replaced by self- interest and individualism, the very notion about ‘community’ has turned into a concept for capital accumulation among many of the actors.