P210 – Contested Landscapes: Appropriation, Transformation and Exploitation of “Nature” in Africa
8 July, 16:00 – 17:30

Blanchon David / Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense
Mueller-Mahn Detlef / Universität Bonn


Natural resources, land and water in Africa are increasingly becoming objects of foreign investment and the interests of national elites. At the same time, new policies propagate adaptation to climate change, the greening of economies, and an intensification of agricultural production. This leads to a commodification of natural resources that relies on global environmental governance tools, such as payment for ecological services. These trends produce new forms of conflicts and confrontations between social groups, but also create new forms of activism that intersect with social, generational and gender statuses that we want to investigate in this panel.

Paysages contestées: Appropriation, transformation et valorisation de la «Nature» en Afrique
Les ressources naturelles, la terre et l’eau attirent de plus en plus d’investissements de la part des étrangers ou des élites nationales. Dans le même temps, de nouvelles politiques publiques encouragent l’adaptation au changement climatique, la conversion à une économie « verte » et à l’intensification de la production agricole. Cela se traduit par une marchandisation généralisée des ressources naturelles qui s’appuie sur des nouveaux outils de gouvernance environnementale comme les paiements pour les services écologiques. L’objet de ce panel est l’étude des nouvelles formes de conflits et de confrontations que ces évolutions produisent, ainsi que les nouvelles formes d’activisme qui mobilisent des acteurs quel que soit leur sexe, leur statut social ou leur âge.

Paper 1

Bukhi Mathew / Department of Geography, University of Zurich

Rethinking forestry sustainability in the neoliberal epoch: The need for political-economic perspectives in framing forestry policy in Tanzania

Success for forest sustainability requires a thorough understanding of the broader political-economic dimensions that shape deforestation practices and forest policy. A discourse analysis of policy documents and scientific papers from Tanzania reveals that these dimensions have been overlooked in the literature related to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, commonly known as REDD+ mechanism. Instead, techno-managerial and apolitical narratives, which produce and reproduce accounts of blame towards adjacent forest communities, dominate the explanations and policy framing. The few studies that have produced alternative explanations and associated political narratives have failed to influence broader discussions about forestry policy. This paper argues that the neglect of political narratives threatens forest sustainability; also studies on impacts of REDD+ demonstrate that complex political-economic dimensions influence forestry in the country. This paper further shows how REDD+ is responsible for the appropriation of local people’s rights and access to resources, while undermining decentralisation practices, and marginalising local people in critical REDD+ processes and activities. The paper points out the need for further studies that combine political ecology with science and technology studies (STS) to advance the understanding regarding why and how such existing political-economic dimensions aren’t taken on board in framing forestry policy.

Paper 2

Böllig Michael / University of Cologne

Africa’s Contested Landscapes of Conservation: Surveillance, Securitization and Social-Ecological Change

In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa “fortress” conservation in the form of national parks and fenced-in game reserves is nowadays complemented and occasionally replaced by trans-national and multi-stakeholder models of conservation. Large trans-boundary parks emerged mainly in southern Africa during the past decade. The Kavango-Zambezi-Transfrontier Conservation area for example amalgamates protected areas and creates new ones in five countries and covers an area of 444.000km2. Wide rural areas in Namibia, Botswana but also in Kenya and Tanzania are nowadays organized as community based conservation areas. Throughout the continent such new forms of conservation go along with changing modes of surveillance and securitization and bring about both profound social-ecological change and new forms of contestations about nature. Both, transboundary conservation areas as well as community based natural resource management often come with the promise to contribute positively to the adaptation to the inevitable effects of climate change and hence pave Africa’s way into a sustainable future.
This contribution will compare experiences from Namibia, Botswana and Kenya and Tanzania. I intend to analyze the economic processes, emerging institutions and discourses and discuss new forms of conflict at the intersection of local community, state and global epistemic communities.

Paper 3

Rettberg Simone / Humboldt University Berlin

The contested commodification of nature in the Awash River basin

External interventions of natural resource management in pastoral areas of Ethiopia have often focused on the introduction of ‘new’ elements, be it exotic plant species, new techniques or new modes of production. All of these ‘innovative’ interventions are the outcome of decisions made in offices of governmental administrations or of Non Governmental Organizations which are based on a certain causal problem understanding of the crisis among pastoralists and a certain vision of development. This paper sets out to ask to what extent these understandings and normative visions for future development are shared by local pastoralists in arid areas of lowland Ethiopia in order to analyze the way how pastoralists in these frontier areas appropriate development interventions in ways that are very often detrimental to the intentions of external development organizations. It will be argued that the current trend of increasing charcoal production in the Afar Region of Ethiopia can be understood as a practice of territorialization and commodification from below with ambivalent effects for local livelihoods as well as a local strategy to deal with failed NRM interventions.

Paper 4

La Rocco Annette / University of Cambridge

The Politics of Nature: Conservation as State Building Postcolonial Botswana

Beginning in January 2014 Botswana enacted an indefinite, nation-wide ban on hunting. This transition from a consumptive-use model of wildlife conservation to non-consumptive preservation indicates a significant shift in Botswana’s long-term conservation and land use strategies, and brings into focus the ways in which the creation and maintenance of the conservation estate can function as a process of postcolonial state building.
This paper examines conservation policies and practices such as the comprehensive hunting ban as a lens through which to interrogate the political relationship between citizens and the State in Botswana. This approach examines conservation not as a technical, scientific or apolitical process but as one that is inextricably connected to processes of state building and state formation.
This paper draws on ten months of empirical fieldwork in Botswana between August 2013 and September 2014. It speaks to the larger role of conservation as a state-building strategy in contemporary Botswana, wherein the strategic use of conservation space and institutions can promote particular land uses, lifestyles, and identities among rural citizens, as well as contribute significantly to State economies, territorial integrity, and coercive power. The social-ecological arrangements manifest in the enactment of “conservation” are demonstrative of larger political dynamics regarding State authority, notions of citizenship, and territorial control in Botswana.

Paper 5

Torretti Charlotte / LAM – Sciences Po Bordeaux

L’aménagement des zones humides en Ouganda : construction de nouveaux territoires locaux par des enjeux nationaux

En Ouganda, les zones humides composent 13% environ du territoire national. Historiquement mis en valeur selon des pratiques communautaires et extensives, certains marais se sont vus transformés sous l’impulsion de politiques d’aménagement depuis les années 1970. Des systèmes d’irrigation ont vu le jour au sein de sociétés non hydrauliques, et ont introduit de nouvelles cultures – dont principalement le riz. Cette dynamique est toujours actuelle, avec la réhabilitation de plusieurs systèmes.
La transformation de ces paysages, dictée par des intérêts extérieurs à ceux-ci, montre une réappropriation de ces territoires par les hommes. Ils deviennent objet de convoitise à la fois local, par l’individualisation de l’accès à la terre et une nouvelle forme d’exploitation des ressources naturelles, et national, par les enjeux politiques qu’ils portent dans le cadre d’un État en reconstruction.

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