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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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   Table of Contents - Current issue
October-December 2021
Volume 19 | Issue 4
Page Nos. 205-308

Online since Wednesday, November 10, 2021

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Making Decentralisation Work: A Comparative Ethnographic Analysis of Forest Conservation and Village Governance in West Bengal, India p. 205
Sumana Datta
The literature on forest conservation lacks comparative analyses of decentralisation across different sectors to understand their relative advantages and limitations. This article adopts an ethnographic approach to compare the functioning of two decentralised village-level institutions in the state of West Bengal, India: the forest protection committees created under joint forest management and the gram panchayat, the lowest tier of the panchayati raj institution. The comparative analysis shows that despite their decentralised structure, the village forest protection committees have very little discretionary power relative to the powers exercised by gram panchayats. Gram panchayats have been effective in developing an inclusive and transparent decentralised governance system which retains the support of diverse interest groups within communities and other layers of the state. The study shows that style of decentralisation under joint forest management in West Bengal has been alienating forest-based communities from conservation because their voices remain symbolic in local, state, and national-level policy decisions. The study provides new theoretical and methodological insights for analysing decentralisation by underscoring the importance of criteria such as discretionary power for local decision-making and accountability; local bureaucratic and infrastructure support; and designated physical space in the everyday working of decentralised governance at the village level.
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Assessment of Pest Control Services by Vertebrates in Nigerian Subsistence Maize Farms p. 218
Murna Tela, Will Cresswell, Hazel Chapman
Global conversion of patches of natural vegetation into agricultural land is reducing the ecosystem services provided by natural patches dwelling species to farmers. For sub-Saharan African subsistence farmers, such a reduction in pest control services by birds may be a significant disadvantage. Here we explored to what extent birds provide pest control services to the staple crop maize (Zea mays) on small subsistence farms on the Mambilla Plateau of Taraba State, Nigeria. We used exclosure experiments (maize crops with and without birds) to model how birds influenced crop yield. We found that excluding birds from maize significantly reduces crop yield, although the lack of a direct correlation between bird abundance and crop yield suggests that other taxa, such as bats, may also be important pest predators. Our results suggest that in this subsistence farming landscape, natural pest control of maize from vertebrates does occur, but further research is needed to understand the specific control agents and the role of patches of natural vegetation as habitat for them.
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Science-based Stakeholder Dialogue for Environmental Policy Implementation p. 225
Alice Dantas Brites, Kaline de Mello, Paulo André Tavares, Jean Paul Metzger, Ricardo Ribeiro Rodrigues, Paulo Guilherme Molin, Luís Fernando Guedes Pinto, Carlos Alfredo Joly, João Francisco Adrien Fernandes, Frederico Soares Machado, Eduardo Trani, Gerd Sparovek
Science-based stakeholder dialogue is a strategy to bring science closer to decision-making with increasing importance for the design of environmental policies. The need for such an approximation has been stressed, but documented implementations are rare. We present our experience of developing a science-based dialogue for the Brazilian Forest Code implementation and share the lessons learned. We departed from a mix of participatory methods to conduct six meetings with stakeholders. During the process, we were able to reduce the gap between science and practice, meeting stakeholders' expectations and increasing the accessibility of scientific information. Avoiding falling back to top-down science and keeping stakeholders' participation constancy were challenges faced. Despite the project achievements, important scientific outcomes were disregarded by higher instances of decision-making. Thus, although we were able to start the dialogue successfully, we also come across the fact that external political factors impaired its reach. By reporting our experience, we expect to help to establish science-based dialogues applied to environmental policy implementation, narrowing the science-practice gap and contributing to more effective environmental policies.
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Everyday Forest Rights: Claiming Territories and Pastoral Livelihoods in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, India p. 236
Pierre-Alexandre Paquet, Elizabeth Kuroyedov
This article explores the multiple processes of maintaining access and asserting user rights to forest space among the Van Gujjar pastoralists in North India. In particular, the Forest Rights Act of 2006 (FRA) has created an opportunity for forest dwellers across India to seek legal means to forest rights. Conducting ethnographic fieldwork, organising workshops on forest rights, and mapping traditional territories among the Van Gujjars, we observed that complex cultural performances are necessary for the Van Gujjars to claim access to forest areas and resources—legal or otherwise. These performances include, but are not limited to, litigation, supporting emergent leaders, and caring for cattle and kin under constant threats of evictions. Drawing on recent scholarship on the everyday formation of territorial governments, we examine how communities maintain, contest, or reinvent cultural practices and governance in the context of their struggles for access inscribed as forest rights. In contrasting cases among two groups of Van Gujjars seeking rights to forest spaces in the two neighbouring states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, we shed light on the repercussions that formally or informally engaging the FRA can have for communities of forest dwellers. Based on ethnographic research completed between 2012 and 2019, we find that 1) the Van Gujjar territorial governments carrying on these claims are more diverse than the law recognises, and that 2) not all communities see it worthy to organise a territorial government claiming formal rights under the FRA. Fundamentally, we discern that more immediate threats to Van Gujjar livelihoods result in a greater shift in their cultural practices towards organising a territorial government seeking forest rights through the FRA.
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Parks and People: Expropriation of Nature and Multispecies Alienation in Nthongoni, Eastern Kenya p. 248
Mwangi Danson Kareri
This article uses Marx's concept of alienation in theorising the everyday estrangement encountered by people living in areas adjoining Tsavo and Chyulu Hills National Parks, in eastern Kenya. It focuses on how colonial and post-colonial conservation initiatives served to expropriate and alienate people from indigenous land that once provided livelihoods and lifeways that were central to people's spiritual wellbeing. Ethnographic fieldwork shows that those living at the edge of the parks and of their subsistence strategies, endeavoured to reconstitute their lives and eke out a living, but conservationists saw most activities as incompatible with conservation, and branded the residents aberrant and lawless. This heightened conflict between residents and wildlife, and between residents and wildlife managers, increasingly making the residents feel like aliens in their own land. The context allows us to see alienation not just as proletarianisation, but as a process through which people are estranged from their land, cultural heritage and the socioeconomic gains that parks produce, and subsequently from their own humanity. This alienation includes non-human beings and should be considered a more-than-human process.
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Conservation and Care among the Cofán in the Ecuadorian Amazon p. 259
Michael S Esbach, Flora Lu, Felipe Borman Quenama
Accelerating deforestation and ecological degradation, linked to political and economic policies and agendas that endanger the health, well-being, and cultural survival of Indigenous people, present dire threats to the Amazonian biome and its inhabitants. Confronting these challenges necessitates a unified response by local and global partners. However, some conservationists, predominantly from the Global North, have perpetuated problematic, essentialised framings of Indigenous communities, which have even led them to advocate for punitive protectionist policies that we argue are morally and conceptually flawed. Western scientific and popular discourse often presents nature conservation via protected areas as a universal good. In this article, we argue for a more pluralistic approach; one that calls for an equitable footing between Indigenous knowledge and sustainability science. We examine a case study of the Cofán community of Zábalo in the Ecuadorian Amazon, where collective efforts to tsampima coiraye (care for the forest) have resulted in dynamic institutions adapted to diverse challenges and opportunities. Tsampima coiraye exemplifies a form of caretaking that is distinct from and complementary to Western conservation, one that provides important insights into understanding the context and meanings through which community governance fosters stewardship. We draw upon longitudinal ethnographic fieldwork and the Cofán concept of puifama atesuye (Two-World Knowledge) to describe collective action, community governance, and caretaking.
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Doing Chowkidaari: Vulnerability in Village-Forest Relations and the Compulsion of Forest Work p. 271
Adam Runacres
This article explores the conditions and perceptions of daily wage work provided by the Forest Department around Panna Tiger Reserve in Central India. Drawing on 15 months of ethnographic fieldwork, it analyses the conditions of forest work within this context of livelihood prohibitions, the broader political economy of precarious labour, and village-forest relations in Panna district. Through different case studies, the article unpacks the dynamics of familiarity, negotiation and exploitation that characterise forest work, utilising forest workers' own description of their work to comment on how a confluence of vulnerable conditions compel local people to take up the precarious daily wage work offered by the Forest Department. The workers' descriptions also offer the concept of 'compulsion' as an important addition to interdisciplinary discussions about 'vulnerability.' I argue that forest workers are a missed opportunity for good relations between conservation projects and local communities, as actors who regularly manage the simultaneous demands of their village communities, and Forest Departments and navigate the complexity and nuance of the relationships between and within both. Rather than examples of conservation benefits for local communities, the poor conditions and insecurities of forest work lead to decreased support for conservation and worsen the reputation of the Forest Department in areas where gainful employment is desperately needed.
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Territorialising Conservation: Community-based Approaches in Kenya and Namibia p. 282
Linus Kalvelage, Michael Bollig, Elke Grawert, Carolin Hulke, Maximilian Meyer, Kennedy Mkutu, Marie Müller-Koné, Javier Revilla Diez
Community-based Conservation seeks to strike a balance between nature conservation and economic growth by establishing spatial and institutional settings that maintain and even regain biodiversity while simultaneously allowing for sustainable land use. The implementation of community-based conservation blueprints on communal, often agronomically marginal lands, is in many southern and eastern African countries encouraged by the national government. Despite vast academic literature on community-based conservation, it remains unclear how this re-shaping of resource governance has driven territorialisation in rural areas. To address this gap, this article compares the implementation of community-based conservation in Northern Kenya and Northern Namibia. By doing so, we intend to shed light on the question 'why does community-based conservation result in different forms of territorialisation negotiated between state agencies, non-governmental organisations and rural communities? We demonstrate how historical preconditions, contemporary project design, and the commodification of natural resources shape territorialisation in both cases in different ways. In Kenya, concerns for securitisation have been driving community-based conservation, while in Namibia it primarily aimed to benefit the previously disadvantaged rural residents. Furthermore, in both regions community-based conservation programmes serve as vehicles to articulate political claims, either to reify traditional authorities, to create ethnically homogenous territories or to define boundaries of resource use.
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Poverty, Pandemics, and Wildlife Crime p. 294
Michelle Anagnostou, William D Moreto, Charlie J Gardner, Brent Doberstein
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a global recession and mass unemployment. Through reductions in trade and international tourism, the pandemic has particularly affected rural economies of tropical low- and middle-income countries where biodiversity is concentrated. As this adversity is exacerbating poverty in these regions, it is important to examine the relationship between poverty and wildlife crime in order to better anticipate and respond to the impact of the pandemic on biodiversity. To that end, we explore the relationship between poverty and wildlife crime, and its relevance in the context of a global pandemic. We examine literature from conservation, criminology, criminal justice, and social psychology to piece together how the various dimensions of poverty relate directly and indirectly to general criminal offending and the challenges this poses to conservation. We provide a theoretical framework and a road map for understanding how poverty alleviation relates to reduced wildlife crime through improved economic, human, socio-cultural, political, and protective capabilities. We also discuss the implications of this research for policy in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. We conclude that multidimensional poverty and wildlife crime are intricately linked, and that initiatives to enhance each of the five dimensions can reduce the poverty-related risks of wildlife crime.
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River restoration in the time of climate change: challenges and opportunities in the Columbia River Basin p. 307
Coleen A Fox
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