Thursday, August 21, 2003

Pan-Africa: interests of conservationists & indigenous people clash

Please read the entire article.

The human rights group, Forest People Programme, recently released a book chronicling the effects of the national park system on indigenous people in Africa. The book is called "From Principles to Practice" and is based on studies of nine conservation efforts (parks) in six central African countries.

Here is a bit from the article linked above.
"Conservationists feel that their job is to protect nature," says Dorothy Jackson, coordinator of the FPP's Africa programme. "There is a strong feeling that wildlife and people are not compatible. They do recognise the social aspect of their work but say it's unfair to put the onus on them. National legislation itself often ignores indigenous people's rights and conservationists argue that it is the state's job to define areas and protect people." Conservationists, who tend to have money and influence with governments, could push far harder to protect people, Jackson says.

One of the most worrying examples in Africa is in the Volcanoes national park in Rwanda, where the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, the International Gorilla Conservation programme, and a Rwandan government organisation work with leading international donations to conduct scientific research on gorillas and to promote ecotourism.

The national park, which was set up in 1924 and is now only a third of its original size, attracts thousands of westerners a year, each prepared to pay £160 for less than an hour with the gorillas. In 1974, the Ba'twa pygmy tribes of the area were evicted and forbidden to hunt, cut trees, quarry stone, introduce new plants or in any way threaten the animals or the ecosystem.

The majority now live in squalor on the edge of the park, without work or food, receiving nothing from the tourist revenues and no help from the conservation groups. "Their villages are covered in human waste," says Kalimba Zephyrin, the author of the Rwanda case study for the FPP. "They do not have plates, forks or beds. One dwelling of 2 sq metres may be shelter for five to eight people - the majority of whom are children and orphans either poorly dressed or even without clothes. Some 70% of the people live by begging and they are not even allowed into the park where they used to hunt [emphasis mine]."
Here is an earlier post about the history of national parks in Africa.