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Conservation refugees are people, often indigenous, who are driven out of their traditional land when those are set aside for a national park or wildlife sanctuary. Many of these people, like the Great Lakes Twa, were already marginalized before the imposition of the nature preserve on their territory. When they are driven out, they find themselves culturally dislocated and often living on the margins of urban areas or new settlements where they have very few social or economic opportunities. They rarely have legal recourse to rectify their situation, as they find themselves confronted with powerful state and international conservation interests.
Many conservation refugees are placed in refugee camps.
Role of ENGOs (Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations)Edit
Environmental conservation is a highly debatable topic.
ENGOs receive funding from a variety of sources. Private foundations such as The Ford Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation once formed the bulk of the funds that support NGO conservation efforts. Funds from bilateral and multilateral sources (think USAID and World Bank) and corporations also support ENGOs (environmental non-governmental organization). It is the increase in corporate sponsorship that is raising eyebrows among those who see a conflict of interest between the ENGOs and the corporations that donate to them. Once beholden to the ethical rules and boundaries set by the private foundations that once constituted the majority of their funding, they have now become increasingly ethically negligent as a result of an increase in corporate funding.
In spite of the proclamations of participation with local communities that can be found on websites of the World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, and Conservation International, actions do speak louder than words. The universally applied model of conservation based on western science often clashes with indigenous knowledge of the environment. In most scenarios, the western conservationist is arrogant and dismissive towards indigenous conservation models because they are not based on western science, whereas indigenous knowledge is the result of generations of interactions with their environment.
The idea of separating man from nature forms the core of the conservation movement. In his article entitled "Conservation Refugees", Mark Dowie explains: "John Muir, a forefather of the American conservation movement, argued that 'wilderness' should be cleared of all inhabitants and set aside to satisfy the urbane human's need for recreation and spiritual renewal. It was a sentiment that became national policy with the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act, which defined wilderness as a place 'where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.' One should not be surprised to find hardy residues of these sentiments among traditional conservation groups. The preference for 'virgin' wilderness has lingered on in a movement that has tended to value all nature but human nature, and refused to recognize the positive wildness in human beings."
Dowie's words perfectly describe the problems that have emerged with the globalization of conservation. With the removal of indigenous communities from protected land, a symbiosis between the indigenous community and their environment is disrupted, resulting in a decrease in biodiversity. The refugees that were formerly living off the land are now prohibited from interacting with it. As a result of their expulsion, they are now extremely poor additions to the over populated areas surrounding the park (Igoe 2005). In many instances poaching increases, soil degradation occurs as new farmers take up agriculture for subsistence, and various other environmentally disastrous practices occur as a result of displacement. By ignoring the human factor, it is becoming ever clearer that the myopic approach of conservation that is taken by the large ENGOs is ineffective and counterproductive.
Preserving habitats or culturesEdit
For the Adivasi from India and the fact that in the spring of 2003 they were pushed out of their farmlands and relocated to extremely cramped villages in order to import six Asiatic lions. Through the efforts to conserve land NGOs like the WWF infringe on basic human rights that every person is entitled to which include: inhumane treatment of local residents, the stripping away of land, and discrimination just to name a few. Conservation refugees are often removed from their land for wildlife conservation and often when they are forced to move, they are placed in communities or villages which leave them vulnerable to poverty and starvation. They are not compensated for what was lost and have no assistance this becomes very overwhelming for them and they have a hard time adjusting to this new lifestyle.
In Green, Inc. by Christine MacDonald she quotes a tribal leader in saying that "white men" told them to leave their homes in the forest because the land was not protected, he also said that they were forced into another village (which was already occupied by another group) outside the forest and that they had "no choice, because they told them that they will be beaten and killed". Left without food, and land they wereforced to work on farms that the villagers before them had already established. This is the international nonprofit groups idea of "bringing the indigenous people the benefits of the modern world or to protect national economic interests such as tourism".
Eliminating culture and behaviorsEdit
The indigenous people that are forced out of their land also lose parts of their culture embedded in resources. Darrell Posey argued that indigenous knowledge could make a significant contribution to conservation. Posey also thought that "what looked natural might be cultural, and thus that indigenous people should be seen as models for conservation, rather than as opposed to it and thus denied land rights".
Many of the local residents of these conservation sites or national parks have cultural rituals and practices that are adapted to their local environment. Through these practices, they have been able to survive, and a culture has emerged from this. Conservation Refugees by Mark Dowie reports on one such case, the Batwa Pygmie from Africa. Having lived in conservation camps, under restrictions that limit centuries-old cultural practices, community member Kwokwo Barume observed that they themselves are dying out by saying "we are heading toward extinction". Some of these restrictions include: no cultivation, no hunting, no gathering, and sacred sites and burial grounds are off limits, all of these being essential to their daily lives. These limitations help lead the way toward the extinction of hunter-gather groups around the world to make way for new game reserves, and to help develop projects for ecotourism in which the national government gives land up easily for these projects and not for the local residents themselves.
When looking at Darrell Posey, who was a famous anthropologist and ethnobiologist and whose writings about the Kayapo Indians of the Amazon Forest influenced environmental policy in that traditional societies are now being viewed as helpers in conservation, and steps are being taken to help the reconstruction of these societies (Dove & Carpenter 2008:5). Posey often stated that Indigenous people were the only ones who truly knew the forests because they have inhabited them for centuries. What Posey also determined was that biodiversity was important for these indigenous people's lives through gardens, openings to the forest and rock outcropping, and that what is considered natural today may have been altered by the ancestors of these indigenous people and may not in fact just be naturally occurring all on its own as is thought. Posey's writings are helping to redefine conservation and what it means to these societies living on conservation sites. With the help of articles and books, the more people know of what is going on with conservation groups the more they are aware and preventive measures start to take place to insure that people are not treated unfairly.
Some participants in the help to redefine conservation are countries in South America which pay notice to indigenous areas that are willing to participate in practices of conservation with the technical resources from conservation groups. Instead of being kicked out of their land, there is Federal Environmental Conservation Act that protect their rights to remain on the land and use its natural resources and the "common wealth minister negotiates conservation agreements with them".
The World Council of Indigenous Peoples (WCIP), began by Chief George Manuel of the Shuswap Nation, held its first conference in British Columbia in 1975. After traveling the world, and finding that the same suffering and mistreatment felt by the North American Indians were also felt by many other indigenous peoples, he began the World Council of Indigenous People. Some Indigenous peoples fought back politically, by having a voice at important conservation meetings that affect them. According to author Mark Dowie, the Masai sent their leader Martin Saring'O to the World Conservation Congress meeting to defend their land rights at the November 22, 2004 meeting sponsored by IUNC in Bangkok, Thailand. "Standing before the congress, he [Martin Sarin'O] expressed, 'we are enemies of conservation.' Their nomadic people have lost most of their grazing lands over the last thirty years. At the meeting, Massai reminds the IUCN, and defends that they were the original conservationists". In another instance of indigenous people defending themselves politically, Dowie writes, Sayyaad Saltani, the elected chair of the Council of Elders of the Qashaqni Confederation in Iran, gave a speech to the World Parks Congress in Durban, South Africa in October 2003. Saltani discussed the relentless pressures on his nomadic pastoral people, how their pastures and natural resources were seized from them by various agencies, and of their migratory path being interrupted. "Their summer and winter pastures were consistently degraded and fragmented by outsiders, and not even their social identity was left alone".
Instances of violence and retaliation have also been a result of park creations. These cases have stemmed due to resentment from land regulations and restrictions, land displacement, or parks blocking needed access to resources causing shortages. In Nepal, when the Sagarmatha National Park was founded, the Sherpas harbored much resentment. They intentionally accelerated the depletion of the forest because their rights and traditional practices had been taken away. "Local elders estimated that more forest was lost in the first four years after the parks creation than in the previous two decades". Several instances of violence have occurred separately in India due to fighting the unjustness of park creations. India is a heavily populated country with almost five hundred protected areas. The protected areas, which are rich in resources, are mostly surrounded by agricultural lands and villages full of impoverished people who are in desperate need of these resources that are now blocked. People trying to obtain their basic life needs have caused violence to erupt. "Inevitably they invade the reserves and come into conflict with authorities. Resentment at the wildlife authorities attempts to control the situation has exploded in violence against officials and guards". In the Naganhde National Park in South India, wildlife guards were believed to have killed a poacher. This incident resulted in local people retaliating by burning 20 square kilometers of forest. "In India, resentment by local people to National Parks legislation and enforcement agencies has caused increasing problems".
Many indigenous peoples from all over the world have been affected by large organizations trying to protect nature and wildlife, while overlooking the human component. Indigenous peoples have been left without rights to their own land, resources, and left impoverished. The displacement causes lasting effects on their entire community. They are fighting to not only keep their homes but also their cultures as well as their identities. Many groups fight to maintain their entire lively hoods politically and sometimes even with violence.
African conservation refugees, some sources numbering them somewhere around 14 million, have long been displaced due to transnational efforts to preserve select areas of biota that are believed to be critical from a historical and environmental perspective. What purpose do protected areas serve and why are they established? According to the article "Parks and Peoples: the social impact of protected areas" protected areas are a way of "seeing, understanding, and reproducing the world around us" as well as serving as a place of social interaction and production. In short protected areas are established to preserve an area in its natural state in an increasingly globalized world. Although the traditional residential grounds of millions of native peoples have existed for hundreds of years, conservation efforts continually encroach upon these areas in an effort to preserve biological diversity in both flora and fauna.
On the positive side, wildlife, botany, and other precious resources are being protected. The native people are then expelled to live outside the border of the newly constructed Preserved Area (PA), so as not to disturb the ecological preservation. Displacement and lack of rights for displaced peoples is one of the main concerns of environmental conservation. Displaced peoples can encounter social problems such as nationalism in their new locations. Often these refugees are put in a separate underclass, further separating them socially as well as physically. Sometimes people of the region that is being conserved will encounter other effects of the situation. These include loss of jobs, loss of hunting grounds, loss of personal resources, or loss of freedom. The treatment of these peoples can also cause war among themselves or with opposing groups, as well as sickness and malnutrition. Both entities behind this conflict believe that they are operating under the flag of just action; however, certain elements of the arguments are inherently flawed. The conservation movement is critical to maintaining a diverse biological snapshot of Earth, but the processes behind the initiative are often founded on neglect of human rights as well as paradox. The ramifications of these processes are significant in terms of a growing number of refugees, international reactions, and culture.
Long-term effects of this displacement and repurposing linger in the refugees, their families and subsequent generations, effectively reshaping the cultural and economic dynamic of an entire society. This has a ripple effect on their culture and people for generations to come. The use and conservation of a resource is a direct link to conflicts in Africa. According to Abiodun Alao, author of Natural Resources and Conflict in Africa, natural resources can be linked to conflicts in three different ways: either a direct or remote conflict is caused by the resource, or a natural resource can fuel or sustain conflicts, and lastly when resources have been used to resolve conflicts. Often, the conservation efforts that commandeer indigenous people's land remove the natives from a familiar social environment and transplant them into unknown quarters and customs. By doing so, traditional values such as "songs, rituals, …and stories" could be entirely lost in little more than one generation's progression. Economically, relocation and displacement can be devastating on a personal and communal level. Indigenous peoples of all intra-culture class types are forced to the boundaries of the new parks, stripped of their homes and status, and sometimes made to live in "shabby squatter camps…without running water or sanitation". This leads to even more tension between conservation administrators and the new conservation refugees.
In order to protect the rights of indigenous people and citizens displaced as conservation refugees the Fifth World Parks Congress held a session to discuss the problem. This session recognized the connection between poverty and displacement as well as the altering land- rights and the hazardous effects on cultural and generations to come. The outcome of this session was the Durban Action Plan. This plan will insure that local people are taken care of financially before an area is acquired for conservation. There are many issues surrounding environmental conservation, protected areas, and refugees. This is one of the biggest issues Africa is facing. As human beings we need to analyze the facts and decide whether or not the sake of our environment is worth the livelihood of our fellow human beings.
East Africa is home to tribes like the Maasai whose livelihood and culture revolves around cattle. The Maasai are pastoralists whose "livestock follow a seasonal settlements in the dry season and disperse into temporary camps in the wet season". The Maasai once occupied most of the Serengeti/Ngorongoro region, which from recent archeological research concluded that pastoralists occupied the area for at least 2500 years and the Maasai occupied the area since mid-nineteenth century. In 1940 the Serengeti/Ngorongoro region was gazetted as national park, but during the time, pastoralists were permitted to still carry on with their traditional life ways. All that changed in ten years when conflict erupted among the pastoralists, cultivators and park authorities that divided the park into the Serengeti National Park and the NCA (Ngorongoro Conservation Area). This divide evicted all Maasai pastoralists from the Serengeti National Park, but allowed them to remain in certain restricted areas in the NCA. This had dire consequences not only to the Maasai lifestyle, but also to the environment. During the wet season, the Maasai would herd their cattle to the Serengeti for grazing, but since the parks divide, their last resort was to graze where they were permitted to, and that meant strictly in the NCA. The seasonal migrations from the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro practiced by the Maasai help prevent over-grazing to one location, but with the new restrictions, over-grazing would be apparent and could result in starvation of their cattle not to mention the depletion of environmental resources.
Another set of problems to unfold for the Maasai was the rapid increase in population of the wildebeest. Wildebeest calves carry a virus that transmits the disease malignant catarrhal fever that can kill Maasai livestock if exposed to the same areas the wildebeest calves grazed on. Not only the exposure to a deadly disease affect the livestock, but also because of the large wildebeest population, grasses were hardly left for Maasai livestock to feed on. During the early 1970s, a stricter ban was placed on cultivation to where any cultivation within the NCA area became illegal. The Maasai's subsistence is dependent on the cultivation of grains, from which the Maasai would trade livestock with cultivators for grains. For twenty years, the Maasai endured a ban on cultivation, more restrictions on highland craters and the spread and increase in livestock disease. Because of the inability to cultivate, there was an increase in malnutrition and under nutrition among the children of the Maasai. It was not until the early 1990s that the ban on cultivation was lifted. After the lift of the ban, there was an increase in living for the Maasai. Malnutrition declined and sustainable living emerged. But because of the intense cultivation to support the population, conservationists are now reevaluating whether to allow cultivation to continue, so again, the faith of the Maasai are left in the hands of more policy making and restrictions in which none have a voice in.
In the case of the Mkomazi Game Reserve, more intense results attributed because of conservation efforts. In 1988, the Department of Wildlife was responsible for the evictions of thousands of people from the Mkomazi Game Reserve. The result of the evictions and restrictions to land use, as Dowie put it, "is a gradual community and cultural meltdown." Many neighboring communities have become violent and hostile as the result of animosity and tension between indigenous people and the parks. Due to overgrazing and restrictions on land use, many of the traditional pastoralists "were forced to reduce or completely sell off their herds and learn to cultivate grains and legumes on small plots of arid land. Some turned to poaching for a living, others prostitution… young men who sold their herds turned to profligate lives, and when their money ran out they became low-wage farm workers and small-time hustlers. Young women facing a shrinking pool of potential husbands sell community essentials such as charcoal, traditional medicines, milk from borrowed goats, or, saddest of all, themselves". Because of the decline of resources and the displacement to unfertile lands, many pastoralists have resorted to bush meat as a way of subsistence and trade. This is a direct threat to the declining population of apes and the spread of infectious diseases like AIDS. This is a sensitive and difficult situation for not only cultural anthropologists but for biological anthropologists and primatologists. How does one protect an endangered species while limiting the spread of the most infectious disease to mankind when conservationists limit land use for the natives? To an anthropologist, the very thing that conservationists are trying to protect is the very thing they are destroying.
The Ogiek tribes of the Mau Forest are also targets of land restrictions and evacuations from their native lands. The Ogiek tribe has been described as a peaceful group of people who specialize in cultivating honeybees, but will grow beans and potatoes if needed. The Ogiek subsist on animals that are only in abundance in the forest. Once the tribe notices a decline in population of a particular animal due to hunting, the Ogiek will practice "self-imposed conservation" by raising sheep and goats for food. The animals that are killed are for their use only and the Ogiek do not participate in the bush meat market. They are regarded as "the best imaginable conservators of land". The first attempt to displace the Ogiek people was as early as the 1900s, when British settlers attempted to clear out the forest areas for tea plantations. Through the Forest Act of 1957 and the Wildlife Conservation Act of 1977, governments have continuously displaced the Ogiek for forest conservation and they were often moved to lands that were unfertile and useless to their customary lifestyle of bee production and animal hunting. This displacement caused many of the Ogiek to be homeless, in poverty, and suffered from sicknesses and their life expectancy declined from sixty to forty-six years. In June 2005, it was issued to stop the evictions through High Court order, but was later appealed five months later. During the case, it was emphasized that the Ogiek were not fit to inhabit the Mau Forest, yet the courts failed to mention the destruction that was taking place due to illegal, massive logging operations. Presently, ecologists and hydrologists are now giving credit to what the Ogiek have been saying for years; that Kenya forests are the main suppliers of water for the nation and if not preserved, will result is massive starvations and death. Already Kenya's forests have started to decline.
In Guinea, deforestation has become the historical and environmental norm. Since record, only 1.8 percent of the country's natural "tropical moist forest" remains. In order to preserve the remaining forested lands, conservationists have set aside swaths of land that are deemed protected, imposing restrictions on hunting, farming, and residency. As a result, 663,000 persons have been displaced from the three protected areas and are now labeled conservation refugees. This trend continues throughout the region with similar data in neighboring countries. Liberia claims over 120,000 refugees while Senegal is home to 65,000 displaced individuals out of its nine protected areas. Ghana, to the east, contains 35,000 refugees while only 6 percent of its remaining forests are maintained in 9 Protected Areas (PAs).
In the Ziami Forest Reserve in Guinea, sections of land in the south eastern panhandle have been cordoned off in an effort to preserve the growing forest and savannah that was the traditional home of the Toma people (Fairhead). It has been observed by both Benjamin Anderson, a 19th-century anthropologist, as well as anthropology professors James Fairhead and Melissa Leach, that, based on the oral history of the Toma people, it was through their careful cultivation of high-forest areas that the Ziami forest was allowed to flourish over the remaining savannah. It is ironic and unfortunate then, that the efforts of the Toma people to maintain or even add biological diversity to their area is the very reason that conservationists were attracted to the area and subsequently evicted them.
A group of people that have faced hardship and in some cases displacement are the Basarwa, also known as the San or Bushmen. These people have long occupied areas of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, subsisting as hunter-gathers. One of the main problems that the San have encountered in trying to maintain their location and culture is that they do not have a claim to any land as their own. The government views the Basarwa as a nomadic people, and as such they have no claim to any specific territory. This is true in that the Basarwa do not claim any set village boundaries. The concepts of territory that the Basarwa are associated with are related to utilitarian purposes suiting their hunter-gather culture, rather than outright ownership of the land.
Prior to becoming an independent nation, Botswana was a colonial holding of the British Empire. While the colonial government did not view the Basarwa as property owners, they did establish a game reserve of 52,000 square kilometers for them to make their livelihood on. As the Basarwa population grew, animal populations began to dwindle as a result of the Basarwa's hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Declining animal populations, as well as a desire to promote tourism and reduce costs, as well as a desire to integrate the Baswarwa into the modern society of Botswana, led the government to consider moving the Basarwa off the game reserves . The government of Botswana also tried other conservation measures in the form of Special Game Licenses. The purpose of these license's was to allow for the Basarwa to maintain their subsistence lifestyle in a way that would keep manage the animal populations around them. To qualify for a Special Game License several criteria, such as being a nomadic person, hunting with traditional weapons, not using horses, dogs or other hunting aids, and even attire, such as a breech cloth, were considered. The licenses were given to qualified people for free and they allowed people preset numbers of certain animals year round as opposed to the standard April to September hunting season. The innovation of the Special Game Licenses did not solve problem of dwindling animal populations and many officials believed that they were being abused. As a result of these fears, the government began to scale back the distribution of these Special Game Licenses. The government of Botswana along with some NGOs and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks in Botswana again began considering relocation.
From the 1960s, in various regions throughout the Kalahari desert, different groups of Basarwa are under pressure to be relocated, there is not one unified group of Basarwa people, rather there are bands of them occupying many areas and different game reserves. In the 1960s groups of Basarwa were relocated not once but twice as a result of the creation of the Moremi Game Reserve. This was not a forced relocation, rather it was discussed with the Basarwa at the time, but the people still have bitter feelings about it. They understood the need for conservation and wanted to help in preserving the land they so relied upon, but they were unaware that they would be displaced from the land all together (Bolaane 2004). Relocation also had profound effects on their lifestyle. The Basarwa got limited access to the land forcing them to come up with new survival tactics. In many instances, this meant earning a wage by finding a job, often in some way related to the newly created game reserves. However, because of their social status, they were often not treated well by employers.
When groups of Basarwa agreed to relocation from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) in the 1990s. adaptation to a new lifestyle was not always easy and in many cases some people ended up moving back to the game reserve. One of the things that made relocation to established settlements so difficult for the Basarwa is that these settlements are usually planned out and organized for a lifestyle that is completely foreign to the Basarwa, land ownership. As a result, many of them have chosen to live outside the settlement in the bushes in a manner that is much more familiar to them. Life in the new settlements has been markedly different for the Basarwa, they no longer hunt the same kinds of animals that they have long been accustomed to, and they have taken up more conventional means of employment.
The Basarwa have taken things into their own hands when it comes to pushing back against relocation. They founded their own NGO called the First People of the Kalahari (FPK) in 1992 to act on their behalf in issues concerning land rights. The purpose of the FPK is to gain social acceptance for the Basarwa, secure land use rights, and allow them to follow their own course of development.
Role of BINGOsEdit
BINGOs (Big International Non-Government Organizations) are often the source of controversy due to their partnering "with multinational corporations—particularly in the businesses of gas and oil, pharmaceuticals, and mining—that are directly involved in pillaging and destroying forest areas owned by indigenous peoples" (Chapin, 2004). As anthropologist Jim Igoe points out, "Ironically, there is growing evidence that national parks themselves are contributing to the very problems that advocates of community conservation are trying to solve… The loss of natural resources to indigenous resource management systems that these evictions entailed frequently forced local people to mine natural resources in the area to which they were restricted". As highlighted in the introduction by Chapin, the funding for conservation efforts have reverted from the need to work with indigenous people and local communities "with a new focus on large-scale conservation strategies and the importance of science, rather than social realities, in determining their agendas" (Chapin, 2004). The most disdainful issue that indigenous people have with BINGOs is how they convey support for indigenous people but then turn around and align with extractive corporations. Often indigenous people have to battle with those very business that funded BINGOs over land rights and almost always BINGOs often turn the blind eye when evictions were taking place.
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