Concepts of 'natural heritage', or 'patrimoine naturel', have become increasingly prominent in biodiversity conservation initiatives in Africa. A country's natural resources are taken to constitute a 'heritage' that local resource users have a 'stake' in preserving and passing on to future generations. This approach to resource conservation privileges local knowledge, control, and management. It arose as an alternative to state-led conservation initiatives, which so often led to tensions and land use conflicts. 'Natural heritage' is conserved by 'regimes of nature management' through which communities act as stakeholders, preserving species and landscapes on their own terms. So far so promising, but, despite its apparently precise terminology, this conception, with its emphasis on local cultures and capacities, and the devolution of control to local communities, remains poorly conceptualized. This collection of papers, first published in the journal Africain 2007, presents the fruits of a collaborative project between African, American and French scholars seeking to understand in more specific terms how natural heritage, territory, and identity relate to each other. They argue that, particularly at a time when neo-liberal reforms (decentralization, privatization) are being grafted onto community-based organizations and local knowledge, it is important that we give greater attention to how nature, communities, resources, and management practices are conceptualized, prioritized, and (re)configured to ensure that livelihoods and environments are truly enhanced in a sustainable and equitable manner.
Nature as Local Heritage in Africa
Edinburgh University Press