False Forest History, Complicit Social Analysis Rethinking Some West African Environmental Narratives

Fairhead, J., & Leach, M. (1995). False forest history, complicit social analysis: Rethinking some West African environmental narratives. World Development, 23(6), 1023-1035.

Deforestation leads to soil degradation, irregularities in river flow and rainfall and contributes to global warming. This causes problems at local, regional and international levels. Researchers have found that it is the funding that is causing the degradation of these forests. This piece examines  the case of deforestation in Kissidougou and many people blame social and economic changes for this. The area once had plenty of forest and a smaller population. There were regulations that controlled how much vegetation people could use and the depletion of any resources. However, over time the population has grown and the regulations have crumbled under pressures leading to the resulting deforestation today. Certain policies have been implemented to try and control the deforestation such as the reduction of upland farming, putting regulations on bush-fire, prohibiting the cutting down of certain tree species that are considered under protection and lastly, there are efforts to regain the forest through tree planting. The authors propose using an “integrated vegetation management” as a way to increase the local forest and vegetation. “In working with the local ecology of fire, soils, vegetation successions and animal dynamics, these “integrated vegetation management” practices are more locally appropriate, integrated with the social matrix and thus more cost-effective in terms of labor than are the forestry “packages” generally proposed by outside agencies” (Fairhead and Leach, 1995). By doing these they are taking the local community and environment into consideration while implementing a conservation strategy. They believe that these will be more cost effective and successful than the efforts made by outside organizations. This article is evidence that working with the locals and considering the local environment before going in and using the same management practices used in other places has more successful results.