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Unformatted text preview: University of Arizona Document Delivery _ CI PAGES MISSING FROM VOLUME DOCUMENT DELIVERY ARTICLE Trans. #: 383624 |||||||||||||||I|||l||lll||l|I|llll|llIl Call #: QH77.A4 C66 1987 Journal Title: Conservation in Africa: Peoples, Policies and Practice. Article Author: Richard Bell Article Title: Conservation With a Human Face: Conflict and Reconciliation in African land Use Planning Location: Science-Engineering Library - Item #: Volume: Issue: Month/Y ear: 1987 CUSTOMER INFORMATION: Pages: 79-102 Catherine E. Belshaw Imprint; [email protected] STATUS: Graduate DEPT: History University of Arizona Library Document Delivery 1510 E. University Blvd. Tucson, AZ 85721 (520) 621-6438 (520) 621 -461 9 (fax) [email protected]|ibrary.arizona.edu Paged by\§&1lnitialskZOO‘QS-3 Reason Not Filled (check one): El NOS D NFAC (GIVE REASON) El LACK VOL/ISSUE E] OVER 100 PAGES Rec'd: 8/1/200 L’ 4 Conservation with a human face: conflict and reconciliation in African land use planning R.H.V. BELL ‘Africa is on the brink of ecological collapse.” So said a senior World Bank official at a development conference at Tananarivo in November 1985, and most people seemed to believe him. This type of belief has long given licence to government and international intervention in Afri- can rural development, and particularly to conservationist lobbies to promote a conservationist programme in Africa. The outlines of this programme are stated in the World Conservation Strategy published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) in 1980. The primary objectives of this strategy are as follows (IUCN, 1980): (i) to maintain essential ecological processes and life-support systems (i.e. atmosphere, soil and water cycles); (ii) to preserve genetic diversity (including preventing extinctions and preserving representative biotic communities); (iii) to ensure the sustainable utilisation of species and ecosystems. The conservationist programme is a strategy of limitation of resource use and human population increase. As such it inevitably embodies conflict between short-term individual interests and long-term communal interests. Any programme that emphasises long-term communal benefits at the expense of short-term individual benefits will meet with resistance. The problems and costs of conservation are proportional to the extent of the conflict between these two sets of interests (Bell, 1986a). For a conservationist programme to develop and survive without external enforcement, the benefits conferred must be real and they must not be long delayed. The conservationist programme has certain features in common with centrally planned socialist economic systems. Both systems are intended to ensure equable access to resources, communism by social classes living in parallel at one time, conservation by successive generations through time. Both involve conflicts between individual and communal interests, creating characteristic categories of illegal activity, communist systems 79 80 RH. V.Bell their pervasive ‘economic crimes’ and conservationist programmes their ‘ecological offences’; both are most readily implemented by means of government enforcement. It is no accident, therefore, that in both cases there is a trend towards reconciling the conflict between the individual and the community by introducing individual rewards into the system. Some communist systems are edging towards mixed economies, while some conservation programmes are testing, with equal caution, the con- cept of conservation with a human face. The costs and benefits of conservation The balance between the various costs and benefits of conservation varies considerably between different sectors of society, both national and international. The costs in terms of alienated land, restrictions on resource use and damage to life and property are mainly carried by rural populations, particularly those at the interface between settlement and conservation areas. The political and financial costs of administering conservation programmes are carried mainly by national governments. The benefits of aesthetic and recreational experiences and scientific opportunities are enjoyed mainly by foreigners. The benefits of national prestige are enjoyed mainly by national governments as, currently, are most of the revenues from the use of wildlife resources.The rural interface communities who carry much of the cost derive few benefits. At present, then, costs and benefits are unevenly distributed. I For both costs and benefits there are two distinct classes which may be called direct and indirect respectively. A direct benefit is one that directly fulfils a human need that cannot be fulfilled in any other way; an indirect benefit is one that provides the means of fulfilling some other need. Thus for those who want to see wild elephants, wild elephants only will suffice as a direct benefit; however, wild elephants provide the indirect benefit of cash from ivory to buy fertiliser. A direct cost is one that cannot be neutralised by substituting some other commodity, whereas an indirect cost can be so neutralised. For example, when people are relocated to vacate land for a national park, the loss of access to ritual sites is a direct cost, whereas loss of agricultural land is an indirect cost which can be compensated by payment or allocation of alternative land. The primary direct benefits of conservation are aesthetic (including prestige) and intellectual (i.e. scientific), while the primary indirect benefits are utilitarian and monetary. The same may be said of costs. In this they resemble works of art, of which the direct benefits derive from their artistic value, while their indirect benefits are due to their potential as financial investments. Conservation with a human face 81 In the conservation arena, public discussion of costs and benefits is couched almost exclusively in terms of the indirect class, that is, of the utilitarian and monetary consequences of conservation or the lack of it. This tendency is well illustrated by the World Conservation Strategy (IUCN, 1980), in which, for example, preservation of genetic diversity is justified principally on the grounds of maintaining crop production and of the potential of wild organisms as sources of useful products. This emphasis on the indirect, utilitarian values of conservation is no doubt due to the feeling that the direct, aesthetic values are frivolous and will carry insufficient weight with governments and rural interface populations. Nonetheless, I consider the utilitarian justification of con- servation to be opportunistic, unrealistic and potentially counterproduc- tive. It is opportunistic because it is used as a stalking horse for motiva- tions which are in reality aesthetic (cf. Bell, 1983). It is unrealistic because it cannot account for the scale of the commitment to conservation in Africa or elsewhere in relation to any critical accounting of its utilitarian returns. It may be counterproductive to the conservationist programme because, if conservation is justified on the grounds of utilitarian benefits, anything else that produces more of those benefits, must take precedence over conservation (Clarke, 1972; Bell, 1983). This brings us back to the question of whether Africa is on the brink of ecological collapse. If the answer is yes, this can be taken as a powerful utilitarian justification of a strong conservationist programme. The benefits, in terms of living standards, will be real and immediate, so that in theory the programme should meet with little resistance. If it does meet with resistance, the argument runs, it may be necessary to impose the programme from above, the end justifying the means. If, on the other hand, Africa is not on the brink of ecological collapse, the benefits may be less immediately evident and a more gradual approach may be indicated. a Africa’s ecological crisis It is fashionable to describe the status and trend of man—environment relations in Africa in terms of concern and alarm. The scenario is pre- sented as follows, for example by Timberlake (1985), Myers (1984) and Soulé (1984) among others: the rate of human population increase is the highest of any continent at about 3.5 per cent per year, and exceeds 4 per cent in Kenya and possibly Nigeria, Botswana and Malawi (Myers, 1980). Populations are increasing more rapidly than food supplies and services such as hospitals and schools, so that living standards are declin— 82 R.H.V.Bell ing (Timberlake, 1985). Agriculture is expanding at the expense of natural vegetation into unsuitable land, leading to soil loss and erosion. Livestock numbers continue to increase; cattle increased by 30 per cent between 1965 and 1980 in sub—Saharan Africa, while small stock increased by 60 per cent in the same period (World Bank, 1984).These trends are leading to a steepening spiral of degradation and, ultimately, desertification. Africa is on the brink of ecological collapse. Is this scenario realistic? Let us take each component in turn. Human population increase. Firstly, it is probable that the published rates of human increase are inflated as a result of progressive improve- ments of census technique (M. Norton-Griffiths, personal communica- tion). Secondly, admitting that the rates of increase are still high, what do they mean? They mean that Africa’s human populations are not encountering serious constraints such as shortage of land, food, other resources and facilities. They mean that Africa’s human populations are not yet approaching the ecological carrying capacity of the continent (see Caughley, 1977; Bell, 1986b, for the definition of ecological carrying capacity). If the population is still below carrying capacity even though it has been increasing rapidly for at least the last half century, it follows that, at the onset of the colonial era, the population must have been a small fraction of the carrying capacity. Why was the population of Africa so low? My own View is based on that of Ford (1971). It is that the majority of the African population is derived from relatively recent immigrants and is thus vulnerable to the hostile disease environment (Hartwig & Patterson, 1978; Ranesford, 1983); that the primary defence has been cultural, involving the formation of disease-free centres by means of dense settlements eliminating wild vectors; that this pattern allowed the buildup of large populations during the Iron Age (perhaps 300 BC to about AD1700); that this cultural resistance was fractured by the opening up of Africa from about 1700 to 1930, involving political conflicts, the slave trade, major tribal move- ments such as that of the Ngoni, a general improvement of communica— tions after 1900, and the introduction of external diseases; and that this fracturing re-exposed the population to endemic disease vectors and pests (such as tsetse fly and even elephant), all factors combining to cause a population crash. Ranesford (1983) quotes figures from the Belgian Congo, for example, suggesting a decline in population from 40 million in 1880 to 9.25 million in 1933. A summary of the continental situation is given by Curtin et al. (1981). Livestock. The situation here is similar. The majority of livestock types have probably been introduced to Africa within the last 10,000 years Conservation with a human face 83 (Epstein, 1971; Klein, 1984), and most are vulnerable to a series of vector-borne diseases. Over 90 per cent of the African cattle population was eliminated at the start of the colonial era by the rinderpest pandemic introduced to Eritrea in 1887 and reaching the Cape in 1900 (Ford, 1971). Since then, the livestock population has increased steadily, to the alarm first of colonial administrators (e.g. Kenya Land Commission, 1934), and later of international advisers (e. g. Le Houerou & Skouri, 1980). These two statements of concern, made 47 years apart, are practically identical. Still the livestock population continues to increase (World Bank, 1984), in spite of two major droughts. Again this can only mean that Africa has yet to reach its ecological carrying capacity for livestock. Land availability. Hunter (1979) estimated photogrammetrically that in Malawi, the fifth most densely populated country in Africa, 33 per cent of the land area was under ‘natural vegetation’, over and above National Parks and Game Reserves (11 per cent), Forest Reserves (9 per cent), agriculture (36 per cent) and urban developments (11 per cent). Norton—Griffiths (Ecosystems, 1985) whose company Ecosystems has carried out quantitative land-use surveys of over 700,000 km2 in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Sudan, estimates that even within the more densely settled strata, less than 30 per cent of available land is currently under cultivation. Grimsdell & Bell (1975) found that in the Bangweulu margin and islands, the most densely settled part of rural Zambia, 41 per cent of cultivable land was fallow. We conclude that the proposition that Africa is facing an immediate shortage of arable land is open to question, except on a limited local basis. Degradation Can Africa continue to support the existing and foresee- able human and livestock populations without degradation significantly reducing the carrying capacity of affected areas? Quantitative data are hard to obtain. It is generally accepted thatAfrican soils under continuous cultivation commonly lose fertility and crop productivity (Nye & Green- land, 1960; La] & Greenland, 1979). However, as Young (1976) points out, the result is a state of low-level equilibrium, in which humus and nutrient levels remain constant and crop yields are stabilised at a low level. It is not a catastrophe scenario. Similarly with livestock, Western (unpublished data) has shown that grass productivity falls initially in response to livestock buildup, then settles at a low plateau that is stable over a wide range of stock densities until it is finally eliminated by hoof action at concentration points such as bomas and waterpoints. These low—level equilibrium models may explain the fact that the catastrophes regularly predicted rarely occur. For example, Trapnell (1953), on the basis of a survey of the ecology and land-use of North-Eastern 84 R.H.V.Bell Rhodesia (Zambia), concluded that extensive areas were overpopulated, suffering from degradation and erosion, and were approaching ecological collapse. Now, forty years later, the collapse has not occurred, and land- use planners are discussing the accommodation of ten times the popula- tion present in 1943 (Oscarsson, 1984). Again, the Kapata Peninsula in the Bangweulu basin was estimated by Trapnell (1953) on the basis of a 1938 census, to contain about 43 people per kmz, making it one of the densest populations of rural Zambia. Trapnell considered the area ‘to have been cultivated beyond recognition of (its) former state . . . land shortage is acute . . . soil depletion is marked . . . and provides the most serious population problem in Northern Province’. On the basis of the 1969 census, J ackman & Davies (1972) estimated the density in the area to be over 190 per kmz, a figure confirmed by Grimsdell and Bell (1975) by aerial photography of houses. This example makes two points: firstly that the 1938 estimate was almost certainly too low, implying an inflated rate of increase of over five per cent per annum to reach the 1969 figure, and secondly that the apparently critical ecological situation did not lead to collapse, nor has it done so now, twelve years later. Such instances are commonplace. It is much more difficult to find substantiated cases of degradation due to overpopulation or overstocking leading to reduced densities or even to reduced standards of living. Desertification Semi-arid and arid zones are amongst the most fragile ecosystems on earth. They can very quickly undergo irreversible degradation at the hand of man: their threshold of critical injury is reached after only a moderate or even marginal modification through human activities. Desertification is now thought to be overtaking 60,000 km2 per year . . . (Myers, 1984) The ‘settlement—overgrazing’ hypothesis of desertification has recently been restated by Sinclair & Fryxell (1985). However, several aspects of this hypothesis remain open to question. Firstly, through the Quaternary, the Sahelian climate has been both drier and wetter than it is now, and the desert correspondingly larger and smaller (Grove, 1968; Grove & Warren, 1968; Rzoska, 1976; Klein, 1984). Reduction of rainfall without human intervention is thus a sufficient explanation of desert expansion, although this does not rule out human and livestock involvement in the present situation. Secondly, a a1 sis of the Sahel rainfall records indicate » a drying trend from the late 1950s to the present (Lamb, 1982; Nicholson, 1983; Kerr, 1985). Thirdly, the albe 0 t eory of a positive feedback between vegetation reduction and diminishing rainfall remains subject to dispute (Otterman, 1974; Charney et al., 1977; Nicholson, 1983; Sinclair & Fryxell, 1985), while it cannot account for the linkages between Fatwa? u‘ Conservation with a human face 85 Sahelian and broader weather patterns (i.e. Kidson, 1977). Fourthly, the recovery of Sahelian vegetation following reduction of grazing pressure (Wade, 1974; Le Houerou, 1976; H.F. Lamprey, personal communica- tion), shows that herbivore use modifies vegetation structure (as it always does as herbivores approach carrying capacity, Caughley, 1977; Bell, 1986c), and that this change is not irreversible, as implied by Myers (1984) and Sinclair & Fryxell (1985). It does not, however, show that current changes in Sahelian vegetation are independent of rainfall capacities for humans of the Sahel, under livestock densities that would allow vegetation states that would satisfy conservationists. Finally, mea- surements of primary production on satellite imagery at a number of ‘desertified’ sites in eastern Africa, showed no difference in production in years of equivalent rainfall before and after drought spells (M. Norton- Griffiths, personal communication). We may conclude, therefore, that climati ' ' ' Sahelian_esergfi§ation, while the contribution of settlement and overgrazing is unclear. Famines.There is no doubt that there are periodic and serious shortfalls in food production in parts ofAfrica, for example in the recent Ethiopian— Sahelian drought and in Mozambique. The questions are: are these food shortfalls the consequences of modern trends in man—environment rel- tions, and are they density-related? The first question can be answered quite clearly in the negative. For Ethiopia, for example, Hancock (1985) quotes Pankhurst (1966, 1972) as listing 30 occasions on which the country was affected by famine between the years 1540 and 1900. Most famines were related to drought, although one of the worst, that of 1888—92, was compounded by the first rinderpest pandemic which killed most of the cattle and, according to Pankhurst, may have led to the deaths of 75 per cent of the human population. Droughts and famines are characteristic of arid environments and are not the consequence of modern developments in the Sahel. Rainfall variability is highest in arid areas (Norton-Griffiths, Herlocker & Pennycuick, 1978; Nicholson, 1979), so that the carrying capacity fluctuates widely, allowing populations to build up beyond the bottleneck values imposed by periodic droughts. The current droughts may be unusual in one important respect. This is that the traditional response of humans and livestock, that of move- ment, is now to some extent constrained by the rigid political boundaries of modern nation states. Even so, as the latest Sahelian drought eases, the estimated mortality toll has been much smaller than predicted (In- gram, 1985) and will not affect the generally increasing trend of ...
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