No space for participation: pastoralist narratives and the etiology of park-herder conflict in southeastern Niger uri icon

abstract

  • State-sponsored programs for protecting natural areas in Africa have increasingly adopted 'participatory' approaches. While a welcome change from the more coercive approaches of the past, a major impediment to the effectiveness of such programs is how conservationists conceptualize the logics, constraints, and spatial scales associated with the production practices of rural inhabitants that may cross protected perimeters. This paper examines the growing conflict between Fulsse herders and managers of National Park 'W' in southeastern Niger. Rationales for conservationist reactions to herder incursions in the coercive past and 'participatory' present are supported by 'development narratives' that surround Fulsse livestock husbandry in West Africa. It will be shown that these narratives are constructed by sequentially conflating linguistic group, ethnic identity, production practice, production logic, and environmental trajectories in an ahistorical fashion. The Fulsse people of West Africa are often characterized by the development/conservation community as 'pastoralists' and as such are viewed as being highly mobile, tradition-bound, politically unorganized, and managers of an unsustainable (ecological or social) form of livestock husbandry. Oral histories and the examination of historical documents demonstrate that herd management by the Say Fulsse has historically been governed by a two-tiered political structure and displayed highly circumscribed patterns of mobility with close integration with agricultural production. Increased incursions of herders into the park are traced, not to a rigid adherence to livestock mobility, but to the growing shortage of pastures in the home territory near Say. Both draconian enforcements by park guards and 'participatory' programs to educate local herders about the merits of sedentary livestock husbandry provide little space for herder-park constructive engagement and in fact have reduced its potential by eroding indigenous political control over livestock movements. Copyright (C) 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

publication date

  • 1999
  • 1999