ArticlePDF Available

Conserving Exploitation?: A Political Ecology of Forestry Policy in Sierra Leone

Authors:

Abstract

Abstract: For more than a decade, Sierra Leonean resource management policy has been firmly embedded in broader political commitments to decentralisation and community 'empowerment'. However, in response to a recent rapid incursion of foreign timber interests, the country's Forestry Division has developed new legislation, recentralizing control of forests to the federal government. Despite its ostensibly 'conservationist' nature, the revised Forestry Act's extensive requirements have (perversely) nearly illegalized subsistence and artisanal use of forest resources while easing access for large commercial timber companies. Yet such an outcome is not necessarily neoteric, as it is strongly reflective of earlier colonial practices relating to the protection and exploitation of nature. This paper examines the tensions and contradictions produced by this discursive entwining of 'forest conservation' and 'timber production' in historical and current Sierra Leonean forestry policies. Initially the paper presents a historical analysis of how ideas and practices around conservation and logging emerged during the early colonial period and their subsequent shaping through various historical processes. This provides an analytical and contextual foundation for a subsequent examination of the contemporary interactions between foreign timber companies, governmental actors and forest-reliant local communities.
ARAS Vol.32 No.1 June 2011
59
Conserving exploitation?
A political ecology of forestry policy in Sierra Leone
Paul G. Munro
University of Melbourne
Greg Hiemstra-van der Horst
University of Melbourne
Abstract
For more than a decade, Sierra Leonean resource management policy has
been firmly embedded in broader political commitments to
decentralisation and community ‘empowerment’. However, in response
to a recent rapid incursion of foreign timber interests, the country’s
Forestry Division has developed new legislation, recentralizing control of
forests to the federal government. Despite its ostensibly ‘conservationist’
nature, the revised Forestry Act’s extensive requirements have
(perversely) nearly illegalized subsistence and artisanal use of forest
resources while easing access for large commercial timber companies.
Yet such an outcome is not necessarily neoteric, as it is strongly reflective
of earlier colonial practices relating to the protection and exploitation of
nature. This paper examines the tensions and contradictions produced by
this discursive entwining of ‘forest conservation’ and ‘timber production’
in historical and current Sierra Leonean forestry policies. Initially the
paper presents a historical analysis of how ideas and practices around
conservation and logging emerged during the early colonial period and
their subsequent shaping through various historical processes. This
provides an analytical and contextual foundation for a subsequent
examination of the contemporary interactions between foreign timber
companies, governmental actors and forest-reliant local communities.
Introduction
Since the early colonial era, West African forests have been politically
and materially contested spaces. In this region, as elsewhere in Africa,
colonial policies were consistently predicated on a perceived need to
protect forest and other resources from an environmentally ‘ignorant’ and
‘destructive’ peasantry.
1
Following independence, post-colonial
1
J. C. Ribot, “A history of fear: imagining deforestation in the West African dryland
forests,” Global Ecology and Biogeography, 8:3-4 (1999): 291-300; P. A. Walker,
“Democracy and environment: congruencies and contradictions in Southern Africa,”
Political Geography, 18:3 (1999): 257-284.
ARAS Vol.32 No.1 June 2011
60
administrations generally maintained such policies for largely the same
reasons: states retained forest ‘ownership’ and rural forest users operated
under ambiguous resource tenure while ‘official’ neo-Malthusian fears of
environmental disaster supported approaches more like policing than
extension.
2
Despite this legal authority, however, state agencies have
often been extremely frustrated in their attempts to circumscribe local
forest use activities.
3
In many instances, even highly marginalized rural
residents have found ways of undermining such policies, whether through
open defiance, violence and protest,
4
or more covert resistance such as
‘quiet’ disobedience.
5
As a result, the outcome has been not so much a
successful (if oppressive) system of conservation as a “lingering,
embittered stalemate between African states unable to fully enforce
conservation policies and local communities unable to fully escape state
controls.”
6
Perhaps the most in-depth and influential recent analysis of these
dynamics has been that of anthropologists James Fairhead and Melissa
Leach.
7
Building from in-depth fieldwork in Guinea to a broader regional
2
T. A. Benjaminsen, “Natural-resource management, paradigm shifts, and the
decentralization reform in Mali,” Human Ecology, 25:1 (1997): 121-143; L. C.
Becker, “Seeing green in Mali's woods: colonial legacy, forest use and local control,”
Annals of the Association of American Geographers 91:3 (2001): 504-526; G. Foley
“Sustainable woodfuel supplies from the dry tropical woodlands,” ESMAP Technical
Paper, 013 (Washington: ESMAP, 2001); P. Jagger et al., “Trading off environmental
sustainability for empowerment and income: woodlot devolution in northern
Ethiopia,” World Development, 33:9 (2005): 1491–1510; Ribot, 1999.
3
D. A. Wardell and C. Lund, “Governing access to forests in northern Ghana: micro-
politics and the rents of non-enforcement,” World Development, 34:11 (2006): 1887-
1906; E. Mapedza, “Forestry policy in colonial and postcolonial Zimbabwe:
continuity and change,” Journal of Historical Geography, 33:4 (2007): 833-851.
4
S. A. Mvondo and P. R. Oyono, “An assessment of social negotiation as a tool of
local management: a case study of the Dimako Council forest, Cameroon,”
Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research, 19:4 (2004): 78-84; M. Davis, “Forests and
conflict in Cambodia,” International Forestry Review 7:2 (2005): 161-164; M. Ejigu,
“Land, forests, insecurity and conflict,” International Forestry Review, 8:1 (2006):
72-77.
5
P. A. Walker and P. E. Peters, “Maps, metaphors and meanings: boundary struggles
and village forest use on private and state land in Malawi,” Society and Natural
Resources, 14:5 (2001): 411-424; P. R. Oyono, “One step forward, two steps back?
Paradoxes of natural resources management decentralisation in Cameroon,” Journal
of Modern African Studies, 42:1 (2004): 91–111.
6
Walker, 1999: 264.
7
For example: J. Fairhead and M. Leach, Misreading the African Landscape: Society
and ecology in a forest-savanna mosaic, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
ARAS Vol.32 No.1 June 2011
61
study, they critique the conceptual foundations of such ostensibly
‘conservationist’ policies, pointing to the role of a self-perpetuating
environmental narrative of population growth-driven linear deforestation
and degradation. This narrative (and its attendant discourse), they argue,
verified by repetition rather than empirical investigation, is predicated on
out-dated successional ecology as well as a mistaken version of regional
environmental history.
8
As such, in their view, state agencies historical
and ongoing preservationist efforts (in Guinea Savanna areas at least) are
fundamentally misguided as the objects of their concern are not the ‘last
remnants’ of once extensive forests, but anthropogenic forest islands
derived from savanna.
Despite the valuable insights of this work, its analysis of forestry policy-
making dynamics is distinctly limited. While the examination of local-
scale ecology, land cover change and forest management practices is
detailed and nuanced,
9
this is largely at the expense of in-depth
engagement with the historical importance of commercial timber
production. Similarly, though the analysis of the evolution of
international environmental narratives is well developed, its role in
shaping forestry policy in West Africa is somewhat over-stated, to the
exclusion of attention to the role of productivist concerns within the
forestry department itself. In short, there is an over-emphasis of
discursive dynamics and not enough attention to political economy such
1996a); J. Fairhead and M. Leach, Reframing Deforestation: Global analyses and
local realities: studies in West Africa (London: Routledge, 1998a).
8
J. Fairhead and M. Leach, “False forest history Complicit Social Analysis:
Rethinking Some West African Environmental Narratives,” World Development 23:6
(1995a): 1023-1035; J. Fairhead and M. Leach, “Reframing Forest History: A Radical
Reappraisal of the Roles of People and Climate in West African Vegetation Change”,
in Thackwray S. Driver and Graham P. Chapman, eds. Time-Scales and
Environmental Change (New York: Routledge 1996b):169-195.
9
For example see J. Fairhead, J. and M. Leach, “Whose social forestry and why?
People, trees and managed continuity in Guinea's forest-savanna mosaic,” Zeitschrift
fur Wirtschaftsgeographie 37:2 (1993): 86-101; J. Fairhead and M. Leach, “Local
agro-ecological management and forest-savanna transitions: the case of Kissidougou,
Guinea”, in T. Binns, ed. People and Environment in Africa (Chichester: John Wiley
and Sons Ltd, 1995b): 163-170; J. Fairhead and M. Leach, “Culturing trees: the
political ecology of Kissi and Kuranko forest islands”, in K. Seeland, ed. Nature is
Culture: Indigenous Knowledge and Socio-Cultural Aspects of Trees and Forests in
Non-European Cultures (London: IT Publications, 1997a): 7-18; M. Leach and J.
Fairhead, “Ruined settlements and new gardens: gender and soil-ripening among
Kuranko farmers in the forest-savanna transition zone,” IDS Bulletin 26:1 (1995): 24-
32.
ARAS Vol.32 No.1 June 2011
62
that ‘official’ conservationist rhetoric is taken largely at face value and
only its underlying logic is examined.
This paper presents a preliminary re-examination of this influential thesis
using the example of Sierra Leone. Engaging historical documentation
and scholarly literature as well as recent empirical data collected by the
authors, it finds Fairhead and Leach’s analysis incomplete. It argues that,
despite the historical and contemporary prominence of ‘environmental’
discourse in official rhetoric, Sierra Leone’s forestry policies have been,
and continue to be, predominantly shaped by a concern not for
conservation per se, but for preserving forest resources to support the
‘right kind’ of (modern, rationalized, commercial and tax-generating)
exploitation.
Sierra Leonean Forest Debates
Since the earliest days of exploration by European colonial powers, West
Africa’s Guinea Savanna has been framed (in ‘official’ circles at least) by
a Western neo-Malthusian crisis narrative, in which the present forest-
grassland mosaic is understood as a degraded landscape,
anthropogenically derived from a once pristine primordial forest. In
several seminal works of the 1990s derived from research in Guinea’s
Kissidougou’s region, James Fairhead and Melissa Leach presented a
trenchant and wide-ranging critique of this perspective.
10
Employing
multiple methods including archival analysis, oral history and
archaeological research they developed an empirically-based counter-
narrative that presented an essentially two-fold challenge to ‘orthodox’
assumptions surrounding the extent and causes of deforestation. First,
they claimed, the standard story was premised on outdated and inaccurate
10
Which, in many quarters, is still very alive, their critique notwithstanding; for
example see Fairhead and Leach, 1995a; J. Fairhead and M. Leach, “Reading forest
history backwards: the interaction of policy and local land use in Guinea 1893-1993,”
Environment and History 1:1 (1995c): 55-91; Fairhead and Leach, 1996a; J. Fairhead
and M. Leach, “Enriching the landscape: social history and the management of
transition ecology in the forest-savanna mosaic (Republic of Guinea),” Africa 66:1
(1996c): 14-46; J. Fairhead and M. Leach, “Rethinking the Forest-Savanna Mosaic:
Colonial Science and its Relics in West Africa”, in M. Leach and R. Mearns, eds. The
Lie of the Land: Challenging Received Wisdom on the African Environment (Oxford:
James Currey, 1996d):105-121; J. Fairhead and M. Leach, “Webs of Power and the
Construction of Environmental Policy Problems: Forest Loss in Guinea”, in R. Grillo
and R. Stirrat, eds. Discourses of Development: anthropological perspectives (New
York: Berg Publishers 1997b): 35-58; M. Leach and J. Fairhead, “Natural resource
management: the reproduction and use of environmental misinformation in Guinea's
forest-savanna transition zone,” IDS Bulletin 25:2 (1994): 81-87.
ARAS Vol.32 No.1 June 2011
63
(successional, equilibrium) ecological theory,
11
which assumed – based
on average rainfall – that the Guinea Savanna region ‘should’ have
continuous tropical moist forest as its ‘natural’, ‘climax’ vegetation.
Second, they argued, it was rooted in an historical assumption that this
forest had, in fact, recently existed (until it was removed by various local
human actors) a notion they found was not borne out by the archival
record. In contrast, their research demonstrated how the ‘forests islands’
of the Guinea Savanna landscape were not remnants of a ‘virgin’ West
African forest, but had been cultivated within the grassland matrix by
previous generations of inhabitants. In this context, they argued, the long
history of ‘conservationist’ West African forest policy must be properly
understood as the self-perpetuating legacy of European colonialist
‘misreadings’ of the landscape that produced a ‘false forest past’.
12
Ultimately, these findings provided a basis for their broader West African
deforestation thesis in which they plainly state that “forest loss [across
West Africa] during the twentieth century has been vastly exaggerated.”
13
In many ways, the potency and relevance of this broad thesis for
understanding historical and contemporary issues surrounding West
African forests are undiminished. Misperceptions of environmental
degradation and a tendency to blame the rural poor remain common
throughout much of Africa, including Sierra Leone.
14
However, as this
paper contends, Fairhead and Leach’s explanation of forest policy-
making dynamics is incomplete due to an overemphasis of the role of
conservationist discourse while neglecting key political economic
dynamics – particularly the commodification of nature which was a key
element of the European colonisation project in Africa.
15
As a result,
Fairhead and Leach take the conservation rhetoric more or less at face
value, ignoring its relationship to underlying concerns with protecting and
supporting modern, rationalised commercial timber production.
11
For example see: F. E. Clements, “The Relict Method in Dynamic Ecology,”
Journal of Ecology 22:1 (1934): 39-68; F. E. Clements, Research Methods in
Ecology, (Ayer Publishing, 1974).
12
Fairhead and Leach, 1996b.
13
Fairhead and Leach, 1998a, xiv.
14
For example see: P. G. Munro, “Deforestation: Constructing Problems and
Solutions on Sierra Leone's Freetown Peninsula,” The Journal of Political Ecology,
16:1 (2009): 104-124.
15
H. Bernstein and P. Woodhouse, “Telling Environmental Change Like It Is?
Reflections on a Study in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Journal of Agrarian Change, 1:2
(2001): 283-324.
ARAS Vol.32 No.1 June 2011
64
For one thing, while their critique of deforestation due to demographic
pressures is grounded in detailed local-scale research, their discounting of
land-cover change due to colonial-era timber extraction appears to be less
well founded. Regarding the case of Sierra Leone, for example, using
official records of 19
th
century colonial lumber exports, they calculated
that the amount of timber registered on ship cargoes exiting the country
could only have caused a very minimal amount of deforestation.
16
In
contrast, Fenda Akiwumi has demonstrated that the 19
th
century period of
timber trading in Sierra Leone was characterised by poor recordkeeping,
under-reporting of cargo and widespread smuggling.
17
As such, any
historical records of ‘officially’ exported timber represent only a small
fraction of the actual timber that was extracted and traded. While
Akiwumi’s findings do not discredit Fairhead and Leach’s thesis in its
entirety, they do strongly suggest that certain aspects of their work need
reconsideration.
This discrepancy is, however, largely symptomatic of a lack of
consideration of how the forestry policies of West African countries such
as Sierra Leone have been shaped not only by broader environmental
narratives but also (and perhaps even more importantly) by the
imperatives of commercial timber production and the foundational
commitments of forestry departments to particular visions of
‘appropriate’ forest resource exploitation.
Controlling and Exploiting Nature: Europeans and Sierra Leonean
Forests
From its earliest days, the Sierra Leonean forestry department has been
primarily oriented toward European-style commercial timber
16
Fairhead and Leach, 1996b; J. Fairhead and M. Leach, “Deforestation in question:
dialogue and dissonance in ecological, social and historical knowledge of West
Africa,” Paideuma, no. 43 (1997c): 227–252; Fairhead and Leach, 1998a; J. Fairhead
and M. Leach, “Reconsidering the extent of deforestation in the twentieth century
West Africa,” Unasylva 192:49 (1998b): 38-46; J. Fairhead and M. Leach, “Shaping
Socio-Ecological and Historical Knowledge if Deforestation in Sierra Leone, Liberia
and Togo”, in R. Cline-Cole and C. Madge, eds. Contesting Forestry in West Africa,
(Aldershot: Ashgate: 2000a): 64-95.
17
F. A. Akiwumi, “Conflict Timber, Conflict Diamonds: Parallels in the Political
Ecology of 19th and 20th Century Resource Exploitation in Sierra Leone”, in
Kwadwo Konadu-Agyemang, ed. Africa's Development in the Twenty-first Century:
Pertinent Socio-Economic and Development Issues (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006a): 109-
125; F. A. Akiwumi, Environmental and Social Change in Southwestern Sierra
Leone: Timber Extraction (1832-1898) and Rutile Mining (1967-2005), PhD
Dissertation (San Marcos: Texas State University, 2006b).
ARAS Vol.32 No.1 June 2011
65
harvesting.
18
Indeed, its very establishment in 1912 was predicated by the
need to control, rationalise and derive colonial revenue from the chaotic
and opportunistic logging that characterised the country’s early colonial
period. While many authors have identified this establishment of forestry
departments and forest reserves in Sierra Leone and elsewhere in West
Africa as early the early history of conservationism in the region,
19
early
forest production reserves were more about formalising the exploitation
of a commodity than about preserving ecology. Similar to Sierra Leone,
forestry departments were being established across Africa during this
period,
20
two decades after the infamous “Scramble for Africa” during the
1890s. Conceptually, the creation of these forestry departments can be
understood as an extension of ‘The Scramble’. During the 1890s
territories had been secured and the next step was the creation of
institutions and infrastructure to exploit their natural resources for the
benefit of European economies. Moreover, as the colonial adventure was
intended to be profitable (or at least self-supporting), central control was
also required to generate and protect state revenues.
21
As a result, the
formalisation and institutionalisation of natural resource exploitation for
export was a key objective of the recently established colonies.
In Sierra Leone this orientation was clearly evident in the founding
mandate of the country’s forestry department, shaped by earlier studies
conducted by two forestry ‘experts’ from Britain: Arthur H. Unwin and
Charles E. Lane-Poole. These studies recommended that indigenous
agriculture and forest exploitation techniques should be discouraged and
restricted, while European timber exploitation should be actively
18
Commercial timber trading in Sierra Leone started as early as 1816, involving
timber barons, freed captives, missionaries, ex-slave trader and colonial officers. In
1858 the colonial government attempted to introduce a licensing for cutting down
trees. However at this time the jurisdiction of colony still only extended across the
30km long Freetown Peninsula, meaning here was minimal impact on most timber
operations and thus unsurprisingly it was subsequently overturned in 1872; see
Akiwumbi, 2006a, 2006b; C. Fyfe, A History of Sierra Leone (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1968).
19
For example see: R. A. Pullan, “Conservation and the Development of National
Parks in the Humid Tropics of Africa,” Journal of Biogeography, 15:1 (1988): 171-
183.
20
R. H. Grove, Ecology Climate and Empire: Colonialism and Global Environmental
History, 1400-1940 (Isle of Harris: White Horse Press, 1997); Fairhead and Leach,
1998a.
21
Becker, 2001; D. Meredith, “State Controlled Marketing and Economic
“Development”: The Case of West African Produce during the Second World War,”
The Economic History Review 39:1 (1986): 77-91.
ARAS Vol.32 No.1 June 2011
66
promoted.
22
Thus, the establishment of the forestry department and forest
reserves was not so much about conserving forests, rather it was about
ensuring the ‘right kind’ of exploitation of the country’s forest:
commercial timber exploitation. A quote from the British Government’s
Travelling Commissioner in Sierra Leone during this period illustrates
this point well:
Of course where Nature has been so lavish the natives are content
with what they find to hand; it needs European intelligence to see
what further wealth could be produced by cultivation, and to
discover the uses to which the cultivated article could be applied,
as well as a knowledge of the markets in which it could be sold.
23
The colonialists Unwin, Lane-Poole, and Alldridge all exhibited
derogatory attitudes towards the ‘native’ population, casting them as
ignorant resource degraders. The perception of an ecologically degraded
Sierra Leone landscape was a powerful one, framed in terms of
dessication theory – a colonial pseudo-science that hypothesised the
impacts of (perceived) deforestation on surrounding climates and soils.
24
This false construction has been the focus of Fairhead and Leach’s work,
whereby the notion of the poor as ignorant forest degraders is still
prominent in contemporary discourse, subsequently influencing policy
outcomes. Despite the spurious basis of dessication science, it ultimately
provided the early colonial governmental justification for taking control
of the forests in the name of conservation.
25
In line with this protectivist rhetoric, the newly founded forestry
department quickly established a system of forest reserves around the
country most notably in the Gola Forest in the east of the country.
26
22
C. E. Lane-Poole, Report on the Forest of Sierra Leone (London: Waterlow and
Sons Limited 1911); A. H. Unwin, Report on the Forestry Problems in Sierra Leone
(London: Waterlow and Sons Limited 1909); also see Munro, 2009.
23
T. J. Alldridge, A transformed colony: Sierra Leone as it was, and as it is its
Progress Peoples, Native Customs and Undeveloped Wealth (London: Seeley and Co.
Limited, 1910): 356.
24
For more detailed discussion of this see: Fairhead and Leach 1998a; J. Fairhead and
M. Leach, “Desiccation and Domination: Science and Struggles over Environment
and Development in Colonial Guinea,” The Journal of African History 41:1 (2000b):
35-54.
25
Fairhead and Leach, 1998a, 2000a.
26
Akiwumbi 2006b; P. Richards, “Saving the rain forest? Contested futures in
conservation”, in Sandra Wallman, ed. Contemporary Futures: perspectives from
Social Anthropology (London: Routledge, 1992): 138-153; P. Richards, Fighting for
the Rain Forest: war, youth & resources in Sierra Leone, (Portsmouth: Heinemann
ARAS Vol.32 No.1 June 2011
67
While local Sierra Leonean forest users were excluded from these
reserves in line with the ‘fortress conservation’ model of the day,
27
however, these were not conceived as parks but rather as production
reserves from which timber could be transported to Freetown by
railway.
28
Moreover, these reserves were not ‘production’ oriented in
name only, but for much of the colonial period were heavily exploited,
particularly during the Second World War, when logging reached
unprecedented levels in order to aid the war effort.
29
Such an approach
has continued into the post-colonial era, notably in the late 1960s, during
which the Sierra Leonean Government made efforts to stimulate the
commercial forestry sector to increase national income.
30
Thus early
colonial foresters not only misread the Sierra Leonean landscape as
degraded, as Fairhead and Leach contend, but they also reread the forest
as a commercial commodity; a combination of discourses that, as the next
section illustrates, remains relevant and powerful today.
Global timber markets and Sierra Leonean forestry policy today
Over the decades since its founding, the Sierra Leonean forestry
department has undergone some significant shifts in both its national
importance and its mandate, particularly in recent years. In particular,
during the 1980s and 90s – facing a stagnated timber industry, a major
decline in its budget allocations and increasing environmentalist pressure
from donor agencies – it was obliged to shift its programs toward more
purely conservation-oriented objectives. Nonetheless, in the past few
years, rising global timber consumption has triggered a resurgence of
interest in Sierra Leonean timber, and the development of a new forestry
policy that, despite its conservationist rhetoric, is once again quite
explicitly oriented toward the commercial sector.
In contrast to the pivotal importance of timber revenues to Sierra Leone
during the 19
th
and early 20
th
centuries, after the 1930s production began
1996); H. B. S. Kandeh and P. Richards, “Rural People as Conservationists: Querying
neo-Malthusian assumptions about biodiversity in Sierra Leone,” Africa, 66:1 (1996):
90-103.
27
R. P. Neumann, Imposing wilderness: struggles over livelihood and nature
preservation in Africa (Berkley: University of California Press, 1998).
28
J. I. Clarke, Sierra Leone in Maps (London: University of London Press, 1969).
29
R. A. Cline-Cole, “Wartime Forest Energy Policy and Practice in British West
Africa: Social and Economic Impact on the Labouring Classes 1939-45”, Africa, 63:1
(1993): 56-79.
30
A. Grainger and W. Konteh, “Autonomy, ambiguity and symbolism in African
politics: The development of forest policy in Sierra Leone,” Land Use Policy, 24:1
(2007): 42–61.
ARAS Vol.32 No.1 June 2011
68
to gradually decline as discoveries of diamonds, gold, iron ore, rutile and
bauxite initiated a shift toward mineral exports. As well, from
independence until the 1990s, the mineral focus became still more
pronounced due to its importance in supporting Siaka Stevens’
patrimonial governance regime.
31
By the 1970s, the only significant
logging in the country was that conducted by the (now defunct) state-
owned Forest Industries Corporation in the eastern region around the
Gola forest. By the end of the decade, however, this too ground to a
halt,
32
not least because of the dismantling of the railways which made
lumber transportation much more difficult.
33
As such, during the 1980s
the once prominent forestry department found itself occupying shifting
terrain: no longer allocator and regulator of timber concessions; under-
funded and unable to ‘police’ the subsistence practices of rural residents,
its role became uncertain.
During the 1990s, the emergence of global environmental and
decentralisation discourses, institutionalised by international conventions,
agencies donors and NGOs,
34
‘provided’ the forestry department a new
mandate. In many ways these two core principles of contemporary
environmental governance – to prioritise conservation over
‘development’ and replace top-down administration with ‘community
empowerment’ – were in tension with the department’s historical
orientation. Nonetheless, during and following the 1990s civil war the
forestry department was in no position to object as it was sorely
understaffed and 95 percent dependent on donor funding for field
activities.
35
Moreover, there was also domestic political pressure as the
Sierra Leonean President himself had committed to a nation-wide
decentralisation crusade, announcing at the initiative’s 2004 re-launch:
36
31
M. Boas, “Liberia and Sierra Leone – dead ringers? The logic of neopatrimonial
rule,” Third World Quarterly, 25:5 (2001): 697-723; Richards 1996.
32
V. R. Dorjahn, “The economies of Sierra Leone and Liberia”, in V. R. Dorjahn and
B. L. Isaac, eds. Essays on the Economic Anthropology of Liberia and Sierra Leone
(Philadelphia Institute of Liberian Studies, 1979): 1-25; Richards 1992.
33
M. C. Ferme, The Underneath of Things: violence, history and the everyday in
Sierra Leone (Berkley: University of California Press, 2001); Richards 1996.
34
A. Agrawal and C. Gibson, “Enchantment and disenchantment: The role of
community in natural resource conservation,” World Development, 27:4 (1999): 629-
649; J. P. Platteau, “Monitoring elite capture in community-driven development’
Development and Change, 35:2 (2004): 223-246.
35
Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) National biodiversity Report (Freetown:
Government of Sierra Leone, 2003).
36
During the Civil War period (1991-2001) the Sierra Leone Government essentially
lost control of its forests, first to the rebel forces that occupied them, then later to the
ARAS Vol.32 No.1 June 2011
69
Our democracy will remain hollow unless it is planted, nurtured
and sustained at the grassroots level… communities, as far as
possible, must be empowered to manage their own local affairs.
37
As a result, rhetorically at least,
38
by the mid-2000s the forestry
department had shouldered its dual (and somewhat conflictual) new role
as promoter of ‘community forestry’ (empowering local actors “to plan
and manage their own development,”
39
and as educator to “engender a
significant change in community attitudes and values…towards the
environment.”
40
Just a few short years later, however, the Sierra Leonean forestry policy
arena would be disrupted by a crisis linked to yet another set of
international developments. During the past two decades, the developing
world has experienced a major influx of foreign investment in natural
resources. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the Chinese presence has been of
particular importance.
41
Due to exponential growth in its wood products
manufacturing industries,
42
and major domestic timber shortfalls,
43
China
‘Civil Defence Forces,’ a militia of village level hunting groups: see Richards 1996;
D. Hoffman “The Meaning of a Militia: Understanding the Civil Defence Forces of
Sierra Leone,” African Affairs, 106:425 (2007): 639-662; M. Leach, “New Shapes to
Shift: War, Parks and The Hunting Person in Modern West Africa,” Journal of the
Royal Anthropological Institute, 6:4 (2000):577-595.
37
As the former president was careful to point out, some decentralisation reforms had
been initiated in the mid-1990s but were interrupted by “the 1997 military junta and
its rebel collaborators”; see T. A. Kabbah, “Statement by the President, His
Excellency Alhaji Dr. A.T. Kabbah at the relaunching of the Local Government
Reform and Decentralisation Programme” (Freetown, Sierra Leone, 20 February
2004), 1-2.
38
Though in practice little changed in the field due to budgetary and human resources
constraints. See: GoSL 2003; Institutional Reform and Capacity Building Project
(IRCBP), Institutional Reform and Capacity Building Project (IRCBP) Final report
(Freetown: Government of Sierra Leone, 2004).
39
Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS) State of the nation:
Ministerial report. (Freetown: Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security,
2003): 17.
40
GoSL, 2003: 161.
41
M. Davies, “China's developmental model comes to Africa,” Review of African
Political Economy, 35:115 (2008): 134-137; J. Holslag, “Commerce and prudence:
revising China’s evolving Africa policy,” International Relations of the Asia-Pacific,
8:3 (2008): 325-352; R. Kaplinsky, “What does the rise of China do for
industrialisation in Sub-Saharan Africa?,” Review of African Political Economy,
35:115 (2008): 7-22.
42
G. Auld, L. H. Gulbransen and C. L. McDermott, “Certification Schemes and the
Impacts on Forests and Forestry,” Annual Review of Environment and Resources no.
ARAS Vol.32 No.1 June 2011
70
has become the world’s largest log importer,
44
with imports from Africa
becoming increasingly important.
45
From 1998-2003 China’s share of
West African log exports rose from 25 to 42 percent,
46
and already in
2004 Gabon, Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon alone accounted
for 14% of China’s raw log imports.
47
Moreover, as China’s wood
demand continues to grow, Sino-African timber trade is expected to
double over the next decade.
48
This has caused the potential economic
value of Sierra Leone’s and West Africa’s timber to be reemphasised.
In many West and Central African countries with active timber industries
these developments have manifested through gradual shifts accruing over
a decade or two. In Sierra Leone, however, they have been both
precipitous and surprising. In early 2007 several Chinese companies
moved into northern Sierra Leone and – bypassing the forestry
department – cut and exported shiploads of Afzelia Africana and
Pterocarpous Erinaceus timbers from community woodlands. Despite
significant delays before knowledge of these developments reached the
forestry department, once alerted, it took dramatic action. First, in order
to take control of the situation, it lobbied the office of the President for
nationwide bans on all tree harvesting and export, which were enacted in
November 2007.
49
Second, frustrated with the way its authority (and
revenue claims) had been circumvented, it set to work on developing a
33 (2008): 187-211; J. Mayer and P. Fajarnes “Tripling Africa's primary exports:
what, how, where?” Journal of Development Studies, 44:1 (2008):80-102.
43
Michael Stone, “China and Certification: A Questionable Future,” Journal of
Forestry, 104:6 (2006): 332-333.
44
J. Zhang and J. Gan, “Who will meet China’s import demand for forest products?,”
World Development 35:12 (2007): 2150-2160; S. Démurger, H. YuanZhou and Y.
Weiyong, “Forest management policies and resource balance in China: an assessment
of the current situation,The Journal of Environment and Development, 18:1 (2009):
17-41.
45
Z. Chunquan, R. Taylor and F. Guoqiang, China’s wood market, trade and the
environment (Beijing: Science press USA Inc and WWF international 2004); D. E. de
Blas, and M. R. Perez, “Prospects for reduced impact logging in Central African
logging concessions,” Forest Ecology and Management, 256:7 (2008): 1509–1516;
Holsag.
46
S. A. White et al., China and the global market for forest products: transforming
trade to benefit forests and livelihoods (Washington, D.C.: Forest Trends, 2006).
47
S. Naidu and M. Davies, “China fuels its future with Africa's riches,” South African
Journal of International Affairs, 13:2 (2006): 69-83.
48
Naidu and Davies, 2006; White et al., 2006.
49
Greg Hiemstra-van der Horst, “‘We are Scared to Say No’: Facing Foreign Timber
Companies in Sierra Leone’s Community Woodlands,” Journal of Development
Studies, 47:4 (2011): 574-594..
ARAS Vol.32 No.1 June 2011
71
longer term solution. In early June 2008, invoking generalized narratives
of ‘deforestation’, ‘desertification’ and ‘global warming’, it announced
new legislation subjecting all tree harvesting to (re)centralized controls
and drastically heavier fees. As a senior officer explained on public radio,
‘the main purpose of this new policy is: government wants to control the
forest, we want to control it.’
In a many ways, the somewhat heavy-handed approach of the new policy
to these developments is quite understandable, and perhaps even
appropriate. Given dramatic and unsettling nature of the illegal logging
crisis, particularly in this somewhat politically delicate and uncertain
post-war period, the strong ‘command and control’ approach taken in the
new policy is not entirely unsurprising. As well, given the department’s
historically ‘protectivist’ discourse, and in the context of Fairhead and
Leach’s analysis, it comes as little shock that the policy’s announcement
has been surrounded by ‘conservationist’ rhetoric. As one District Forest
Officer (DFO) explained, echoing the likes of Unwin and Lane-Poole:
“reforms have been issued out…[because] in the past there was
lawlessness, in the past people used to connive – to exploit these
resources without renewing [them].” More perplexing, however, (though
perhaps still not entirely surprising) is the way in which the
‘indiscriminate’ exploitation, which the new policy is supposed to
regulate, has been at least as strongly tied to the activities of rural farmers
and other domestic forest users rather than those of the foreign companies
whose activities precipitated its development. As one Forest Department
official expressed:
We cannot just encourage this subsistence farming – “go
ahead…cut and go and move there, forget that grass grows in,
wild fires come” – so that at the end of the day you get grassland
entrance.
In line with this rhetoric, the policy provides a startling array of
cumbersome bureaucratic procedures and heavy new fees that must now
be negotiated and paid before access to forest resources can be granted.
50
From a strict conservation perspective, this approach would appear to be
largely self defeating as they do not present a significant barrier to large
timber companies, while subsistence production will be largely pushed
into the realm of illegality.
51
One need not read between the lines (nor
even far into the policy), however, to discover that it is far from solely
conservation-driven. According to introduction to the policy proposal
50
Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL), Forestry Development, Exploitation and
Trade Reforms (Freetown: Government of Sierra Leone, 2008).
51
Hiemstra-van der Horst, 2011.
ARAS Vol.32 No.1 June 2011
72
itself, “during the war and thereafter, there was a breakdown in law and
order…the ultimate result has been a mosaic of small logging
companies…making management by Forestry Division very difficult.”
52
In essence, the policy is not intended to reduce production, so much as to
‘lean up’ the timber industry, “result[ing] in larger and more integrated
companies as many of the smaller [read: domestic] companies,
increasingly unable to obtain the forests, go out of business.”.
53
Moreover, this is to be centrally controlled by the forestry department:
because we know what the land surface area is, we know the
quantum of trees that are in the north, we know the number of
trees, we know the species that are in the north, the south and the
East [provinces], So we know the quantity of timber that
[may]…be removed from each area.
54
Finally, a key concern is that all forest-related activities, subsistence or
commercial, must generate revenue to support the department’s activities.
As one DFO explained, from the department’s perspective a key concern
regarding the illegal logging episode was that “concession agreements
were made only at the communities…[and] they were bringing some
income to the communities but very little…was going to the
government.” Another echoed this view: “If you…go ahead leaving the
authorities out, that is cheating. So they have to pay the right amount and
it goes to government coffers.”
In sum, the motivations, objectives and provisions of Sierra Leone’s new
forestry policy, like those of the past, cannot be fully understood solely
by reference to the influences of international environmental discourses
and narratives. While these clearly remain influential they may also be
understood as instrumental, serving (whether deployed cynically or
sincerely) to support and justify not a ‘purist’ approach of conservation
for its own sake, but establishment of ‘right kind’ of exploitation:
rationalised, (centrally) controlled and taxable.
Conclusion
This article has offered a new analytical frame with which to examine
forest history in Sierra Leone; providing both an extension and critique of
Fairhead and Leach’s earlier work in West Africa. In particular, it has
illustrated the close relationship that exists between ‘conservation’ and
‘rational’ exploitation discourses in forestry policy, despite their
52
GoSL, 2008: 1.
53
GoSL, 2008: 1.
54
District Forestry Officer, Personal Communication 2008.
ARAS Vol.32 No.1 June 2011
73
seemingly disparate objectives. The early colonial ‘conservation’ of
Sierra Leonean forests had a focus on centralised control, which involved
restricting subsistence use, while providing laws and infrastructure to
promote formalised commercial timber exploitation. While this was often
dressed up in the rhetoric of the colonial pseudo-science of dessication
theory and the perception of a degraded landscape, the underlying
objective always remained the transformation of the country’s forests into
generators of profitable commodities. Moreover, neither the transition to
independence, nor contemporary developments such as the rise of a
modern environmental discourse and the emergence of the (nascent)
global forest governance regime have brought any fundamental change to
this approach. Contemporary forestry policy documents seamlessly
integrate discussions of the urgent need to protect forests (for biodiversity
and climate change) with the imperatives of improving the efficiency of
the country’s forestry sector with the aid of large timber companies.
Between the colonial era and the present, the specific ‘conservationist’
rhetoric used to rationalise centralised control of forest management
country’s forest might have changed, but the focus on commercial
exploitation has not.
Bibliography
Agrawal, A. and C. Gibson. “Enchantment and disenchantment: The role
of community in natural resource conservation.” World
Development, 27:4 (1999): 629–649.
Akiwumi, F. A. “Conflict Timber, Conflict Diamonds: Parallels in the
Political Ecology of 19th and 20th Century Resource Exploitation in
Sierra Leone.” in Kwadwo Konadu-Agyemang, ed. Africa's
Development in the Twenty-first Century: Pertinent Socio-Economic
and Development Issues. Aldershort: Ashgate, 2006a.
Akiwumi, F. A. Environmental and Social Change in Southwestern
Sierra Leone: Timber Extraction (1832-1898) and Rutile Mining
(1967-2005). PhD Dissertation, San Marcos: Texas State University,
2006b.
Alldridge, T. J. A transformed colony: Sierra Leone as it was, and as it is
its Progress Peoples, Native Customs and Undeveloped Wealth.
London: Seeley and Co. Limited, 1910.
Auld, G., L. H. Gulbransen and C. L. McDermott. “Certification Schemes
and the Impacts on Forests and Forestry.” Annual Review of
Environment and Resources, no. 33 (2008): 187-211.
ARAS Vol.32 No.1 June 2011
74
Becker, L. C. “Seeing green in Mali's woods: colonial legacy, forest use
and local control.” Annals of the Association of American
Geographers 91:3(2001): 504-526.
Benjaminsen, T. A. “Natural-resource management, paradigm shifts, and
the decentralization reform in Mali.” Human Ecology 25:1 (1997):
121-143.
Bernstein, H. and P. Woodhouse. “Telling Environmental Change Like It
Is? Reflections on a Study in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Journal of
Agrarian Change 1:2(2001): 283-324.
Boas, M. “Liberia and Sierra Leone – dead ringers? The logic of
neopatrimonial rule.” Third World Quarterly 25:5(2001): 697-723.
Chunquan, Z., R. Taylor and F. Guoqiang. China’s wood market, trade
and the environment. Beijing: Science press USA Inc and WWF
international, 2004.
Clarke, J. I. Sierra Leone in Maps. London: University of London Press,
1969.
Clements, F. E. “The Relict Method in Dynamic Ecology.” Journal of
Ecology 22:1 (1934): 39-68.
Clements, F. E. Research Methods in Ecology. Ayer Publishing, 1974.
Cline-Cole, R. A. “Wartime Forest Energy Policy and Practice in British
West Africa: Social and Economic Impact on the Labouring Classes
1939-45.” Africa: 63:1 (1993): 56-79.
Davies, M. “China's developmental model comes to Africa.” Review of
African Political Economy 35:115 (2008): 134-137.
Davis, M. “Forests and conflict in Cambodia.” International Forestry
Review, 7:2 (2005): 161-164.
Démurger, S., H. YuanZhou and Y. Weiyong. “Forest management
policies and resource balance in China: an assessment of the current
situation.” The Journal of Environment and Development 18:1
(2009): 17-41.
de Blas, D. E. and M. R. Perez. “Prospects for reduced impact logging in
Central African logging concessions.” Forest Ecology and
Management 256:7 (2008): 1509–1516.
District Forestry Officer, Personal Communication 2008.
Dorjahn, V. R. “The economies of Sierra Leone and Liberia.” in V. R.
Dorjahn and B. L. Isaac, eds. Essays on the Economic Anthropology
of Liberia and Sierra Leone. Philadelphia Institute of Liberian
Studies, 1979.
Ejigu, M. “Land, forests, insecurity and conflict.” International Forestry
Review 8:1 (2006): 72-77.
ARAS Vol.32 No.1 June 2011
75
Fairhead, J. and M. Leach. “Whose social forestry and why? People, trees
and managed continuity in Guinea's forest-savanna mosaic.”
Zeitschrift fur Wirtschaftsgeographie 37:2 (1993): 86-101.
Fairhead, J. and M. Leach. “False forest history Complicit Social
Analysis: Rethinking Some West African Environmental
Narratives.” World Development 23:6 (1995a):1023-1035.
Fairhead, J. and M. Leach. “Local agro-ecological management and
forest-savanna transitions: the case of Kissidougou, Guinea.” in T.
Binns, ed. People and Environment in Africa, Chichester: John
Wiley and Sons Ltd, 1995b.
Fairhead, J. and M. Leach. “Reading forest history backwards: the
interaction of policy and local land use in Guinea 1893-1993.”
Environment and History 1:1 (1995c): 55-91.
Fairhead, J. and M. Leach. Misreading the African Landscape: Society
and ecology in a forest-savanna mosaic. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1996a.
Fairhead, J. and M. Leach. “Reframing Forest History: A Radical
Reappraisal of the Roles of People and Climate in West African
Vegetation Change”, in Thackwray S. Driver and Graham P.
Chapman, eds. Time-Scales and Environmental Change. New York:
Routledge, 1996b.
Fairhead, J. and M. Leach. “Enriching the landscape: social history and
the management of transition ecology in the forest-savanna mosaic
(Republic of Guinea).” Africa 66:1 (1996c): 14-46.
Fairhead, J. and M. Leach. “Rethinking the Forest-Savanna Mosaic:
Colonial Science and its Relics in West Africa.” in M. Leach and R.
Mearns, eds. The Lie of the Land: Challenging Received Wisdom on
the African Environment. Oxford, James Currey, 1996d.
Fairhead, J. and M. Leach. “Culturing trees: the political ecology of Kissi
and Kuranko forest islands.” in K. Seeland, ed. Nature is Culture:
Indigenous Knowledge and Socio-Cultural Aspects of Trees and
Forests in Non-European Cultures. London: IT Publications, 1997a.
Fairhead, J. and M. Leach. “Webs of Power and the Construction of
Environmental Policy Problems: Forest Loss in Guinea.” in R. Grillo
and R. Stirrat, eds. Discourses of Development: anthropological
perspectives. New York, Berg Publishers, 1997b).
Fairhead, J. and M. Leach. “Deforestation in question: dialogue and
dissonance in ecological, social and historical knowledge of West
Africa.” Paideuma, no. 43 (1997c): 227–252
Fairhead, J. and M. Leach. Reframing Deforestation: Global analyses and
local realities: studies in West Africa. London: Routledge, 1998a.
ARAS Vol.32 No.1 June 2011
76
Fairhead, J. and M. Leach. “Reconsidering the extent of deforestation in
the twentieth century West Africa.” Unasylva 192:47 (1998b): 38-
46.
Fairhead, J. and M. Leach. “Shaping Socio-Ecological and Historical
Knowledge if Deforestation in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Togo.” in
R. Cline-Cole and C. Madge, eds. Contesting Forestry in West
Africa. Ashgate, Aldershot, 2000a
Fairhead, J. and M. Leach. “Desiccation and Domination: Science and
Struggles over Environment and Development in Colonial Guinea.”
The Journal of African History 41:1 (2000a): 35-54
Ferme, M. C. The Underneath of Things: violence, history and the
everyday in Sierra Leone. Berkley: University of California Press,
2001.
Foley, G. “Sustainable woodfuel supplies from the dry tropical
woodlands” ESMAP Technical Paper, 013. Washington: ESMAP,
2001.
Fyfe, C. A History of Sierra Leone. Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1968.
Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL). National biodiversity report.
Freetown: Government of Sierra Leone, 2003.
Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL). Forestry Development, Exploitation
and Trade Reforms. Freetown: Government of Sierra Leone, 2008.
Grainger, A. and W. Konteh. “Autonomy, ambiguity and symbolism in
African politics: The development of forest policy in Sierra Leone.”
Land Use Policy 24:1 (2007): 42–61.
Grove, R. H. Ecology Climate and Empire: Colonialism and Global
Environmental History, 1400-1940. Isle of Harris: White Horse
Press, 1997.
Hiemstra-van der Horst, Greg. “‘We are Scared to Say No’: Facing
Foreign Timber Companies in Sierra Leone’s Community
Woodlands,” Journal of Development Studies, 47:4 (2011): 574-594.
Hoffman, D. “The Meaning of a Militia: Understanding the Civil Defence
Forces of Sierra Leone.” African Affairs 106:425 (2007): 639-662.
Holslag, J. “Commerce and prudence: revising China’s evolving Africa
policy.” International Relations of the Asia-Pacific 8:3 (2008): 325–
352.
Institutional Reform and Capacity Building Project (IRCBP). Institutional
Reform and Capacity Building Project (IRCBP) Final report.
Freetown: Government of Sierra Leone, 2004.
Jagger, P., J. Pender and B. Gebremedhin. “Trading off environmental
sustainability for empowerment and income: woodlot devolution in
northern Ethiopia.” World Development 33:9 (2005): 1491–1510.
ARAS Vol.32 No.1 June 2011
77
Kabbah, A. T. “Statement by the President, His Excellency Alhaji Dr.
A.T. Kabbah at the relaunching of the Local Government Reform
and Decentralisation Programme.” Freetown, Sierra Leone, Feb 20,
2004.
Kandeh, H. B. S. and P. Richards. “Rural People as Conservationists:
Querying neo-Malthusian assumptions about biodiversity in Sierra
Leone.” Africa 66:1 (1996): 90-103.
Kaplinsky, R. “What does the rise of China do for industrialisation in
Sub-Saharan Africa?” Review of African Political Economy 35:115
(2008): 7-22.
Lane-Poole, C. E. Report on the Forest of Sierra Leone. London:
Waterlow and Sons Limited, 1991.
Leach, M. “New Shapes to Shift: War, Parks and The Hunting Person in
Modern West Africa.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological
Institute 6:4 (2000):577-595
Leach, M. and J. Fairhead. “Natural resource management: the
reproduction and use of environmental misinformation in Guinea's
forest-savanna transition zone.” IDS Bulletin 25:2 (1994): 81-87.
Leach, M. and J. Fairhead. “Ruined settlements and new gardens: gender
and soil-ripening among Kuranko farmers in the forest-savanna
transition zone.” IDS Bulletin 26:1 (1995): 24-32.
Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS). State of
the nation: Ministerial report. Freetown: Ministry of Agriculture,
Forestry and Food Security, 2003.
Mapedza, E. “Forestry policy in colonial and postcolonial Zimbabwe:
continuity and change.” Journal of Historical Geography, 33:4
(2007): 833-851.
Mayer, J. and P. Fajarnes. “Tripling Africa's primary exports: what, how,
where?.” Journal of Development Studies 44:1 (2008): 80-102.
Meredith, D. “State Controlled Marketing and Economic “Development”:
The Case of West African Produce during the Second World War.”
The Economic History Review 39:1 (1986): 77-91.
Munro, P. G. “Deforestation: Constructing Problems and Solutions on
Sierra Leone's Freetown Peninsula.” The Journal of Political
Ecology 16:1 (2009): 104-124.
Mvondo, S. A. and P. R. Oyono. “An assessment of social negotiation as
a tool of local management: a case study of the Dimako Council
forest, Cameroon.” Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research 19:4
(2004): 78-84.
Naidu, S. and M. Davies. “China fuels its future with Africa's riches.”
South African Journal of International Affairs 13:2 (2006): 69-83.
ARAS Vol.32 No.1 June 2011
78
Neumann, R. P. Imposing wilderness: struggles over livelihood and
nature preservation in Africa. Berkley: University of California
Press, 1998.
Oyono, P. R. “One step forward, two steps back? Paradoxes of natural
resources management decentralisation in Cameroon.” Journal of
Modern African Studies 42:1 (2004): 91–111.
Platteau, J. P. “Monitoring elite capture in community-driven
development.” Development and Change 35:2 (2004): 223-246.
Pullan, R. A. “Conservation and the Development of National Parks in
the Humid Tropics of Africa.” Journal of Biogeography 15:1 (1988):
171-183.
Ribot, J. C. “A history of fear: imagining deforestation in the West
African dryland forests.” Global Ecology and Biogeography 8:3-4
(1999): 291-300.
Richards, P. “Saving the rain forest? Contested futures in conservation.”
in Sandra Wallman, ed. Contemporary Futures: perspectives from
Social Anthropology. London: Routledge, 1992.
Richards, P. Fighting for the Rain Forest: war, youth & resources in
Sierra Leone. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1996.
Stone, Michael. “China and Certification: A Questionable Future.”
Journal of Forestry 104:6 (2006): 332-333.
Unwin, A. H. Report on the Forestry Problems in Sierra Leone. London:
Waterlow and Sons Limited, 1909.
Walker, P. A. and P. E. Peters. “Maps, metaphors and meanings:
boundary struggles and village forest use on private and state land in
Malawi.” Society and Natural Resources 14:5 (2001): 411-424.
Walker, P. A. “Democracy and environment: congruencies and
contradictions in Southern Africa.” Political Geography 18:3
(1999): 257-284.
Wardell, D. A. and C. Lund. “Governing access to forests in northern
Ghana: micro-politics and the rents of non-enforcement.” World
Development 34:11 (2006): 1887-1906.
White, A. S. X., K. Canby, J. Xu, C. Barr, E. Katsigris, G. Bull, C.
Cossalter and S. Nilsson. China and the global market for forest
products: transforming trade to benefit forests and livelihoods.
Washington, D.C.: Forest Trends, 2006.
Zhang, J. and J. Gan. “Who will meet China’s import demand for forest
products?” World Development 35:12 (2007): 2150-2160.
... These forest reserves would protect headwaters of important rivers and streams while supplying forestry products such as teak, poles, and other lumber. These moves ushered in a conservationist form of land planning and control already present in other British colonies in West Africa, notably in Sierra Leone [56]. It saw the creation and gazetting of a number of forest reserves and the subsequent resettlement of large populations to other areas outside the reserve zones and not deemed over-populated [53,54]. ...
Article
Full-text available
This paper discusses the evolution of socio-cultural and political relations that defined access to, use, and management of land resources in northeast Ghana during the pre-colonial and colonial periods. The aim is to historicise current meta-narratives about degradation of the natural landscape in the rural savannahs of northeast Ghana. Many of those degradation narratives take their root in the past during the colonial era, but the conceptual underpinnings of those narratives have remained essentially a-historical, a-political, and a-cultural. This paper shows that the organisation of space and land uses in pre-colonial communities in northeast Ghana was governed by certain traditional knowledge systems which were ignored by the colonial authorities. While narratives about landscape degradation by natives were propagated by the colonial government to justify a need to preserve the environment, their attempts to control land management matters were essentially for political and economic reasons. The study concludes that current policy frameworks on desertification and land management need to move beyond inherent historical biases. Rather, attention ought to be given to critical historical reflections on the dynamic processes by which variations in socio-economic relations of resource access/use, farming practices, land tenure arrangements, and political agendas interact with changes in the biophysical environment to produce different land cover trajectories over time.
... The implications of this for conservation were that forests were largely viewed as sources of timber and revenue, and as such the establishment of controversial large-scale logging concessions was common (Tuboku-Metzger 1983;Munro and Hiemstra-van der Horst 2011;. Concomitantly, the Forestry Department had more of an interest in wildlife's commercial potential, rather than its overall protection. ...
Article
Full-text available
This paper details Geza Teleki's contributions in the development of a wildlife conservation movement in Sierra Leone in the late 1970s to early 1980s. Teleki, a primatologist researcher and an animal rights activist, arrived in Sierra Leone in 1979 to find an inactive government wildlife conservation program and a thriving primate export sector. Shocked by what he saw, he worked with local and international environmentalists to build a wildlife conservationist movement in Sierra Leone. From capricious negotiations with presidential dictator Siaka Stevens to theurgical conflicts with local communities, Teleki helped to lay the groundwork for transforming wildlife conservation in the small West African nation. In this paper, I explore these contributions, reconstructing Teleki's position as a historical actor in Sierra Leone as well as providing some reflection on how the legacy of his work has been inscribed upon Sierra Leone's contemporary wildlife conservation landscape.
Chapter
Full-text available
The UN Sustainable Development Goals include ambitious targets for tackling deforestation and emphasise the roles of diverse actors and partnerships for transformative change. Initiatives for governing tropical forests take multiple forms, including ‘zero deforestation’ supply chain initiatives, carbon forestry, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), legislative frameworks that intend to cut off markets for illegally harvested timber, and emerging landscape and jurisdictional approaches. Drawing on insights from political ecology and sustainability transitions research, this chapter discusses the barriers to transitioning to ‘zero deforestation’ through consideration of: (1) the contested framing of the problem of deforestation, (2) how sustainable forest governance is translated and enacted across scales, and (3) who is represented in ‘the transition’. This reveals opportunities for sustainable and just transitions for forests. We argue that careful attention must be paid to the influences of power and politics surrounding forest governance and its social and ecological outcomes, and the need to challenge orthodoxies around economic growth that currently underpin policy responses.
Book
“Empire forestry”—the broadly shared forest management practice that emerged in the West in the nineteenth century—may have originated in Europe, but it would eventually reshape the landscapes of colonies around the world. Melding the approaches of environmental history and political ecology, Colonial Seeds in African Soil unravels the complex ways this dynamic played out in twentieth-century colonial Sierra Leone. While giving careful attention to topics such as forest reservation and exploitation, the volume moves beyond conservation practices and discourses, attending to the overlapping social, economic, and political contexts that have shaped approaches to forest management over time.
Article
Full-text available
In the late-1990s anthropologists James Fairhead and Melissa Leach declared in a series of seminal publications that mainstream understandings of Sierra Leonean forest cover history had greatly exaggerated its past extent and rate of conversion to other land uses. Using archival evidence, they recast the ‘official’ story as a product of antiquated European environmental philosophy rather than empirical data. Moreover, they found that it distorted environmental policy by perpetuating images of a mythological past in which once nearly universal forest cover had been (and continued to be) denuded and degraded by irrational, primitive rural agricultural practices. Building on this foundation, they developed a trenchant critique of the existing academic literature describing land cover change in Sierra Leone, discounting most findings on the grounds of the authors’ uncritical engagement with the colonial-era narrative. In this article we present a re-evaluation of this influential thesis, arguing that while their broader critique is quite sound, historical deforestation in Sierra Leone has most certainly been considerably exaggerated, Fairhead and Leach overreached in their dismissal of prior works. Drawing upon new empirical data, we revisit these debates and develop a more nuanced critical platform from which to understand Sierra Leone’s forest cover history.
Chapter
Full-text available
In contrast to media fixation on the physical violence of recent West African conflicts, scholars have emphasized the lasting effects of massive population displacements. In Sierra Leone, for example, roughly 2 million of a total 3.8 million people had to migrate internally and several hundred thousand more fled to neighboring countries. As many have noted, both the experiences of those who were displaced and later returned home, as well as the dramatic shifts in population geography caused by those who did not, have had considerable impacts on important social issues including ethnic relations, identity formation, (macro)economic patterns and medical services provision. What remain less well understood, however, are the effects of these disruptions and reconfigurations on rural livelihoods and, by extension, on the (re) production of human-environmental relationships across broad swathes of landscape. These are of critical importance to processes of postwar stabilization and reconstruction, since most of Africa's mainly agrarian populations rely almost entirely on the productivity of their immediate landscapes for subsistence and small-scale commercial production. Focusing on Sierra Leone, in this chapter we draw on extensive field data to describe how rural residents' responses to both the vagaries of intense and chaotic conflict as well as the unstable conditions of peacebuilding have produced a considerable transformation of people-forest relationships across the country.
Article
Full-text available
Bien que la production de bois dédiée à l’exportation ait une longue histoire en Afrique subsaharienne, cet article s’intéresse à l’actuelle re)commercialisation des forêts de cette région. En tant que chercheurs en écologie politique combinant « les préoccupations de l’écologie et une économie politique au sens général », nous observons que les pays d’Afrique subsaharienne producteurs de bois sont soumis à de nouveaux – et, à plusieurs égards, d’inquiétants – systèmes de gestion et de gouvernance. Ces systèmes ont reçu moins d’attention que d’autres éléments de la «seconde course » (second scramble ) que mènent les entreprises et les gouvernements étrangers pour l’appropriation des terres agricoles, des minerais et des nouveaux marchés d’Afrique. Nous explorons les nouvelles écologies politiques des forêts africaines issues de ces développements. Nous présentons le contexte historique et contemporain des récentes dynamiques dans le secteur forestier africain. Nous nous intéressons ensuite plus particulièrement au Liberia et à la Sierra Leone pour illustrer notre propos.
Article
Full-text available
This article examines the issue of deforestation on Sierra Leone's Freetown Peninsula, specifically analysing the gap that exists between the rhetoric surrounding the problem of deforestation and the subsequent policies and projects that are implemented to address it. It is argued in this paper that this gap can be better understood by examining how different actors involved in policy and projects interact over the issue of deforestation. Such an examination reveals how these actors produce discourses of blame towards poorer, politically weaker groups, which ultimately results in deforestation 'solutions' that intervene into their lives. These prescriptions of blame and subsequent solutions for deforestation are negotiated through a combination of local realities, which includes the occurrence of deforestation, and global influences such as development discourses and interventions. The analysis here reflects a political ecology framework that also draws from post-structuralist insights and reveals how underlying discourses, actions and actors across a broad political, social and economic spectrum ultimately play a role in influencing the causes, perceptions and solutions relating to deforestation. Keywords: Deforestation, Political Ecology, Freetown, Discourses, Development, Sierra Leone, Africa
Article
We examine such familiarity among the Kissi and Kouranko inhabitants of Kissidougou Prefecture in Guinea, and the ways that their tree management is integrated with agricultural production, environmental management and the furnishing of everyday needs such as for food, fuel, equipment, building and medicines. In the light of local plant management interests and expertise we critically reflect on some of the assumptions which guide modern interventions in the fields of social forestry and agroforestry. The research shows a continuity in vegetation patterns and management over at least the last century. We explain how and why it is used and maintained by local resource management practices; practices rooted in the integration of tree management with agricultural production, the furnishing of everyday needs and the more general environmental management on which these activities depend. We look at the interests of different social groups in these management processes. It is these practices, we suggest, which constitute agroforestry and social forestry from the local perspective and on which outside interventions might usefully build. -from Authors
Article
This article suggests that the extent of deforestation that has occurred in West Africa during the twentieth century is currently being exaggerated. It presents key findings of detailed research into vegetation change over the past century in Côte d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Togo and Benin.
Article
This study reviews how West African deforestation is represented and the evidence which informs deforestation orthodoxy. On a country by country basis (covering Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote D'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo and Benin), and using historical and social anthropological evidence the authors evaluate this orthodox critically. Reframing Deforestation suggests that the scale of deforestation wrought by West African farmers during the twentieth century has been vastly exaggerated. The authors argue that global analyses have unfairly stigmatised West Africa and obscured its more sustainable, even landscape-enriching practices. Stessing that dominant policy approaches in forestry and conservation require major rethinking worldwide, Reframing Deforestation illustrates that more realistic assessments of forest cover change, and more respectful attention to local knowledge and practices, are necessary bases for effective and appropriate environmental policies.
Article
The diverse humid forests of tropical Africa are on the verge of destruction and the few protected areas are also under threat from illegal land and resource use. The conservation history of these forests dates from about 85 years ago but game and forest reserves have not protected the ecosystems. The humid lowland forests have always been perceived as lacking any potential for tourism and are known to have valuable resources. Thus, few of the humid lowland forests were protected after the major conservation initiatives of 1933 and 1961. Increasing concern for the protection of lowland humid forests led to several large national parks being created in the years 1966-74 but few were established in the most threatened forests of West Africa and none in East Africa. The high cost of national park development and the unlikely possibility of tourism has led to biosphere reserves being favoured and it is suggested that these are likely to be more successful than national parks. Specialized forms of tourism are successful in the montane forests however, and the future of national parks in these areas would seem to be assured. The high cost of protecting and managing national parks suggests that unless international financial aid is available, those that have already been established may have an uncertain future. It is proposed that only one large national park is required in each country within the lowland humid forests and that biosphere reserves are more appropriate for other conserved areas in these forests.