The Miller's Tale

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

There has been much press coverage recently about the criticism of certain NGOs working across Africa on conservation initiatives which marginalise and sometimes harm local people.  The well funded organisation, African Parks, has been mentioned, specifically by  Survival International which has been cataloguing such problems for a while.  Here's an extract from a recent Times article by Caroline Pearce, an SI director.

"While the public generously donate millions of pounds a year in the belief that their funds are helping to save gorillas, elephants and other appealing wildlife, the model of conservation still regarded as mainstream by WWF, the Wildlife Conservation Society and others is one of oppression and violence.

It goes like this: areas of precious habitat such as rainforest are turned into national parks, game reserves and so on; indigenous people are turfed out; and big conservation organisations fund, train or directly employ armed guards to enforce this dispossession. While luxury tourism, and even logging and mining, are allowed in, the evicted indigenous people inevitably end up on the lowest rungs of the ladder."

Prince Harry, who's a director of African Parks, has said that when people are coexisting with animals there must be “fences to separate the two and keep the peace. Once a fence is up you are now managing a parcel of land. Different rules have to apply, whether we like it or not.”  His brother takes an alternative view, favouring schemes led by local communities.  It’s been said, though not by them that, this divergence is the original cause of the rift between them.  In this rather significant disagreement, for what it’s worth, I'm with William.

All this took me back to 1998 and a national park in Georgia where I met a miller whose grazing cows had been excluded from ancestral lands in the name of progressive conservation.  If you click here, you can read my rather impassioned notes.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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  • It is fascinating how efforts to conserve/preserve animals and natural environments tends to using fences and boundaries with some aspect of governmental or NGO agencies to manage them. Living in the USA, all the wild/wilder lands, including wilderness areas, are all managed! A question I asked students in an Environmental Worldviews class was how ought we to manage wild lands and wilderness - think an area as remote Alaska. And what does managing a wilderness actually mean in terms of resource allocation and policy. Does nature need a human hand to exist? A tricky question when putting lines on a map that allows management, but how do we educate wild animals about such artificial boundaries. Is leaving a wild piece of nature a waste of good land? The hierarchical worldviews almost always tend to economic perspectives as a solution even, when esthetics are claimed as the goal.