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University of Helsinki (2011)

Traditionally Protected Forests´ Role within Transforming Natural Resource Management Regimes in Taita Hills, Kenya

Himberg, Nina

Titre : Traditionally Protected Forests´ Role within Transforming Natural Resource Management Regimes in Taita Hills, Kenya

Auteur : Himberg, Nina

Université de soutenance : University of Helsinki

Grade : Doctoral 2011

Résumé
In Taita Hills, south-eastern Kenya, remnants of indigenous mountain rainforests play a crucial role as water towers and socio-cultural sites. They are pressurized due to poverty, shortage of cultivable land and the fading of traditional knowledge. This study examines the traditional ecological knowledge of Taitas and the ways it may be applied within transforming natural resource management regimes. I have analyzed some justifications for and hindrances to ethnodevelopment and participatory forest management in light of recently renewed Kenyan forest policies. Mixed methods were applied by combining an ethnographic approach with participatory GIS. I learned about traditionally protected forests and their ecological and cultural status through a seek out the expert method and with remote sensing data and tools. My informants were : 107 household interviewees, 257 focus group participants, 73 key informants and 87 common informants in participatory mapping. Religious leaders and state officials shared their knowledge for this study.
I have gained a better understanding of the traditionally protected forests and sites through examining their ecological characteristics and relation to social dynamics, by evaluating their strengths and hindrances as sites for conservation of cultural and biological diversity. My results show that, these sites are important components of a complex socio-ecological system, which has symbolical status and sacred and mystical elements within it, that contributes to the connectivity of remnant forests in the agroforestry dominated landscape. Altogether, 255 plant species and 220 uses were recognized by the tradition experts, whereas 161 species with 108 beneficial uses were listed by farmers. Out of the traditionally protected forests studied 47 % were on private land and 23% on community land, leaving 9% within state forest reserves. A paradigm shift in conservation is needed ; the conservation area approach is not functional for private lands or areas trusted upon communities. The role of traditionally protected forests in community-based forest management is, however, paradoxal, since communal approaches suggests equal participation of people, whereas management of these sites has traditionally been the duty of solely accredited experts in the village. As modernization has gathered pace such experts have become fewer. Sacredness clearly contributes but, it does not equal conservation. Various social, political and economic arrangements further affect the integrity of traditionally protected forests and sites, control of witchcraft being one of them. My results suggest that the Taita have a rich traditional ecological knowledge base, which should be more determinately integrated into the natural resource management planning processes.

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