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Broadening the Debate: The Tharaka Participatory Action Research Project

This article challenges devolution and populist approaches to biodiversity conservation and forest management by examining several of the main assumptions on which they are based.

The concept of partnership in conservation is based on the following, often contested, assumptions:

1. local populations are interested and skilled in sustainable forest resource use and conservation;

2. contemporary rural communities are homogeneous and stable;

3. local, community-based tenurial, knowledge and management systems are uniquely suitable for forest conservation.

These assumptions are challenged as follows:

1. traditional practices are not always sustainable.

2. ideals of homogenous stable communities are a misleading myth, whole village communities in fact tend to be heterogeneous, factional and stratified

3. changing forest ownership and the transfer of authority over forests to local communities are usually viewed as prerequisites for biodiversity conservation.

However in practice the relationship has been shown to defy broad generalizations. The article concludes that completely community-centred approaches to biodiversity conservation may be just as unsatisfactory as completely government-centred approaches.

Guido Giarelli

Food and Agriculture Organization, United Nations, Bologna, Italy (1999)

Resource Link: www.nuffic.nl/ciran/ikdm/4-2/articles/giarelli.html

We learned about this resource from the IAP2 Knowledge Network, whose Resource Database lists over 300 resources. Go to www.iap2.civicore.com to explore the feature.

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