Forest Politics in Colonial and Postcolonial Kenya, 1940-1990s

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Forest Politics in Colonial and Postcolonial Kenya, 1940-1990s Alphonse Omondi Otieno In the period 1940-1990s, the Kenyan forestry policy evolved from an emphasis on preservation to a combination of programs which embodied both rural Africans' interests and practices and state interests in environmental issues. Using four cases from the western Kenya region, this dissertation explains how and why this shift took place. It examines the significance of local processes in the form of struggles over preserved rural landscapes in the shift of the policy. The struggles were manifested in contests and negotiations between officials and rural people from the affected areas. Through these contests and negotiations, compromises that led to the preservation of the landscapes materialized. The compromises allowed rural Africans' interests and uses of the landscapes to insinuate themselves into the preservation policy reshaping it in the process in different contexts. Despite the compromises, contests against the preservation continued due to its restrictive effects on local ways of using the landscapes. Rural Africans made persistent claims for usufruct and ownership rights to the preserved landscapes which compelled government officials in some cases to give back substantial acres of the preserved forests to the claimants and in other cases to allow regulated uses of the forests. These official responses incorporated local ways of using the landscapes into conventional agendas for the forest preservation. To expand forests in rural areas in the face of such incessant claims for land, the government adopted social forestry and agroforestry programs that aimed at integrating forests, crops, livestock, and people. The programs appropriated certain local land-and tree-use practices which transformed the forestry policy into a mixture of local uses of landscapes and conventional discourses on forests. The constitution of the forestry policy was thus more complex than the high modernist model used for environmental policies generally.

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  • 09/17/2018
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