Peoples, forest area planning and participation

Excerpt: "...A number of conclusions and recommendations can be drawn for those engaged in planning and administering development projects in central Africa, particularly those affecting areas inhabited by pygmy peoples. Few, if any, unoccupied lands exist in central Africa. For the purposes of planning the development or protection of any area of land, it should be assumed a priori that any forest is occupied or claimed by some person, or some clan, lineage or group. Even if there are no overt signs of occupation (e.g. houses or garden sites), the land is most likely to be occupied intermittently and exploited by people whose lifestyles depend on frequent movement...The present diverse composition and distribution ot plants and animals in the rain forest is the result of the introduction of exotic species, the creation of new habitats and the manipulation by the forest-dwelling people for thousands of years. No areas are what most proposals and reports refer to as "pristine". "untouched", "primary" or "mature" forest. Present-day biological diversity exists in central Africa, not in spite of human habitation but because of it...The land rights of all indigenous forest dwellers must be recognized. In most central African countries, all land legally belongs to the state: however, even the state must recognize traditional rights. Traditional rights need to be articulated by these people themselves as the first step towards securing them...The value of a nomadic lifestyle should be recognized as a potentially effective strategy for exploiting the tropical rain forest in a sustainable way and as being vital to the economic, social and psychological wellbeing of forest-dwelling people. While mobility creates difficulties for governments and agencies to provide education, health and other services to tribal people, there are means of accommodating mobile lifestyles and ensuring that such people are not denied appropriate opportunities...The protection of forest areas (reserves and parks) is not incompatible with the continued presence of forest-dwelling people. The creation of protected areas should not necessitate the removal and resettlement of forest dwellers, nor should it require severe restrictions on their rights to forest resources. Frequently, indigenous groups are permitted to remain in protected areas as long as they remain "traditional" - a term usually defined by policy-makers without consultation with, or extensive historical knowledge of, the people themselves. Such restrictions lead to "enforced primitivism". The management policy for reserves should be general enough and flexible enough to allow for variation in management styles across local groups and over time...Planning the organization and management of biological reserves in central Africa will be most effective if it enlists the participation of indigenous people at levels below that of the regional government and even below that of tribal chief..."

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