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Whose Forest? Modern Conservation and Historical Land Use in Guinea

Research reports

One of the main rationales for conserving surviving rainforests in West Africa is that they are pristine, having had little or no human disturbance before recent decades. In one of their early papers on this theme, the authors took the Ziama forest biosphere reserve in Guinea as a case study to show that such forests may have a long history of shifting intensive use and that human management might actually have encouraged the spread of forest into savanna areas. Modern conservation policy for Ziama characterised population growth as the key cause of encroachment, disregarding the effect of local people's historical land claims, which are still strongly felt. The authors recommended that conservation agents acknowledge that social and ecological history, and the current priorities of local stakeholders, determine the prevailing structure of the landscape.

James Fairhead, Melissa Leach