A timely and important examination of the environmental crises, investigating their biophysical, political, economic, and socio-cultural aspects, that reveals why previous conservation efforts failed.
The eastern part of the Mau Forest, the most important closed-canopy forest in East Africa, has come under severe threat since the 1990s. In this political ecology Lisa Fuchs explores the failure of the government-led forest restoration and rehabilitation initiative to 'Save the Mau', launched in 2009. The author examines two of the most contentious issues in Kenya since colonial times: land and the environment. She sheds light on the structural factors and the role of individuals in the forest's destruction and non-protection, and traces the colonial legacy of post-independent environmental conservation policies and practices. In doing so, Fuchs demonstrates that the Mau crisis is more than an environmental crisis: it is also a political, economic, and socio-cultural crisis.
Through a detailed empirical analysis, the author shows that the 'Mau crisis' led to the near collapse of landscapes and livelihoods in the Mau Forest ecosystem. She traces the implementation of insufficient conservation programmes, which resulted from historical path dependency and the adoption of global environmental governance blueprints, forest allocation and benefits, and exposes a forest management system that prioritises commercial forest production over biodiversity conservation. Access and entitlements to the highly fertile forest land and the amalgamation of forest rehabilitation with the reclamation of grabbed public forest are emphasised as a further core contributor to the crisis. The socio-cultural dynamics within and among various forest-dwelling communities, including the indigenous hunting and gathering Ogiek and 'in-migrant' groups, are also analysed. The book highlights that local types of environmentalism are caught between the 'invention of traditions' and 'perverse modernisation' and shows the contradictory effects of the celebrated, highly anticipated but poorly executed 'Save the Mau' initiative, and how the presence of political will to maintain the crisis conditioned its perseverance. Finally, the book proposes realistic alternatives to sustainable forest management in politicised environments, whose relevance and applicability are considerable in this age of anthropogenic 'environmental' crises and conflicts.
Published in association with IFRA/AFRICAE
1. The Politics of Conservation Aid: The Development State 'Saving the Mau'
2. Institutional Failure or Setting Priorities? The Continuation in Exploitation-focused Forest Management
3. The Political Economy of Land: Maintaining Control over Forest Land Allocation and Distribution
4. The Politics of Belonging and Exclusion in Response to Changes in the Eastern Mau: The Complex Definition of Legitimate Land and Resource Use
Lisa Fuchs is a Social Systems and Engagement Scientist at World Agroforestry (ICRAF), and an affiliated researcher at the French Institute for Research in Africa. She has a PhD from the University of Cologne, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, 2019.