Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The Challenges of Indigenizing Africa's Environmental Conservation Goals

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The Challenges of Indigenizing Africa's Environmental Conservation Goals

Article excerpt


Lately, in Africa, a consensus has been emerging around the idea of reconnecting Africa's environmental conservation goals with the reservoir of its up-to-now neglected indigenous lore. This task must, however, contends William Ochieng', "originate from within, not from outside." (1) In other words, solutions to Africa's accelerating environmental crises should, above all, come out of Africa's own roots, not through grafting on to Western implanted interventions.

Once Africans learn and begin to tenaciously embrace homegrown interventions--as the Chinese, Japanese and Malaysians did before they eventually acquiesced to America's McDonaldalization of the world--then, argues Ochieng', Africa's monumental problems, which are largely exacerbated by an over reliance on Western models, will also come to pass. Short of falling back on homegrown solutions, Ochieng' concedes, the continent of Africa and its people will continue to remain under the yoke of the all too often manipulative, exploitative and abusive tutelage of political and economic elites of industrialized nations of the north.

To be sure, Ochieng' is not the only person who has been in the forefront of raising this awareness. Other equally distinguished Africanists had earlier-on expressed a similar concern. For example, with an undue optimism, the celebrated Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe, had forewarned Africans by insisting that "if alternative histories must be written, and the need is more apparent now than ever before, they must be written by insiders, not 'intimate' outsiders. Africans, Achebe counseled, must [without further ado begin to] narrate themselves in their own context and in their own voices ..." Franz Fanon, an ardent critic of colonialism and imperialism, had too expressed a similar view. Pleading with Africanists to avoid the temptation of realigning third world discourse with the parameters of Western conceptual/ epistemic models, Fanon forewarned about the dangers of especially "paying tribute to Europe by creating states, institutions and societies which draw their inspiration from her." He noted:

   Humanity is wanting for something other from us than such an 
   imitation, which would be almost an obscene caricature. If we want 
   to turn Africa into a new Europe ... then we must leave the destiny 
   of our countries to Europeans. They will know how to do it better 
   than the most gifted among us. But if we want humanity to advance a 
   step further, if we want to bring it up to a different level than 
   that which Europe has shown it, then we must invent and we must 
   make discoveries. If we wish to live up to our peoples' 
   expectations, we must seek the response elsewhere than in Europe. 
   Moreover, if we wish to reply to the expectations of the people of 
   Europe, it is no good sending them back a reflection, even an ideal 
   reflection, of their society and their thought with which from time 
   to time they feel immeasurably sickened.... (2) 

Indigenous Wisdom: Its Exclusion and Impact

Despite Fanon and others' counsel, practically all governments in Africa--perhaps, with the exception of Tanzania under Julius Nyerere--have since securing their "political independence" continued to heavily depend on imported interventions. (3) It therefore comes as no surprise that externally generated (imported) ideas, which governments in Africa obediently turn to or are forced to implement by donor agencies and multilateral institutions, have in almost every case engendered mixed results is beyond dispute. While pushing Africa's poorer segments of society further deeper into poverty, and bringing a ton of discernible benefits for a few, they have least helped Africa in preventing, let alone reversing, its inexhaustible catalog of challenges.

Thus, against this grim background, one then begins to understand and even to appreciate why lately there has been an swelling interest in promoting a communitarian, village grounded, discourse of environmental conservation and socio-economic development. …

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