Academic journal article Ethnology

Political Ecology and Conflict in Ankarana, Madagascar

Academic journal article Ethnology

Political Ecology and Conflict in Ankarana, Madagascar

Article excerpt

Conflict over issues of land use in northern Madagascar reveals that

political control is situational and that rights to resources are

ambiguous. In two cases, local farmers, the regional royal indigenous

leader, and international conservationists struggled to

establish and maintain the ability to use and manage the forested land to

the west of the Ankarana massif. Political ecology provides a theoretical

framework for exploring the complex political negotiations that are an

integral part of all ecological interactions. In recognizing the complexity

of such interactions, applied attempts to address issues of environmental

degradation and disenfranchisement may also become

more effective. (Madagascar, political ecology, conservation, conflict)

The protected forest of the Ankarana Special Reserve, in northern Madagascar, has a history of local tensions over who possesses rights to land use and under what circumstances. Effective control over land use is situational more than it is predetermined or consistently executed according to a set standard. The cases reported here reveal land- and resource-use rights to be ambiguous, overlapping, and even contradictory. Examining cases of conflict shows the theoretical interdependence of political and ecological analyses by considering how people with different interests and access to power continuously negotiate rights to manage and use the environment of the Ankarana region. Political ecology, an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates political economy and cultural ecology into one frame of analysis, provides a useful perspective for studying the complex dynamics of human interactions with the environment. By focusing on links between local, national, and international contexts, scholars have shown that ecological relationships extend beyond local geographical and political boundaries (Campbell and Olson 1991; Grossman 1993; Moore 1993; Jarosz 1993; Sanabria 1993) and that social differentiation is an important factor in resource management, as some possess greater rights to access and manage resources than others (Carney 1993; Schroeder 1993; Johnston 1994; Bryant 1995; Rocheleau et al. 1996).

This article contributes to political ecology by focusing on textured analyses of multilevel political interactions and processes, showing their relationship to the regulation of control and use of the biophysical environment. While quantitative analyses have frequently been considered the benchmark of studies in ecological anthropology, detailed qualitative analyses of micropolitics and sociocultural processes also reveal important aspects of the patterns of human interaction with the biophysical environment. Geographers Richard Peet and Michael Watts (1994:240) note "the absence of serious treatment of politics in political ecology" and call for qualitative studies "integrating political action--whether everyday resistance, civic movements, or organized party politics--into questions of resource access and control" (Peet and Watts 1994:240). Vayda (1983:271) also points out the limitations of quantitative methodologies and advocates "methods with a fluidity or flexibility to match that of the things and processes we were trying to understand." The following analysis examines cases of conflict to gain insight into how different actors and authorities (the politicoreligious leader, the people living on the periphery of the forest, and the conservation organization in tandem with the government of Madagascar) vie for access to forested land.

Understandings in political ecology go beyond theoretical relevance in their ability to suggest forms of resource management which take into account the complexity of political and economic interactions. As Vayda (1983) suggests, ecological writings are most useful if they address some of the concerns of policymakers as well as those of academics. …

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