Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

The Challenges of Indigenizing Africa's Environmental Conservation Goals

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

The Challenges of Indigenizing Africa's Environmental Conservation Goals

Article excerpt


This paper takes a critical look at a proposals which is increasingly gaining currency in sub-Saharan Africa: and that is, the suggestion that in order for Africa to cultivate an environmentally supportive culture, respective African governments - working in cooperation with the multilateral donor agencies, must thoughtfully reconcile imported environmental conservation interventions with the tried and time tested collective intelligence of Africa's village lore. As salutary as this goal is, I here nevertheless argue that its actual implementation will be more than a Herculean feat. Several obstacles will undoubtedly proliferate on the way. Amongst these obstacles, to mention a few, would include: the obviously predatory tendencies of the free market (knows best) ideology; behind-the-scene political power games of Africa's ruling elite; Africans fractured sense of self; Africa's crushing dependency on Industrialized Nations of the North and, last but not least; the technocratic paternalism ('expert-knows-best' mentality) of both African and non-African elite. This list of obstacles is, of course, not exhaustive; it is only indicative.

However, in a paper of this length, we cannot obviously fully explore how each of the aforementioned hurdles will hinder Africa's aspirations for indigenizing her environmental conservation goals. Consequently, we here only then direct our focus primarily on the extent to which the predatory tendencies of free market ideology will get in the way of Africa's determination of indigenizing her environmental conservation goals.


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. …

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