Local ecological knowledge systems are dynamic expressions of perceiving and understanding the world, which have historically made and continue to make valuable contributions to ecology and conservation science. This dissertation examines the process and outcomes of integrating local voices and knowledge in the global scientific and political discourse of social-ecological conservation in Boumba, Niger (near Park W). With an interdisciplinary tool-box and participatory framework, this question has been examined from an ecological, social and policy viewpoints. A case study on the history fire management policy in Park W provides an historical context to conservation action and examines how local voices can influence how scientific knowledge is implemented in policy and action. In close collaboration with many Nigerien colleagues, I examine the diversity and heterogeneity of knowledge within a single community using participatory methodology to facilitate local participants in identifying key sub-groups relevant to conservation. The variation in local ecological knowledge across gender and age raises questions of potential bias in conventional ethnobotanical research and conservation actions. A study of the local categorization of plant resources indicates gaps in Western understandings of famine foods as well as differences in the way Boumba residents the category itself. These gaps and differences limit the Western understanding of local famine resilience as well as underestimate the importance of these botanical resources. In a series of cross discipline comparative studies I examine the use of local ecological knowledge as a rapid biodiversity assessment tool through participatory research methods, the participation of parataxonomists using folk naming systems in vascular plant surveys and the use of local voices in detailed ecological health and regeneration models. These results broadly support the importance of local knowledge systems and experts to ensure local cultural relevance of the results and analysis and provide additional information regarding the social-ecological system as a whole. These comparisons highlight the gaps in Western knowledge in explaining local knowledge, the challenges of using local knowledge in global comparisons, and the importance of a complementary program of analysis. This study promotes the integration of local voices and knowledge systems in conservation science and policy while cautioning that the technical importance of local knowledge should not overshadow the political nature of participation.
|Advisor:||Almedom, Astier M.|
|Commitee:||Ellmore, George, Gunderson, Lance, Reed, J. Michael, Robinson, Pearl T.|
|School Location:||United States -- Massachusetts|
|Source:||DAI-B 70/04, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Plant biology, Cultural anthropology, Environmental science|
|Keywords:||African conservation, Biodiversity, Conservation, Ethnobotany, Niger, Participatory research|
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