Conservation and colonialism – A Statement from the Southern Africa Community Leaders Network
The Community Leaders Network (CLN) challenges those in the Global North who are condemning conservation hunting as a colonial relic. For every complex problem there is an answer that seems clear and simple but is often wrong.
Peoples who were colonised across the world have adopted many interventions, technologies and approaches to life from the colonial period. These include medicines, transportation and communications systems and tools, and likewise, conservation hunting. It is our right to decide what adopted interventions we retain or discard based on their tangible and intrinsic value. For Westerners to determine what it is suitable for Africans to retain is the epitome of the very thing that is being criticised – a colonial mindset.
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You must acknowledge that rural African people sustainably managed biodiversity, including charismatic wild animals, for millennia before the arrival of colonists and continue to do so today in many post-colonial contexts which are based on inclusionary policies. These policies not only recognise our rights and provide appropriate incentives for us to control our land, but also allow us to benefit economically from sustainably harvesting the biodiversity that surrounds us and of which we are custodians.
A good starting point to reaching the right answers is to include and consult us in debates that materially affect our wellbeing and, beyond this, recognise our inputs and act upon them. Members of our network are all too familiar with the consequences of ignoring or failing to encourage and incentivise community involvement in conservation in social contexts steeped in poverty