Mikea Forest. Journal MCD

Exploring discourses of indigeneity and rurality in Mikea Forest environmental governance

Amber R. Huff

Abstract


ABSTRACT

This article examines discourses of indigeneity and rurality that define and classify different categories of resource users in the context of Mikea Forest environmental governance. Many Malagasy peoples live in, have deep cultural ties with, and directly depend on the island’s forests, but Mikea people are the only to be legally recognized as ‘indigenous peoples’ as defined by Operational Directive 4.20 of the World Bank. In policy documents, scholarship, and media productions, Mikea people are represented as a small, culturally distinct population of primitive forest foragers. In contrast, other subsistence producers living in the region are represented as invasive and harmful to Mikea people and the Mikea Forest environment. However, there are significant incongruities between these representations and local history, cultural norms, and social-environmental realities. While the intent of international norms for indigenous rights in conservation and development contexts is to mitigate risk of harm and improve democratic participation among historically underrepresented peoples, this case highlights how imposed notions of indigeneity can in some cases actually increase local vulnerabilities. Mikea Forest environmental policies should be amended to mitigate risk of insecurities faced by a broad range of forest residents, Mikea and non-Mikea, due to socio-political exclusions, restricted livelihoods, and reduced territorial rights.

 

RÉSUMÉ

L’objectif de cet article est d’examiner comment dans le cadre de la mise en place de politiques publiques à l’échelle de la forêt des Mikea, et dans les discours sur l’indigénisme et la ruralité qui y sont associés, sont définies et classifiées les différentes catégories d’utilisateurs des ressources. De nombreux malgaches vivent, ont des attaches culturelles et dépendent directement des îlots forestiers pour leur subsistance ; néanmoins seuls les Mikea sont légalement reconnus comme des « peuples autochtones » tels que définis par la directive opérationnelle 4.20 de la Banque Mondiale et auraient dés lors des droits particulier sur le territoire et les forêts. Dans les textes des politiques environnementales ou dans les médias, les Mikea sont présentés comme une population autochtone au mode de vie originel et détentrice d’une culture inédite tandis que les populations voisines sont perçues comme des envahisseurs perturbant l’organisation sociale et les forêts des Mikea. Toutefois, il existe des décalages importants entre ces représentations et les réalités du terrain : les fondements de l’identité locale ne correspondent pas aux définitions officielles de l’autochtonie présentée dans les documents du développement. Les Mikea et les populations voisines sont en fait largement interdépendants et tous pratiquent un éventail d’activités économiques fondées sur les facteurs de saisonnalité, les compétences ou les demandes du marché. Contrairement aux représentations officielles présentant la culture des Mikea comme unique et autonome, ceux-ci appartiennent aux mêmes clans et partagent les mêmes pratiques que leurs voisins jugés illégitimes au regard de la gestion des territoires. L’histoire montre en outre une longue participation des peuples Mikea aux échanges commerciaux régionaux et mondiaux et des échanges constants avec les missionnaires. L’objectif des normes internationales pour les droits des peuples autochtones est de réduire les risques de vulnérabilité et d’améliorer la participation démocratique des peuples sous-représentés dans les instances officielles ; notre recherche montre au contraire que les notions imposées de l’autochtonie peuvent dans certaines situations accentuer les vulnérabilités des peuples à l’échelle locale. Les politiques environnementales concernant la forêt Mikea devraient être améliorées pour prendre en compte les insécurités rencontrées par une grande partie des résidents de la forêt, Mikea et non Mikea. Les acteurs de la conservation et du développement pourraient parvenir à mettre en place des politiques plus justes et plus démocratiques, et devraient chercher à atténuer les conséquences négatives des politiques déjà en place.

 


Keywords


indigeneity; rurality; foragers; discourse; identity; representation; conservation; governance; Mikea

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/mcd.v7i2S.2

Madag. conserv. dev.
ISSN: 1662-2510