The wiseman and the government
Pascal Rey (CNRS)
In Coastal Guinea, two opposing forms of resource managements exist: the traditional one and the legal one. Given the strong prevailing sense of community, the local situation cannot be understood with current tools. This paper presents research conducted by the Observatoire de Guinee Maritime (CNRS/IRD/Museum d'Histoire Naturelle de Paris) and by the author between 2003 and 2007. The research used an anthropological approach, focusing on an understanding of force ratios and their implications. In doing so, we can examine and assess the decision-making processes and local strategies regarding resource management within a communitarian context, where the modalities of control and limitation are placed under the authority of local powers. Simply focusing on studying "modalities", however, will not provide any conclusive results, as such modalities are not explicitly and clearly defined in the local context. Instead, they are inscribed within the strategies of households, lineages, or the village. Only a study of all of these strategies together can provide us with the keys to a global understanding of Guinean land and resource management. Our analysis underlines that local authorities have a real consideration for the natural resource sustainability. This makes the limitations of administrative actions on a local level as well as the official ignorance regarding local practices all the more problematic. In a context where the Government does not have the capacity to ensure a local presence, it would be pragmatic to consider the local structure, which follows the same goal: the maintenance of resource sustainability. This implies reconsidering the common perception of the Guinean peasants as predators of their resources and in order to do that, anthropology can contribute a lot.
Engaging resources: anthropological perspectives on the formation and contestation of natural resource environments