Islands of dense forest in the savanna of ‘forest’ Guinea have long been regarded as the last relics of a once more extensive forest cover, degraded and degrading fast due to its inhabitants’ land use.
Fairhead and Leach question these entrenched assumptions. They show, on the contrary, how people have created forest islands around their villages, and have turned fallow vegetation more woody, so that population growth has implied more forest, not less. They also consider the origins, persistence, and the consequences of a century of erroneous policy. Interweaving historical, social anthropological and ecological data, this unique study advances a novel theoretical framework for ecological anthropology, forcing a radical re-examination of some central tenets in each of these disciplines.