Journal Article

Practising ‘biodiversity’ in Guinea, West Africa: nature, nation and an international convention

Published on 1 January 2000

Biodiversity has become a central organizing concept both in international environmental debate and among government departments, donors and non-governmental organizations in the Republic of Guinea.

This article explores how international imperatives around biodiversity are articulating with existing and historically-shaped practices of science and policy in Guinea, and the extent to which villagers’ perspectives gain or fail to gain influence and authority.

At least four sets of science and policy practices currently characterize biodiversity conservation practices, including: (1) the listing of plant and animal species; (2) the exploration of ecosystem dynamics through “cutting edge” computer modelling techniques; (3) the harnessing of traditional plant medicines, linked with discussion of biopiracy; and (4) the promotion of “semi-wild” plants, such as oil palm.

Each set of practices involves different social relations and funding of science, different international networks and different political discourses, while each also carries wider importance in shaping national and local social categories and identities. A common feature is that the framing and institutional/funding imperatives linked to international biodiversity debates have promoted practices that reproduce western, colonial distinctions between nature and culture in ways which compromise attempts at “participatory” conservation.



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