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The Future of Traditional Customary Uses of Wildlife in Modern Africa: A Case Study of Kenya and Botswana

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Author(s): Nixon Sifuna

Journal: Advances in Anthropology
ISSN 2163-9353

Volume: 02;
Issue: 01;
Start page: 31;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: Wildlife Values | Traditional Customary Wildlife Uses | Socio-Cultural Uses | Totems | Traditional African Values

ABSTRACT
This paper discusses the future of traditional customary uses of wildlife in Africa. The continent’s wildlife is as old as humanity or perhaps even older. Indeed wildlife has through the ages remained a valuable resource for the African society; both in its traditional setting and in its modern form. While wildlife has some conventional and universal uses to society, there are some uses that are anthropologically unique to the African traditional way of life and therefore warrant special consideration. Such uses, for instance, manifest the inextricable attachment of the African peoples to the continent’s wildlife. Indeed there is a crucial link between wildlife and many traditional African cultural values and practices. One way in which these values manifest themselves is through the traditional customary uses of wildlife by the people. These uses are consumptive in nature and largely geared towards meeting the basic needs of humankind such as food, health and clothing. Research for this study was conducted in the Laikipia region of Kenya and the Okavango Delta region of Botswana. Information was obtained by the use of semistructured interviews, self-administered questionnaires, focus group discussions, and literature survey. The respondents included government officials, NGOs, experts as well as local communities. A total of 44 respondents were interviewed from each country, comprising households from the local communities within wildlife areas, senior ranking government officials, leaders of NGOs that actually work on wildlife issues, experts in natural resource management as well as eminent scholars in environmental and natural resources law and policy. The study established that these traditional uses continue to be either relegated by modern (or rather Western) way of life especially Christianity or restricted by the laws that are fashioned on American and European perceptions. This state of affairs has been largely engendered by western values as a result of colonialism, modern lifestyles as well as religious transformation from traditional African religions to Islam, Christianity and other present day religions. Admittedly, traditional wildlife uses are not necessarily undesirable and there is need for them to be recognized and promoted by the existing policies and laws. The paper recommends that African governments should, through their policies and laws, recognize and promote these traditional uses of wildlife. This is one way of ensuring that wildlife contributes to the day to day life of the people. It is only when this is achieved that the people of this needy continent of Africa will begin to appreciate the value of wildlife as a valuable resource to the present and future generations. Notably, the value of wildlife in western societies differs radically from its value in the traditional African context. While in western societies the importance of wildlife is perceived from its intrinsic value, in the traditional African context it is perceived from its direct uses—consumptive uses.
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