Working Paper Number
This chapter explores the ways in which concepts of 'community' and 'environmental crisis' are constructed and implemented in contemporary forest policy in West Africa and the implications of these policies for the relationships among people, their production, and the environment. It argues that many West African communities have interacted with the environment in ways that have enhanced the natural resource base. A forestry strategy rooted in a conception of building natural assets – rather than in protecting a threatened and ostensibly pristine nature from human intervention, as characterizes much environmental thinking – can meet the objectives of reducing poverty and protecting the environment. This alternative approach would address the alienation of the rural poor from mainstream environmental policies and would be a step in the direction of harmonizing popular aspirations with forestry policy.