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Are East African Pastoralists Truly Conservationists?

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Type: Journal Article
Author: Ruttan, Lore M.; Borgerhoff Mulder, M.
Journal: Current Anthropology
Volume: 40
Page(s): 621-652
Date: 1999
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/5027
Sector: Grazing
Region: Africa
Subject(s): modeling
pastoralism
game theory--models
grazing--case studies
performance
Abstract: "Controversy exists among anthropologists,conservation biolo-gists,and development workers as to whether the concept of the 'ecologically noble savage' is a myth. Central to this debate are the problem of how to identify conservationist behavior and the issue of whether sound management of common property is likely to evolve. While social scientists have documented in-stances of restraint in the use of resources, those who adopt an evolutionary perspective are challenged to identify the selective mechanisms whereby such altruistic conservation acts might be maintained in a population. Here a game theoretical approach is used to analyze the case of pastoralist grazing reserves. We demonstrate that under some conditions conservation can be the result of narrow self-interest and there is no collective-action problem. However, the range of these conditions is much broader for wealthy individuals, and thus the wealthy may also find it advantageous to coerce others into conserving. In conclusion, we propose an extension of the definition of conservation that is of greater generality for use in non foraging populations and incorporates the essential political element of how conflicts over resource use are resolved."

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