Forests and Thorns: Conditions of Change Affecting Mahafale Pastoralists in Southwestern Madagascar

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"Through two case studies of Mahafale pastoralists living along the Linta River in the spiny forest ecoregion of southwestern Madagascar, the paper explores the human impact on forest cover. While the environmental history of spiny forests along the Linta River indicates anthropogenic changes to forest cover, it also confirms out that forests have long been part of Mahafale landscapes. Thorns and spiny forests have not been inconveniences but preferences, and as much a part of their pastoralist strategies as grass. Two factors affecting forest cover are examined in detail, highlighting both external and internal processes. The first involves the increased sedentarisation of transhumant pastoralists who have integrated the prickly pear cactus into their landscape for use as cattle fodder and as human food. The second concerns the recent displacement of mobile pastoralists by immigrant farmers who made clearings in a large forest help intact by pastoralists as a reserve for livestock during times of stress. In an attempt to understand the complex processes of environmental change along the Linta River we focus our study on flexibility and on accenting a nature-culture mosaic that is largely determined by both ecological and social pressures."
forests, human ecology, environment