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Vassar College

Publication Date

Spring 2018

Program Name

Tanzania: Wildlife Conservation and Political Ecology


This is a story about people and plants. About the power of relationships between floral organisms and human lives. Using narrative botanical science as a methodological framework, this study highlights the power of local people’s ecological knowledge from the villages of Kizanda and Sagara in the West Usambara Mountains. Building from semi-structured interviews and personal conservations with thirty residents of these villages—voices of local healers, farmers, and forest guides—this work unfolds through a series of vignettes. Its aim is to identify both the precise yet diverse ways in which these people have developed botanical knowledge of their local environment. From these individual voices emerges a cultural botany in which plants are the substance of ecosystems, of local knowledge, and of life. This study also traces the historical roots of plants—both generational botanical knowledge and patterns of plant regulations. The cultural botany of the present is a product neither apolitical nor detached from past human-plant relations. Thus, this study also incorporates archival material from a Swiss family of tea plantation owners who helped produce the Mazumbai Forest Reserve that exists today between Kizanda and Sagara. In short, this study is a human-plant geography that is simultaneously poetic and political.


African Studies | Botany | Nature and Society Relations | Plant Sciences


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