Indigenous People’s Environmental Concerns: The Missing Piece in Ongoing Administrative and Political Decentralization in Africa

  •  George Atisa    
  •  Aziza Zemrani    
  •  Matthew Weiss    


Decentralization is assumed to make national governments more accountable and enables local people to get involved in governance decisions. This study examines the relationships and whether decentralization activities, policies and regulations support indigenous concerns for the environment. Much of the pristine and local lands globally have already been degraded through overexploitation of natural resources leading to significant loss of environmental benefits to people, especially the marginalized and indigenous communities. Using citizen-over-state and state-over-citizen theory, the influence of national level policies on local policies and vice versa is examined. Two sets of data are analyzed: reports from conservation organizations and peer reviewed publications. The other data is obtained from the World Bank and the Food and Agricultural Organization data base. All African countries are analyzed. The findings show that many national policies and regulations do not support and have no relationship with indigenous peoples’ environmental values, thus undermining local sustainable lifestyles. The more focus on economic development as an outcome is turning out to be a dominant force in driving exploitation of resources and eroding indigenous peoples’ cultural and environment values. While a few policies and regulations have some correlation with indigenous values, they have no significant influence in terms of producing sustainable local level environmental outcomes.

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