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Woodcutting and territorial claims in Mali

Gautier D., Hautdidier B., Gazull L.. 2011. Geoforum, 42 (1) : p. 28-39.

DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2010.08.008

In Mali, amidst moves toward political decentralization and the transfer of authority to manage natural resources, woodcutting has become an important tool for the assertion of territorial claims by villagers. The decentralization process has itself led to a profound political shake-up between the central state seeking to maintain land ownership and the de facto management of land by customary village authorities. But it is, however, primarily the devolution of forest resource management to village-led organizations that has prompted the cross-scale legitimization and assertion of various territorial claims from 1995 onwards. Based on two in-depth case studies on the outskirts of Bamako, Mali, the authors illustrate how new practices revolving around woodcutting and charcoal-making have been instrumental in intraand inter-village disputes. At the village level, this transfer tends to exacerbate tenure claims over land and trees with the reactivation of autochthony-related arguments and thus the risk of excluding the most vulnerable social groups which are typically involved in woodcutting. At the inter-village level, this gives villages the opportunity to claim and demarcate boundaries by cutting, painting signs on some trees, or more radically tree felling being carried out solely to demonstrate appropriation. At the municipal level, this transfer leads to political and social adjustments between customary and decentralized authorities, each struggling to build their legitimacy in natural resource management.

Mots-clés : gestion des ressources; forêt; mali

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