The political ecology of Prunus africana in Cameroon

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Abstract

This paper provides an analysis of some current trends in political ecology and then illustrates the intermingling of politics and ecology using a case study of the exploitation and conservation of Prunus africana in Cameroon. It argues that political ecology is still a lively field, but that some recent attempts to chart a way forward for this perspective risk shifting it away from its liminal position in relation to natural and social science by being disinclined to engage with ecological processes. The case study draws attention to the strengths and shortcomings in existing attempts to weave political and economic analysis into environmental debates over the sustainable management of this tree species, which has been incorporated into phytomedical markets in Europe. The fortunes of the tree reflect its botany and ecology as well as the trajectories of the local economy, intercontinental markets for alternative health products, the policies and practices of the Cameroonian state and the politics of international aid.

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