Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, Vol 2, No 3 (2008): African Sacred Ecologies

Taboo and Political Authority in Conservation Policy: A Case Study of the Licuati Forest in Maputaland, Mozambique

Samira A Izidine, Stefan J Siebert, Abraham E van Wyk, Alphaeus M Zobolo
Issued Date: 16 Jan 2009


In Mozambique, food shortages caused by years of civil war, an insatiable need for cheap sources of energy and a burgeoning human population have placed considerable pressure on the environment through unsustainable harvesting of natural resources. Many threatened forests lie within the development zone of Maputo. The Licuáti Forest Reserve [LFR] is one such area, originally established to ensure sustainable harvesting of valuable timber trees. The LFR is also of great cultural significance to the Ronga people, as it contains a sacred forest. In recent years, deforestation in and around the LFR has been taking place at 1.1% per annum because the enforcement of laws to counter illegal extraction has been weak, resulting in changes in forest structure and a decline in the diversity of large tree species. Urbanisation has resulted in the breakdown of cultural taboos and threatens not only the loss of plant resources in the LFR, but also the indigenous knowledge systems of the Ronga. The conservation status of the sacred area under threat was evaluated by use of a questionnaire, and the needs of the community determined to highlight important issues. This study revealed that traditional values and cultural rites of sacred groves could be incorporated into national sustainable development plans. This study also recognizes how local elites have particular interests in the conservation of sites that legitimize their status. Preservation of the cultural significance of sacred forests can therefore not stand apart from local politics, sustainable harvesting and conservation management.

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DOI: 10.1558/jsrnc.v2i3.373


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