Decolonizing forestry: overcoming the symbolic violence of forestry education in Tanzania

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The widespread reliance across many post-colonial nations on scientific forestry principles that originate in 18th century Central Europe is an example of this. In this paper, we examine why these scientific forestry principles from a colonial past have persisted until the present, despite their demonstrated failures and contradictions when applied in contexts of complex socio-ecologies comprised by species-diverse multiple-use forests. We argue that the persistence is explained partly by how forestry curriculum and pedagogy tend to preserve, rather than disrupt, the core tenets of scientific forestry. We base this argument on a study of the forestry education at the Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania. Through curriculum review, observations, interviews, and personal experiences, we examine the forestry education curriculum and pedagogy. We find that the curriculum is characterized by an overwhelming flow of readings and an absence of contrasting ideas to the scientific forestry paradigm, and teaching and exam forms emphasise rote learning over reflection. These features of the education impart on students a scientific forestry habitus by, among other things, suppressing other forms of knowledge and limiting the scope for curiosity and critical questioning of the curriculum. In sum, the forestry education amounts to symbolic violence by imposing on foresters one particular way of thinking and doing forestry and enabling misrecognition of the violence wrought by the practices based on this imposed way of doing forestry. We end by outlining some central tenets of an alternative to scientific forestry and call for an urgently needed process of decolonizing the forestry academy in Tanzania and beyond.

Original languageFrench
JournalCritical African Studies
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)354-371
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2020

ID: 249483700