Monday 5
Tranformative adaptation in a changing world
Houria Djoudi, Denis Gautier
› 11:05 - 18:00 (6h55)
› Domaine de Restinclières
Compromising ecological resilience for sustaining social resilience: Local regulation of spontaneous afforestation in the forest-savannah boundaries of Central Cameroon
Edmond Dounias  1@  
1 : Centre d'écologie fonctionnelle et évolutive  (UMR 5175 CEFE)  -  Website
Université Paul Valéry - Montpellier III, Université Montpellier I, Université Montpellier II - Sciences et Techniques du Languedoc, CIRAD : UMR101, CNRS : UMR5175, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Montpellier SupAgro, Institut de recherche pour le développement [IRD] : UR220
Campus CNRS 1919 route de Mende 34293 Montpellier cedex 5 -  France

For social groups or communities that are dependent on ecological and environmental resources for their livelihoods, the generally admitted idea is that social resilience and ecological resilience are tightly interdependent and should be maintained concomitantly. The forest-savannah ecotone in the Mbam Province of Central Cameroon offers an interesting context where a group of forest dwellers are forced to jeopardize the natural dynamics of the ecotone in order to maintain the integrity of their social system.

The forest-savannah ecotone is a very dynamic ecosystem, which evolves naturally in the sense of a fast advance of forest onto savannah — or afforestation — while current human activities tend towards the opposite trend of forest regression. Most recent palaeoecological studies agree on the bioclimatic origin of these savannahs, induced by a drastic drought of the forest that occurred some 3,000 years ago. The forest-savannah transition areas throughout Africa are of prior interest to explore recent history of human interventions that may have shaped the margins of forest landscapes. They also offersideal conditions to investigate the concept of ecological resilience since the ecotone is not borne to maintain itself in the absence of disturbance.

Almost three centuries ago, a group of cereal cultivators, the Tikar, moved further south from its northern savannahs in search of more forested and unoccupied lands. The Tikar offer an original case of migrants who have perpetuated their savannah ecological customs in their new forest environment. The knock-on effects of cultural choices and related agricultural practices on the landscape become easier to measure in such a dynamic ecological context, as the changes induced are perceptible within a time interval of just a few decades. However, evolution does not operate only on the biophysical side. During their warlike migration, the Tikar met with and subordinated forest dwellers like the Medjan Pygmies. Sustained by a political system that is based upon a sophisticated canvas of hierarchical chiefdoms, the Tikar performed a judicious combination between the political absorption of their new subordinates and the elaboration of an ethnically diverse identity. Such political predispositions have conclusively conditioned the adaptation of the Tikar to their new forest environment. In order to illustrate the complex relationships between the dynamic forest-savannah boundary and the Tikar life style, we propose to describe the Tikar perception of their constantly moving ecotone and to detail how their land-use system — still influenced by their savannah origins — subtly interacts with the social, cultural, political and ecological features of the locally absorbed forest dwellers to sketch out a strategy aiming at regulating the excessively rapid progression of the forest edge.

The social resilience of the Tikar communities is thus pending on their ability to counterbalance ecosystem dynamics that are, in essence, consubstantial of the ecological resilience of the ecotone, which consists of a continuous afforestation process.

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