Nordic Journal of African Studies
Fouta Djallon Highlands in Guinea (see Appendix 1) are especially important as watersheds. The protection and sustainable management of this area is essential for maintaining the flow of three major rivers—the Niger, the Senegal, and the Gambia—that go through eight countries in the region. Although drought and water scarcity are already major problems in many of these countries and others, careful land use planning and sustainable use of forests could help prevent conflicts over the water resources.
In the remote villages of the Fouta Djallon region, it is common for men of working age to go either permanently or at least for the dry season (i.e. November to April) in search of a better living elsewhere (municipal secretary Bari 1.11.04). They usually go to Senegal or to the larger towns and cities of Guinea. This is not a recent phenomenon, since this same practice was also noted thirty years ago by Derman (1973). He also noted that fields were declining in fertility because of a shortened fallow period. The increasing importance of women’s gardens for food production (Derman 1973, Helin 1999) could therefore be due to this same decrease in the fertility and declining availability of fields, as well as to a lack of labour. The nutritive value of garden products is much greater than that for a diet composed only of cereals (Helin 1999).
The focus of this study is on the relationship between people and forests at a local level. The objective was to study the benefits a rural family in Fouta Djallon received from forests and trees during their everyday life and how significant those benefits were to the livelihood of the family, as well as to assess the possibilities of forest-based poverty reduction in the region.
2. STUDY AREA AND METHODS
The field work for the study was done in three villages in the prefecture of Mali in the Republic of Guinea. The study area is located in the northern part of the Fouta Djallon Highlands, near the boarder with Senegal. The altitude in the region is about 1500 m. above sea level. Fouta Djallon’s average annual precipitation is between 1200-2000 mm. The area of the prefecture of Mali is 8800 km2 and its population is 204 000 according to the census of 1996. The majority of Fouta Djallon’s population is composed of the Fulbe people also known as Fulani and Pulaar. They settled in the region in the 15th and 16 centuries, and by the 18th century had established an Islamic confederation under the Fouta Djallon Empire. The Fulbe elite ruled this empire for 200 years until 1890 it became a colony of France (http://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guinea). Guinea gained its independence in 1958 from France. th
In previous centuries, the Fulbe of Fouta Djallon led a nomadic existence and worked as cattle farmers, but by the end of 19th century almost all Fulbe had settled permanently and the cattle were kept mainly for social reasons (Derman 1973). Today, the Fulbe of the study area were observed to be subsistence