Research & Innovation 2015-16 - Page 116

Peace parks and people’s rights
Southern Africa’s peace parks have given animals a regional passport to
move freely across international borders. Wildlife migration routes have
been restored, and previously fragmented ecosystems reconnected. And yet
the people who used to call those regions home are not enjoying the same
liberties. Instead, they have been disconnected from their environment and
heritage, and their clans remain separated by political borders.
“We have unified policies around wildlife and
management, but are reluctant to do the same for
people,” says Maano Ramutsindela, professor of
environmental and geographical science. “Every
peace park should be obligated to contribute to
the communities on both sides of the border in a
meaningful way.”
A geographer by training, Ramutsindela has always
been fascinated by the social side of geography.
“I am very interested in how geography impacts on
people (whether it be where they live, land issues or
access to resources) and how it is often involved in
the creation of spaces of conflict and violence. One of
my first interests in conflict was actually the drawing
of provincial and municipal borders – a conflict that
is still ongoing today. Every time
there is a demarcation,
there is conflict!”
Ramutsindela developed an interest in peace parks
as they were changing the geography of the region,
transcending colonial borders and reuniting ecological
systems. “What attracted me as a researcher to the
peace parks project was that it was recreating space;
not just for the animals, but also for the people of the
region. Moving people from one space to another
impacts on their identity and how they live.”
As an example, he mentions the apartheid
government’s policy of restricting people to living in
certain areas: “Over time, people got used to that new
space and started to believe that it was ‘normal’ – the
way they really should be living. But what happened
to their resources?”
When you take away people’s resources, whether it
be through political ideology, conservation or other
means, they have to adjust to a new way of living; and

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