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Giertta, Filippa, 2016. What are trees for : an ethnographic study of local firewood practices in Uganda in the context of deforestation and climate change discourses. Second cycle, A2E. Uppsala: SLU, Dept. of Urban and Rural Development



Interventions and schemes are being introduced all over the world to stop deforestation and reduce climate change. These interventions, on all levels of scale, follow a dominant global discourse based on a human-environment dichotomy and neo-Malthusian logic, and are driven by narratives of degradation by the local population and linear environmental change. Uganda is a country in which these discourses and narratives can be found, and this has had a considerable impact on the village of Teamon. The main intervention in Teamon is a pine and eucalyptus plantation bordering the village that is owned by a Norwegian company. It is a afforestation project under the Kyoto protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, from which Sweden buys greenhouse gas emissions. Other activities include the introduction of energy-saving stoves, seedling distribution and education.

Ethnographic fieldwork undertaken in May and June 2015 showed that the reality in Teamon is not how the body of environmental actors would portray it. Practices around tree resource usage in general, and firewood in particular, is actually dynamic and does not follow a simple linear pattern of consumption and population variations. It follows political, social and personal processes as well as natural changes. Moreover, sustainability is embedded in the firewood practices of Teamon women, following logics of reducing their workload and concern for the future.

There is a discrepancy between the perceptions of nature in dominant environmental discourses and at a local level. Different levels of scale are key to how nature is perceived. While agendas on a global scale are concerned with general tree coverage, the women of Teamon care about their direct proximity. From a global perspective, the value of trees lies in their function as a CO2 sink, while in Teamon itself their value lies in their local usefulness. However, these differences in perceptions of trees and nature are not neutral. As the study shows, the global perspective and agenda dominate the activities taking place in Teamon, affecting the lives of the local woman. Local women can benefit from the discourses on deforestation and climate change, as in the case of energy saving stoves and seedlings, but the plantation does not inherently serve local people. Instead it serves the agendas of the global perspective, indeed even conflicting with women’s firewood needs.

Good and bad ways of using nature are defined from a global perspective based on ideas about the purpose of trees. Often in contrast with what trees are for, for local people.

Main title:What are trees for
Subtitle:an ethnographic study of local firewood practices in Uganda in the context of deforestation and climate change discourses
Authors:Giertta, Filippa
Supervisor:Fischer, Klara and Tumusiime,, David M.
Examiner:Bartholdson, Örjan
Volume/Sequential designation:UNSPECIFIED
Year of Publication:2016
Level and depth descriptor:Second cycle, A2E
Student's programme affiliation:NM009 Rural Development and Natural Resource Management - Master's Programme 120 HEC
Supervising department:(NL, NJ) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
(LTJ, LTV) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
Keywords:firewood, deforestation, climate change, carbon forestry, CDM, Kachung
Permanent URL:
Subject. Use of subject categories until 2023-04-30.:Forest injuries and protection
Renewable energy resources
Social sciences, humanities and education
Deposited On:18 May 2016 09:47
Metadata Last Modified:19 May 2016 13:15

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