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Where economics meets the sacred: the economic importance of forests and nature conservation to the peoples of Lugu Lake South-western China J. STUDLEY Email: johnfstudley@gmail.com Summary This paper outlines a participatory method for understanding the spiritual dimension of natural resource care against the wider context of indigenous forest values and indigenous economies. It is predicated on the elicitation and scaling of indigenous forest values and is. illustrated with data collected from four ethnic groups who live in the Lugu Lake Nature Reserve. A set of 13 forest values is recognized by most of the respondents, and there are scaling differences between ethnic groups and concordance with similar studies. Commercial values ranked ninth out of thirteen values and intrinsic values ranked second out of thirteen forest values. The methodology is based on the constant sum scaling of forest values resulting in a percentage, ratio scales and a rank order, and is easy to replicate. It has application for Natural Sacred Sites, Nature Reserves and for ethno-forestry programmes. The author concludes by offering some policy recommendations. Keywords: ethno-economics, reciprocity, ethno-forestry, topophilia, China INTRODUCTION The world’s indigenous people not only exhibit “bonds of affection" (Seeland 1993: 356, 358) or “topophilia” (Tuan 1974) for the natural world but explicit environmental protection is embedded in their worldviews and values, because they hold the natural world as sacred. Values in most indigenous cultures are based on restoring harmony in and between the human, non-human and spiritual world. Being articulated as behavioural expectations, customs, taboos and rites, values are often explicitly exemplified in myth, story and legend. Indigenous people have a holistic integrated worldview, and they recognise the connection between the human and non-human world and the spiritual world which contrasts with the Cartesian worldview. The ‘desouling of science’ by The Royal Society (Sprat 1667) and the “desouling of nature” (Banuri and Marglin 1993: 19) have been accompanied for the past 300 years by materialistic, mechanistic and anthropocentric paradigms that led to a compartmentalised worldview with divisions between the human and the natural world and the human and the spiritual world (Collins 2003, Merchant 1980, Prigogine and Stengers 1984) For indigenous people their values do not mean that animals or plants cannot be taken or used for food or clothing, but they understand that the taking of life represents loss of a fellow being’s life existing on its own terms, with intrinsic value “because it has been created by a divine being” (Laverty & Sterling 2004). Indigenous peoples often negotiate the taking of life with divinities or spirits. Often an intermediary like a shaman is used to ensure balance and reciprocity (Reichel 1992). Holding the natural world as sacred means that the overwhelming majority of indigenous peoples respect and protect biodiversity on at least some of their lands, especially their sacred natural sites (Verschuuren et al 2010). It is not uncommon to discover categories of natural resource care among indigenous people from sacred and untouched to unmanaged and overexploited (Studley 2005). For example, typically a Tibetan would protect the locale of his local divinity (yul-


lha) or numina but call on the same numina to ensure success in hunting/gathering in land that is not sacred to his people or numina. Intangible values Current international discourse on natural resource care pays scant attention to intangible values, considering science and economics as adequate tools for characterizing the qualities of the intricate web of life. This seems to be a reflection of the Western tendency (Studley 2005) to concentrate on ‘knowing’ based on scientific, technical and economic criteria, while assigning less importance to other ways of knowing through humanistic, cultural and spiritual means (Harmon and Putney 2003). Because many indigenous values are metaphysical or non-market they are regarded as intangible by economists and scientists. Making explicit the intangible values that affect the way people perceive, select, establish, and care for natural resources will provide a more comprehensive understanding of resource management (Harmon 2001). Currently former intangible values are being considered as a means of addressing forestry, biodiversity enhancement and sacred natural site care (Trouvalis 2000). Despite concerns about universal typologies of forest values the typology (Table 1) adopted by Brown and Reed (2000) addresses better than most the multiple values of forests and natural sacred sites. Forest values In recent years new participatory approaches and methods of enquiry about rural life, conditions and values have become more common in both rural and urban situations (Chambers 1991, 1993). These have drawn on many long-established traditions that have put participation, action research and adult education at the forefront of attempts to liberate and emancipate disempowered people (Pimbert 1994, Pretty 2009). Methods are being used not just for local people to inform outsiders, but also for people’s own analysis of their own conditions. This is particularly important in community approaches to livelihood improvement and earth care Forest values have been quantified on the basis of the criteria, frameworks and methodologies used by economists for policy making. However, these developments have not sufficiently addressed the issues of local benefit and social welfare. To date, most of the valuation exercises have been criticised for methodological shortcomings, their inability to address non-market values and their overly academic orientation (Kant 2003). According to Emerton (2003) “A better understanding of forest resource values could make a difference in the real world”. The approach suggested in this paper is an attempt to provide a ‘better understanding’ of forest values (especially sacred values) against the backdrop of the following case study in South-western China Lugu Lake, Yunnan province, China Lugu Lake (Map 1) is situated in South-western China on the border between Sichuan and Yunnan provinces at an elevation of 2 690 m. It is China's third deepest lake with a maximum depth of 935m and a surface area of 48.45 km². A population of 2 936 (YEDP 2003) lives on its southern shore, comprising four ethnic groups: Mosuo (40%), Pumi (15%), Yi (5%) and Han (40%) who live mostly in ethnically specific villages. The Mosuo or Na are well known anthropologically for their matriarchal/ matrilineal society and 'walking marriages' or tisese (Shih 2010: 73-100). There are 226 ha of agricultural land (or 0.077ha per person) and per capita income is USD 65. This has resulted in food shortages,


for some families, of up to 6 months, and people have had to borrow from relatives or seek help from the government (Studley 2003) History of Nature Conservation Prior to the Cultural Revolution (1966) the Pumi and Mosuo had an animistic/shamanistic tradition of nature conservation that included sacred landscapes, mediation between the human-spirit-natural world and vernacular environmental education (Yang Fuquan 2003, Studley 2004). There is evidence that some Yi had similar traditions (Xu Jianchu et al 2004) but this was not supported at Lugu where the Yi reported that they were a 'hunting minority' and historically 'did not care about nature'. During the Cultural Revolution (1966 - 1976) forest temples were destroyed and local priests and shaman were persecuted. In the words of a Pumi elder 'we lost our sense of responsibility for the forest'. This was exacerbated in the 1970s and 1980s when, under an expanding 'market economy', the forests around Lugu were clear felled on government quotas that exceeded their annual yield, resulting in flooding and landslides. In response, in 1986, Yunnan province established a Nature Reserve comprising 5 525 ha which is managed by the Yunnan Nature Conservation Bureau. In 1998, following China's logging ban, forest protection was instituted within forests adjacent to the reserve (Studley 1999a 1999b). Map 1 - Lugu Lake (ŠStudley 2005)

The establishment of the Nature Reserve and forest protection made it very difficult for local people to collect Non-timber forest products although some access was allowed for local people to visit sacred sites within the reserve.


Although the establishment of the Nature Reserve and Forest Protection have allowed the forests to recover close to the Yunnan average (of 220 m³/ha), the local people were excluded, in what phenomenologically has been described by McMaken (2001) as a 'new enclosure movement'. Nothing was done to:• compensate the local people, who had previously hunted, grazed, cultivated and collected non-timber forest products from the forest, • address the subsistence needs of the poor or the loss of access to cultural keystone species (Garibaldi and Turner 2004) • assess local forest values and restore the cultural loss they experienced when their lands were appropriated for the Nature Reserve, • include traditional indigenous knowledge, nature conservation and custodianship into Nature Reserve Management. This led to very heavy workloads for women, impoverishment and conflict with the Nature reserve staff. One Han Chinese cadre typically stated to the author that he hoped they (the subsistence peasants and minority people) would all leave and get jobs in the town and become tax payers. A view that has some resonance with the Lockean inspired enclosure movements in the UK (Studley 2005). Traditional Interactions with Nature Of those studied (Studley 2005), the Tibetans, Pumi, Naxi and Mosuo appear to have the strongest tradition of earth care, followed by the Nosu (Yi) and the Han Chinese and there appears to be evidence of explicit nature conservation in sacred landscape areas. The local shaman are knowledgeable about the natural world and play an important role in environmental storytelling and mediation (between the non/human and spirit world). Sacred landscape is a common phenomenon throughout the region and all the ethnic groups studied (Studley 2005) were able to identify sacred mountains, trees, animals, and springs. Environmental Ethics There is a tradition in the region of “environmental accounting” (Reichel 1992: 1) based on spirit placation and community restitution in order to maintain relational harmony. Of the groups studied (Studley 2005) the Tibetans, Mosuo and Pumi were able to describe the measures required to placate a local numina and to make restitution with the local community when trees or animals were killed in sacred areas (intentionally or by mistake). Rationale for the Study The Lugu Lake area was selected as a pilot project for a UK Department for International Development (DFID) assisted project addressing environmental development and poverty in Yunnan Province. The author was asked to look at the impact of recent forest policy (including nature conservation) on the poor and by ethnicity (Studley 2003 2005). He was also asked to suggest (environmental and livelihood) solutions. In response to the plight of Lugu's minority peoples he proposed community forest plots on burnt forest areas in Lugu Nature Reserve to address the livelihood and wellbeing needs of the local people. Community forest plots Community forest plots in this context were to be established based on the endogenous subsistence requirements, forest culture and forest values of the local people and typically included a range of multi-purpose trees, shrubs, plants, and fungi. The local nature


conservation bureau agreed to provide tenure documents which gave local communities rights to care for the plots. The initial cost-benefit analysis of the community plots only considered the market and environmental elements, so the author was given permission to address the economic benefit of local forests by fully quantifying all the forest values to the local people (Studley 2007) Methodology A typology of potential forest values in Yunnan was developed (Table 1) including at least thirteen forest values which are considered important to many indigenous peoples (Brown & Reed 2000). Table 1: Forest Values (ŠBrown and Reed 2000) No.

Value

1

Aesthetic

2

Commercial

3

Recreation

4

Life sustaining

5

Learning value

6

Biological diversity

7

Spiritual

8

Intrinsic

9

Historic

10

Future

11

Subsistence

12

Therapeutic

13

Cultural

Narrative I/we value the forest because we enjoy the forest scenery, sights, sounds, smells, etc. I/we value the forest because it provides income from timber, fisheries, minerals and tourism. I/we value the forest because it provides a place for outdoor activities. I/we value the forest because it helps produce, preserve, clean, and renew air, soil and water. I/we value the forest because we can learn about the environment through observation or experimentation. I/we value the forest because it provides a variety of fish, wildlife, plant life, etc. I/we value the forest because it is a sacred, religious, or spiritually special place to us or because we feel reverence and respect for nature I/we value the forest in and of itself for its existence, no matter what others think about it. I/we value the forest because it has places and things of natural and human history that matter to us. I/we value the forest because it allows future generations to benefit from the forest. I/we value the forest because it provides necessary food and supplies to sustain our lives. I/we value the forest because it makes us feel better, physically and/or mentally. I/we value the forest because it is a place for us to continue and pass down the wisdom, knowledge and trusteeship from our ancestors


Cash measures have little relevance in a subsistence economy such as exists around Lugu Lake. So from a range of field research methods available (McMurray 2004) it was decided to use the constant sum method to assess forest values by asking focus groups to allocate 100 thumb pins (representing the sum total of their forest values) between a set of 13 forest values. The constant sum method produces what is assumed to be ratio measurement data, as well as percentage and ranking data. Ratio data is the most powerful of all measurement scales because it is characterized by an absolute zero point and an equal interval scale Four focus groups, covering the four ethnic communities (Han, Mosuo, Yi and Pumi), were organized and meetings conducted in four villages (Table 2) A pre-test session was held in advance in a multi-ethnic village (Zhudi) to ensure that the basic concept of forest values was understood and that the translation of each benefit adequately conveyed the correct meaning in the respective communities. At the first village (Puluo), the women sometimes had different views to men regarding the relative importance of certain forest values, so separate focus groups for men and women were used at each of the remaining villages. The focus groups consisted of 4-11 participants At the start of each focus group meeting, the purpose of the study was explained. The forest values were presented, and a narrative summary with relevant examples clarified each benefit. Each of the forest values were written (in Chinese) onto a coloured circle and Table 2: Villages Total no. Participants

Male Participants

Female Participants

Village

Ethnic Group

Puluo

Han

16

11

5

Shan Kua

Mosuo

13

4

9

Wan Jia Wan

Yi

10

5

5

Lang Fang

Pumi

15

8-10

7

placed in order on a table in front of the participants. In the event that participants were unfamiliar with any Chinese characters one of the villagers translated them into the local language. Once the values had been explained and described, 100 pins were given to the participants who were then asked as a group to distribute all 100 pins across the different forest values according to their relative importance to the community. Once all the pins had been allocated, the group were asked if they were all satisfied with the resulting allocation and whether they could think of any additional values not included in the typology so far presented. In most cases, there were few changes or additions and then the number of pins on each circle was counted. The number of pins on each circle represented a relative scale and rank order for each forest benefit (See Figure 1).


Results Figure 1 - constant sum scaling of forest values (©Studley 2005)

Discussion Forest value categorization Categorization is the basic cognitive process of arranging into classes, categories or domains. These are rarely discrete entities or crisp sets and there is often overlap between categories (Verschuuren 2007) and fuzzy uncertainty over category membership or category extents (Varachiu 2002). Care must be taken when assigning occidental categories in an indigenous context (Berry 1992). Intrinsic value, for example, would appear in the commercial domain of most westerners and in the spiritual domain of most indigenous people. Domain overlap and fuzzy uncertainty are evident in the cognitive mapping the author conducted in Eastern Kham (Plot 1) which was based on multidimensional scaling (Davison 1983) Forest Values Originally the typology used at Lugu Lake was based on a set of 15 values which included “place attachment” and “identity” but they were considered by the authorities “too difficult to distinguish” and “spiritual” was replaced by “beliefs” presumably due to historic connotations between “spiritual” and “superstition” (Anagnost 1994: 227). In reality the research process was being subjected to a political agenda which did not recognize the spiritual and wanted to suppress local identity and place attachment. This was in contrast to a study in Manchuria (Studley 2009) where “place attachment” ranked 2nd out of 15 forest values among immigrants who had moved there in 1941 and to a cognitive mapping study (Studley 2005) where “attachment” was part of a nexus of values comprising the psychocultural domain.


Plot 1 shows four cognitive domains and a nexus of spiritual values (4, 8 and 9) coalescing around (3) ‘conservation’ (©Studley 2005). Commercial values only ranked 9th out of 13 forest values or 5% of the constant sum of forest values among respondents at Lugu Lake. These findings resonate with a similar study in Alaska (Brown and Reed 2000). Clearly some care must be taken not to over-interpret these results, but overall they suggest that forestry projects that typically use commercial or market values only capture a small part of the value of the forest to local people. Until recently, forests were seen as only having economic importance in so far as they could support commercial timber or wood extraction. Emerton (2003) is correct in saying that “Ultimately, unless the results of valuation are geared towards changing the economic trade-offs that are involved in sustainable forest management in the real world and capturing forest values as real values for local people, there is a real danger that the source of much of the world's economic life may disappear altogether” Learning values include all the indigenous modes of knowing that people use to elicit knowledge about and from the forest on the basis of cognition, epistemology and perception. They rank first among Yi men and third among Yi women. They are paradigmatically challenging for natural resource professionals because they are part of a holistic and spiritual process that "gathers information from the mental, physical, spiritual, social, cultural, and historical realms" (Colorado 1989: 52). The research tools employed to investigate such values are metaphysical and “polyphasic” (Lumpkin 2001:37) and may include feelings, history, prayer relations, trance and dreams as well as activities which may mirror western methods of knowledge gathering and learning (Sinclair 2003). Biodiversity and conservation values ranked eighth at Lugu Lake although this is often a classic State/official technical rationale for forest-based interventions. Conservation is often seen as something the State does and given their record (and that of the Nature Reserve)


at Lugu it is hardly surprising it is ranked so low. For the peoples of Southwest China the spiritual significance of conservation (more evident in Plot 1 than Figure 1) appears more important than the ecological significance. This response is similar to that of some other indigenous people, in that they are not deliberate conservationists or ecologists, but they manifest an ethical attitude (Callicott 1982). From the perspective of the local people who have their own epistemologies and cosmologies of nature, species occupy special places and are protected, but not as species that should be 'conserved'. Discourse on biodiversity means little and is unrelated to local practices harnessing biodiversity for use. The concept of biodiversity, as embodied in the Convention on Biological Diversity, is strongly expert based. The focus is typically on genes, numbers of species, or ecosystem types. The spiritual values of the forest ranked second among Pumi men and sixth among Pumi women. These findings were supported by earlier ethnographic research (Studley 2003). There was some ambiguity over the translation of “spiritual” into politically correct “beliefs”, which are philosophical or political. The author experienced a very similar problem (Studley 2009) in Manchuria in May 2009 when a local cadre stated, in front of the respondents, that they “had no religion” and subsequently, “spiritual” was given a very low rank. The following day the author found a mountain god shrine (Photo 1) in the forest and was able to use it to illustrate “spiritual” links with the forest in a local context. As a result of using this illustration “spiritual” values ranked 5th (out of 15 forest values). Typically the author has not experienced the same difficulties with Tibetan interpreters or Tibetan respondents (Studley 2005). It is important to emphasise that not withstanding the ambiguities in this case, the spiritual values of forests are recognized (in terms of explicit conservation) by the majority of indigenous people in SW China on some of their lands. In common with the indigenous peoples of the region most respondents at Lugu were able to identify sacred mountains, trees, animals, and springs (Studley 2005). Intrinsic values ranked second among the respondents at Lugu Lake which was not unexpected, based on earlier research (Studley 2003 2005). In common with many indigenous peoples they consider the "intrinsic value paradigm" (MEA 2003: 140) to be important and a central tenet of religious belief where 'everything on earth is inherently valuable because it has been created by a divine being' (Laverty and Sterling 2004). This contrasts with the enlightenment thinking of many economists today and some ethicists who believe that intrinsic values do not exist, arguing that all values are human-centered, and that a value cannot exist without an evaluator (Laverty and Sterling 2004). Given the ambiguity of the translation of “spiritual” into “belief” the intrinsic values of the forest should also be considered as an indicator of spiritual values. Further discussion on all 15 forest values can be found elsewhere (Studley 2005) Challenges and threats Although forest values 'make sense' to local people based on indigenous epistemology, biocultural sustainability, cosmovision and ethno-economics they are regarded as "intangible" from the perspective of economics and science which make them difficult to ‘capture’.


Photo 1 A pig was sacrificed at this shrine in a logging area to placate a mountain divinity and protect the loggers (ŠStudley 2009)

Neoclassical economics fails to take into account the moral values and intangible values of forest biodiversity and other natural resources. These include issues of sustainability, distribution and equity in the promotion of social welfare and justice, indigenous values and alternative 'ways of knowing' (IIED, 1997). Sustainable yield forest management focuses mainly on profit maximization from timber production. With the recognition of the deterioration of global forest health and the declining of forest cover, this sustainable timber yield management has evolved into sustainable forest management (Kant, 2003). The concept of sustainable forest management is based on the overall sustainable development agenda and incorporates social and ecological aspects. Sustainability in this context is defined as the ability to meet the needs of the present without jeopardizing the capacity to meet the demand of the future generation (WCED, 1987). On the social side, sustainable forest management includes people in decision-making, incorporates value


pluralism (both timber and NTFPs) and ensures fair and equitable distribution of values. On the ecological side, it considers the holistic interaction among components of forest ecosystems on different spatial and temporal scales and focus as on long-term ecosystem sustainability (Kant 2003). Resources are the basis of rural communities' livelihood. In some cases, depriving them of NTFPs could threaten the survival of the community. Understanding the decisionmaking, distribution and equity issues is far more complicated than the assumptions made in neoclassical economics (IIED, 1997). Both individuals in the whole community and extended families are “heterogeneous, factional and stratified” (Watts 2003: 347). Likewise, different strata in the community have different preferences (Kant, 2003). The key question of whether the livelihood of the community should been traded-off against economic values or not, has ethical and distributional implications (Kant, 2003). Hence, valuation research should not only consider the financial cost-benefit analysis as a base for decision making but also address intangible forest values of indigenous peoples. Management and policy responses Given the importance of forest values in the lives of indigenous peoples some reciprocal arrangement of sacred natural site/forest transfer from State management into the care of the people would improve care. Researchers (Durning 1992 Maffi 1998 Poffenberger 2007 Posey 1999) have provided compelling evidence for policy makers that • many of the exemplars of forest conservation occur among indigenous people, especially in South-western China (Studley 2005) • ethno-economics lends itself to conservation, sustainability and biocultural enhancement because it is based on personal relations, and not on the ego-centric accumulative rationale of market economics (Berkes & Adhikari 2006, Bunyard 1989 Cavalcanti, C. 2002 2006 von Hildebrand 2004 Jacobsen 2005 Pandey a, Pandey b) • indigenous people are systematic in their means of gathering and categorizing knowledge (Berlin 1992 Ellen 1993 Posey 1999); • indigenous forest values can NOT be integrated into formal conservation because there are no conceptual frameworks for cross-cultural integration (Bennett and Zurek, 2006). Ways must be sought to build synergistic bridges between formal conservation and indigenous knowledge systems with the help of intermediaries or “knowledge-brokers” (Silliitoe et al 2002: 113) Governments concerned about conserving forests or sacred natural sites need to go much further than an 'appreciation' of indigenous values and customs and a superficial understanding of ethno-economics by supporting indigenous people in their care of the forest. They need to recognize indigenous sacred definitions, categories and sites, protect indigenous sacred knowledge and sites and provide capacity building for conservation professionals in: • anthropological approaches for valuing forests predicated on an interdisciplinary approach and the development of shared language and terminology • understanding and appreciating indigenous culture – including the indigenous ways of knowing and learning about their world (epistemology) • indigenous care and customary practices of forest/natural sacred site conservation • ethno-economics • methods of reciprocity between the state and indigenous peoples


The approach outlined in this paper has the highest prospect of success when the forestbased/natural sacred site aspirations of the state resonate with those of the local people. Elements of this approach are already being included in forest and sacred natural site planning and care: • Scaling and ranking is being used to address o environmental perception (Patricios N 1980) o biodiversity (MEA 2005) o the full value of forests to local people (Rowcroft, Studley & Ward 2006) • Governments are transferring the conservation of forests and sacred natural sites to indigenous peoples. Between 2002 and 2008 (Rights and Resources Initiative) • Transfers occurred in 25 of the world’s 30 most forested countries • The total forest area under state ownership declined, while the area of forest designated for use by communities and indigenous peoples, the area owned by communities and indigenous peoples, and the area owned by individuals and firms all increased. • The area of public forest land administered by government decreased from 2.58 billion hectares (80.3% of the global forest estate) to 2.41 billion hectares (74.3%). • The area of forest designated for use by communities and indigenous groups increased from 49 million hectares (1 .5% of the global forest estate) to 76 million hectares (2.3%). Conclusions The care of natural resources requires not only an understanding of sacred landscape and local values (illustrated in the Lugu Lake study) but an understanding of ethno-economics. In order to address the care of natural resources from an endogenous perspective Conservation professionals must:• attempt to capture forest values as real values for local people, or there is a real danger that the source of much of the world's economic life may disappear altogether • effect a paradigm shift in their ways of knowing and knowledge validation because indigenous learning is part of a holistic, polyphasic and spiritual process • recognize local people have their own epistemologies and cosmologies of nature, and that species occupy special places and are protected, but not as species that should be 'conserved' • recognize that the overwhelming majority of indigenous peoples respect and protect biodiversity on at least some of their lands, especially their sacred natural sites • recognize that forests and natural sacred sites have intrinsic value because they are created by or presided over by a divinity • recognize that indigenous values cannot be integrated into formal conservation because there are no conceptual frameworks for cross-cultural integration. Ways must be sought to build synergistic bridges between formal conservation and indigenous knowledge systems with the help of intermediaries or “knowledgebrokers” The anthropological approach illustrated by research in Lugu Lake provides an easy method to identify and quantify the full values of forests to indigenous people. The data produced were not only statically robust but resulted in high concordance with a similar


study in Alaska. This suggests that the methodology can be extrapolated to other indigenous groups in other countries. The ethno-economies of indigenous people are the most apposite for the care of natural sacred sites and earth care for the following reasons:• Ethno-economics is predicated on an economy which is integrated with nature, social organization, culture and the supernatural world, as just another element of a larger whole (Cavalcanti 2002). • It occurs in the context of personal relations between people who engage in reciprocity and exchange in certain socio-spiritual contexts. This is the opposite of the neoclassical economies where social relations are embedded in the economic system (Polanyi 1944) The ethno-economic paradigm is embedded within a distinct, organic, holistic worldview that is characterised by:• a dynamic non-equilibrium (Rohde 2005) perspective that addresses a long-run, multi-scale approach • an emphasis on sustainability that addresses progress in terms of ecological limitations, resilience and scale (Begossi 2000) • a concern for the cultural diversity and worldviews of indigenous peoples and attention to traditional ecological knowledge Ethno-economies address issues of sustainability which are embedded in the cosmovision of indigenous peoples who seek to live in "conformity with nature" (Reichel-Dolmatoff 1976: 311). Unlike classical economics they preserve "productive capacity for the infinite future" (Solow 1998: 4). Exchange and reciprocity have long been recognized as fundamental to ethno-economies (Sahlins 2004). They occur between spheres of indigenous life; the material, the socio-political and the spiritual (Posey 1999). "Guardians" (Bunyard 1989: 40) often ensure that everyone has enough to sustain them and nobody takes more than their share. Commonly the guardians are known as shaman for humankind and totem animals for non-humankind. If a person consumes too much of a certain plant or animal (especially in sacred areas), their activity will become known to the guardians who, unless appeased, will allow misfortune. On the basis of negotiations with the guardians, the shaman tell their people where and what they can hunt as well as how much. Permission varies with the seasons, with the animals, their reproductive cycles and the use they make of different areas of the forest. Reciprocity is a culturally rooted moral principle or system of natural justice acquired through the socialization process. It enables indigenous people to maintain equilibrium between the natural, social and spiritual domain. Contrary to the market economy, in which a person's status increases with his wealth and possessions, personal accumulation is considered anti-social and to be deplored, and surpluses may be used for maximising reciprocity and enhancing social relationships All this leads to effective control over the communal demand for natural resources. The dynamic of the forest and the inter-changes between one species and another provides many indigenous people with a ready model for their existence within the community. Hence the local economy, both within the community and with neighbouring communities, relies heavily on the principle of exchange and reciprocity both among themselves and with the rest of nature.


In the final analysis the care of forests and sacred natural sites should be placed in the hands of those who exhibit bonds of affection for them. Governments need to enter into reciprocal agreements and provide capacity building for their conservation staff. This will allow them to understand the value of forests and natural sacred sites to local people and facilitate conservation paradigms predicated on the aspirations of the state and indigenous people. Governments are increasingly transferring forest 'back' to indigenous people and a precedent has been set for adopting indigenous modes of reciprocity to ensure the conservation aspirations of all stakeholders are met. Ethno-economies predicated on reciprocity support not only sustainability and biocultural diversity but the care for the natural world and sacred natural sites. (Ethno) economics does meet the sacred in much of the indigenous world and we need to learn from it. Acknowledgements: The author would like to thank the anonymous referees for their valuable suggestions Acronyms IIED IUCN MEA NTFP WCED WCPA YEDP

International Institute for Environment & Development International Union for Nature Conservation Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Non-Timber Forest Products World Commission on Environment & Development World Commission on Protected Areas Yunnan Environmental Development Programme

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Where economics meets the sacred 2010 (IFR)  

Where economics meets the sacred: the economic importance of forests and nature conservation to the peoples of Lugu Lake South-western China

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