Since the late ninety, the notion of heritage has expanded to a wide range of fields from biodiversity conservation to preservation of natural and cultural heritage. In a context of homogenization of societies and their cultures due to globalization, the concept of heritage produce new standards for resource conservation as well as new materialities to shape identities. In this context, the notion of heritage has gained in recent years an economic, social and political significance. In East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda), the abundance of archaeological resources, of biodiversity reserves, and the diversity of ways of life are mobilized as part of building of identities, political constituencies and to generate positive and negative externalities (Tourism, competition and disputes over the heritage resource) IFRA has always been very active in research on the political and social uses of memory in East Africa. Its researchers now work essentially on conservation, social and climate changes in an historical perspective.
Conservation, social and climate changes
The project NAPAST “Protected areas and dynamics of pastoralists heritage in Marsabit greater ecosystem”, lead y Benoit Hazard (CNRS) is an interdisciplinary research to understand how conservation projects interact with bio-cultural frontiers of pastoral landscapes in northern Kenya. The background of this research is tied with conflicts occurring on natural resources (water and pasture) within the frame of the rehabilitation of the Marsabit National Park (a colonial legacy) and the northern wildlife conservation project. NAPAST questions how to enhance local conservation practices by focusing on interaction between conservationist project and the “ecoystemic services” of a wider arid ecosystem.
In the same perspective, IFRA is the host of Resilience in East African Landscapes (REAL financed by the European Union), to establish a European training network devoted to take stock and produce knowledge of how indigenous peoples have previously adapted to East Africa’s intrinsically variable climate and land/water resources.
In 2015, IFRA joined with IRD to submit a proposal to establish an international multidisciplinary laboratory dedicated to rural dynamics in the face of climate change in East Africa.
Conservation and ecology of carnivores
This thematic, led by Jean-Philippe Brugal (CNRS) concerns both cultural and natural heritage/patrimony considered in diachronic and integrative approaches, linking archeology, paleontology, zooarcheology, taxonomy, taphonomy, (paleo)ecology and social anthropology, (paleo)ethnography and ethnoarcheology. Chronological frame is the Quaternary (-2.6 My), since the human origin until the present day; partly based on the actualism (uniformitarism) principle. This period (Pleistocen, Holocen, Anthropocen) is marked by climatic events with regular environmental (flora, fauna) changes through time; as well past data are essential to better evaluate the modern observed changes. Reconstruction and knowledge of past and modern environments s.l. is a prerequisite to better understand the ethno- and behavioral traits of human groups and societies.
For prehistoric sites, faunal (fossils and recent) analyses concern anatomy, taxonomy and taphonomy with multiple implications as phylogeny and evolution of land mammals, biochronological precisions, paleohabitats reconstructions and climate, site function and subsistence behavior (socio-economy of past human hunter-gatherers). They imply also question on ecology of carnivores (meat-eaters as humans) and competitive aspects with past and modern human groups (hunter-gatherers to agro-pastoralist); human-carnivore conflicts are important issues related also with conservation status and natural heritage.