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Accepted Paper:

Fire research and fire management in Belize and Guyana from British colonialism to the present  
Cathy Smith (Royal Holloway University of London Leverhulme Centre for Wildfires, Environment and Society) Kayla de Freitas (Royal Holloway University of London)

Paper short abstract:

We examine changing perspectives of savanna fires in Belize and Guyana, from British colonialism to post-independence, as revealed in development and research texts. We reflect also on our research practice in the context of decoloniality.

Paper long abstract:

Belize and Guyana are the only nation states in mainland Central and South America to have been British colonies, gaining independence in 1981 and 1966, respectively. Both countries contain tropical savanna ecosystems, in which fire is of socio-ecological importance, and used within local livelihoods, for example in hunting. We use colonial and development texts, and our own research (interviews and ethnography) in contemporary Belize and Guyana, to examine how fire in these savannas has been understood by (largely foreign) scientists, colonial officials, and development actors since the 1920s. There have been greater efforts by the Belizean than the Guyanese state over the past century to limit savanna fires, largely owing to economic interests in pine forestry in the savannas. But, in both countries, fire management has been largely funded through colonial/ international development funding, such that global trends in scientific and development discourse have strongly shaped local fire policy and management, rather than empirical research, especially as concerns the needs of local fire users. Resulting fire policies and development projects have largely focused on fire suppression and control. There is a need for new fire management approaches, grounded in the specific political and ecological contexts of Belize and Guyana. We end our paper by reflecting on our own research in light of the history we have outlined.

Panel P70
Decolonising Wildfire Research and Challenging its Colonial Legacies
  Session 1 Friday 30 June, 2023, -