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Accepted Paper:

“They are healthy because they are free to eat their own natural food”: More-than-human understandings of health at the borders of conserved forests in West Tanzania  
Emelien Devos (Ghent University)

Paper short abstract:

Foodways are felt to be increasingly unhealthy and unnatural in West Tanzania. I argue that human and non-human health is understood to be threatened as plants and animals lose their 'nature' by being prevented from growing, eating and healing according to their own paths.

Paper long abstract:

This paper investigates concerns about the health of plants, humans and animals in relation to conservation conflicts and changing foodways in West Tanzania. The shift away from ‘natural’ foodways and towards food systems pervaded by (agro)chemicals, sugar and imported palm oil is felt to cause a surge in new diseases and a general loss of vitality. Foods that are considered ‘kiasili’ (natural in Kiswahili) such as honey, bushmeat or ‘indigenous’ chicken are gaining popularity in reaction to the anxiety around unhealthy diets. The way West Tanzanians often value natural food by virtue of its distance from human pollution echoes conservation discourses of pristine nature. This resemblance, however, belies what is actually at stake for my interlocutors living near conserved forests in Katavi. I argue that humans and non-humans are understood to be implicated in each other’s health, and that agricultural and conservation pressures are making it increasingly difficult for humans and non-humans to ‘maintain life together’. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with beekeepers, farmers and herbal healers, I show how the relevant logic here is about how to coexist rather than protect non-humans from human presence. For instance, not only kept animals such as broiler chicken, but also animals living in highly protected areas, are said to be weakened by being forcefully fed and treated with toxic medicines. Instead, the nature of non-human organisms is seen to be taken away when forced to ‘grow before their time’ through agrochemicals, and prevented from following their own diets and ways of self-medicating.

Panel P080a
'Taking care together': Conservation as more-than-human commoning I
  Session 1 Tuesday 26 July, 2022, -