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The Versatility of the Poor: Indigenous Wetland Management Systems in Sierra Leone
Vol. 35, No. 2, Questioning Development: Growth? – Destruction? – Sustainability? (February 1995), pp. 197-203
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41146398
Page Count: 7
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Indigenous wetland management systems, rice cultivation, and technological change are described for two areas in Sierra Leone. Management involves knowledgeintensive versus capital-intensive manipulation of water and soil. Irrigation is as much "brain work" as it is "ground work". Sensitive observation and use is made of variable soil conditions up and down slopes. A suite of numerous rice varieties and supplementary crops is maintained and used as appropriate under different physical conditions. The paper also explores the reasons why certain technological changes such as the introduction of tractors in one area in the 1950s and the introduction of a specific rice cultivar in another area by the author in 1983 succeeded (ie persist without outside encouragement), while other innovations have disappeared. Successful technologies were highly compatible with pre-existing patterns of thought, social relations, and ecological practices. The cases contradict the view that development must shape landscape with machines on a massive scale. If the electronic future really is all about lightness, modularity, and the kind of standardization that permits maximal flexibility in combination and communication, then the poor, forced to dodge and weave with great mental agility on their refractory wetlands, are in touch with the future.
GeoJournal © 1995 Springer