Human-Wildlife Entanglements and the Sustainability of Rural Life in Sierra Leone

Grants to Support Faculty Fellows' Research
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How might we render rural life sustainable in landscapes that are experiencing explosive human population growth, threats of epidemic disease, shrinking of forests and available agricultural land, climate change, and strain between humans and resident wildlife populations? How do we conceptualize “development” and “a good life” in this kind of landscape? I am investigating the delicate and unstable entanglements between humans and the natural world in seven villages in rural Sierra Leone that surround an increasingly threatened forest fragment that is home to two small communities of chimpanzees. The overall trend of food insecurity and decreasing resource availability in this landscape means that humans and chimpanzees compete for food resources on the farms, in the forests, and even in the villages, bringing them into frequent direct and indirect contact in ways that may cause conflict, further exacerbate tense community ties, and potentially circulate diseases. I am investigating local understandings of these problems and how to potentially mitigate them in order to stabilize rural life.