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The case of conservation refugees

Conservation refugees are people, usually indigenous, who are displaced from their native lands when conservation areas are created, such as parks and other protected areas.

Since 1900, more than 108,000 officially protected conservation areas have been established worldwide, largely at the urging of five international conservation organizations. 

According to Charles Geisler, a sociologist at Cornell University up to 14 million people could be defined as Conservation Refugees. These people have been expelled from their land to create protected areas like national parks.The Segwer tribe is one of the most remarkable example of how forest conservation could turn out to be a very controversial subject.

Honey at the Top, a documentary shown by DOC:Supper on the 12th of May, is a beautiful film centered on shining the light on this underestimated subject. The documentary is about the Sengwer forest people of the Cherangani Hills, Kenya, being evicted from their ancestral land in the name of conservation.

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Filmmaker Dean Puckett lived in the Embobut forest for two months and filmed an intimate portrait of this community at a crossroad, facing international pressure from organisations, such as the World Bank and the corrupt Kenya Forest Service, who are burning their houses and attempting to turn the forest into a commodity through carbon offsetting schemes.

The Sengwer Tribe recently declared that they have been evicted from their ancestral land more than 20 times since it was gazetted as a forest reserve in 1964 (Reuters).

Their story gives a clear idea of the continuing tensions between indigenous peoples' land rights and conservation policies throughout the globe. 

A recent report offers examples of how the World Bank has regularly failed to live up to its own policies on protecting people in the name of forest conservation. Indeed ,over the last decade, projects funded by the World Bank have physically or economically displaced an estimated 3.4 million people, forcing them out from their own homes, taking their land or damaging their livelihoods.

Today the evictions and the burning continue and the truth is not clear.

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