forestry in West Africa, and the story of trees in the European imagination. visitors, from Europe, when they saw a s- savannah landscape, an ad hoc mixture of grasses and trees. they, initially, thought, that the region, had been deforested. and the remaining_ those trees that were there, were the remainders, of, what was once a great forest. and the colonial powers, because of this line of thinking, imposed often quite draconian measures, on, controlling, um, the exploitation, of forest resources.
the way they approached it, was particularly alien, to local production. they often formed_ both the French and the British, a forestry department, and ,an agricultural_ a separate agricultural department. which is very different, to local production. trees are often part of the production system. the trees, would be left growing in the field. or, perhaps even purposefully planted. but they're, an integral part of the overall production system. they're not different.
now, some of the laws were particularly... particularly harsh in parts of Guinea. um, the death penalty was there_ existed, for anyone, cutting down certain trees. and the forestry resources, particularly of the southern countries in West Africa along the coast, were of immense economic importance. and, uh, there's a large trade in, in these resources.
so, it was in the interest of the colonial powers to co- control these. but, when it comes to the savannah lands, where the forest ends, and the grass- grasses start to appear amongst the trees. this is where, the Europeans had a problem. they, just kept, seeing, um, trees, where trees didn't exist. and not understanding why they didn't exist. and there was, a strong, misunderstanding of the landscape.
and recent research in Guinea has shown that, these islands of trees, are not remnants, of, a, what_ the former forest. they are actually, trees which have been planted, by, people, in what was once purely an open savannah region. completely the opposite. and, around people's houses, and in, the remains of villages which have moved on. in the richer soil in those regions from sa_ uh, midden heaps, and, um, all the detritus from, from living. and actually provided a rich focus for the trees to grow in. so, there was a fundamental misconception of trees there.
but, um, savannahs_ understanding the savannahs, has increased recently. and, fire which was so often controlled. strongly by the colonial powers, and by the post-colonial governments, as well. is actually, a key factor in the ecology of the region. savannahs, are affected by five determinants. water availability. fire. herbivores. um, and anthropogenic events. and that's four, and i can't leave the fifth one, ha ha. um, oh, and, availability of soil nutrients.
but, whether these_ how these five factors inter-react and, create the landscape, is going to vary across time and space. but, fire was so often controlled. as was, um, human activity. and also, grazing as well. all have been controlled by, governments, and states. without, proper understanding of, of the dynamics of the vegetation. their_ the Europeans for so long, continued to see the trees, where the trees did not necessarily grow.