Forest Reserves and Local Rights: German East Africa's Mt. Kilimanjaro,
By Robert Munson
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Introduction. Environmental history tells the stories of human interactions with the environment; the profound episodes of intervention that trigger major transformations of the environment as well as the less evident, but still important, interactions that subtly shape the physical landscape. The German-Chagga contest over the rights to the forests on Mt. Kilimanjaro in the early colonial period is an example of the latter's less dramatic interaction between two cultures and their shared environment that nevertheless shaped the slopes of Kilimanjaro. From the arrival of the German colonial government on Kilimanjaro in 1889 to their eviction in 1916, the Germans worked to create a system to preserve the forests. The German efforts and the response of the Chagga set the stage for the subsequent colonial-African interaction on the mountain, and the basic framework set in place by the Germans remains important even today. Although the German foresters' story is fairly straightforward to discover (as they left behind many written records), the full history of German forestry on Mt. Kilimanjaro still needs to be told. The Chagga side is more difficult to piece together, in part because the early twentieth-century Chagga and their European observers did not consider forest resources to be a critical environmental issue, and thus sources rarely mention the forests. What was written, however, suggests some ways in which they dealt with this important issue.