Proposal:To Gwembe Research Team

Cynthia Veit

Human Connection and Adaption to the Environment in Gwembe

The University of California, Irvine


My interest in the Gwembe Project encompasses several hypotheses that involve the methods of Ecological Anthropology and Geographical Information Systems (GIS). The Gwembe study is an excellent opportunity to research adaptation to environmental change over time. Dr. Thayer Scudder, Dr. Elizabeth Colson and others have collected longitudinal and present data about the fluctuating conditions and adaptions of the people of Gwembe area. My interest is to continue the research that Scudder has begun on the ecology of area. I want to focus on several theoretical interests regarding the Gwembe people and their surrounding environment. My research interest overlaps areas explored by Scudder and others in previous research. I hope to contribute to the ongoing research by exploring ecological issues presented by Scudder in earlier research papers. In addition to continuing the research Scudder and others are doing, I am interested in other aspects of adaption that extend and add another dimension to Scudder's work. How do the people of Gwembe conceptualize environmental degradation? In Gwembe, land availability is scarce due to high population density creating a high demanded for more land as the population grows, as the population increases more and more areas of forest will be used for agriculture. My interest is to collect data using GIS satellite imagery and census data and correlating that data with my own ethnographic research to examine the effects of land deterioration. Does land deterioration effect the community's concepts of the future and contribute to community unraveling? What happens to descendants hoping to inherit land? How have younger generations coped with the decrease of land availability? These questions also pose correlations (i.e., ecological/economic processes) that require longitudinal research. This is a great potential to study the processes of social change in connection with ecological adaptation. Using GIS in the process of longitudinal assessment will give further quantitative evidence that connects my empirical interest in the effects of ecological deterioration with community and/or social unraveling.

Gwembe Tonga Research Project (Sam Clark)