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SPECIAL ISSUES
Year : 2007  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 534-561

Conservation, Commerce, and Communities: The Story of Community-Based Wildlife Management Areas in Tanzania's Northern Tourist Circuit


Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado at Denver, Campus Box 103, P.O. Box 173364, Denver, CO 80217-3364, USA

Correspondence Address:
Jim Igoe
Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado at Denver, Campus Box 103, P.O. Box 173364, Denver, CO 80217-3364
USA
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


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Date of Web Publication26-Jun-2009
 

   Abstract 

This article explores the convergence of poverty reduction and con­servation in Tanzania, focusing on the work of transnational conservation organisations. It outlines the ways in which this convergence has been con­ceptualised in the context of large-scale landscape conservation, most notably community-based Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). We argue that the overriding priorities of large landscape conservation in Tanzania are revalu­ing landscapes in ways that make them desirable and available to private in­vestors, while keeping key wildlife migration corridors free of human habitation. We describe the ways in which these twin priorities actually exacerbate poverty and undermine democracy at the community level through a case study of communities living between Tarangire and Lake Manyara Na­tional Parks in Tanzania's northern tourist circuit. We then discuss how and why these realities are rendered invisible in the discourses and images of transnational conservation. We conclude by proposing alternative approaches that we believe would contribute to improved conservation governance and community prosperity.

Keywords: neoliberalism, poverty alleviation, community, community-based, wildlife management areas, Tanzania, Africa, conservation


How to cite this article:
Igoe J, Croucher B. Conservation, Commerce, and Communities: The Story of Community-Based Wildlife Management Areas in Tanzania's Northern Tourist Circuit. Conservat Soc 2007;5:534-61

How to cite this URL:
Igoe J, Croucher B. Conservation, Commerce, and Communities: The Story of Community-Based Wildlife Management Areas in Tanzania's Northern Tourist Circuit. Conservat Soc [serial online] 2007 [cited 2019 Sep 19];5:534-61. Available from: http://www.conservationandsociety.org/text.asp?2007/5/4/534/49253


   Introduction: Conservation is Good Business Top


THE NOTION that conservation is good business [1] is epitomised in Tanzania, globally renowned for its biologically rich habitats and unique concentrations of wildlife [Figure 1]. Over the past 6 years, wildlife has contributed signifi­cantly to Tanzania's annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 4 per cent. In 2001, Tanzania received US $725 million from tourism, with an an­nual compound growth rate of 29 per cent. [2] The Wildlife Policy of Tanzania (WPT) explicitly recognises these linkages and seeks to "promote conserva­tion of biological diversity" and "sustainable utilisation of wildlife resources" so as to "improve the quality of the life of the people of Tanzania" (MNRT 1998, v).

One of the centrepieces of the WPT is community-based Wildlife Manage­ment Areas (WMAs). Officially, WMAs consist of village lands set aside by villagers specifically for conservation and the protection of wildlife. They are meant to promote conservation outside protected areas and to bring prosperity to rural communities by giving local people the authority and capacity to conserve wildlife on their own land. This arrangement will, in turn, allow them to become partners with outside investors in wildlife-based business ventures. After 10 years of intensive lobbying by international conservation non­governmental organisations (NGOs) and Tanzanian activists, the Tanzanian government granted official status to four WMAs on 31 March 2006. One of these, the Burunge WMA, included the villages in which we conducted field work from March to June of 2006 [Figure 2]. Consequently, we were able to directly observe the villages' experiences of this process.

The official designation of the four WMAs was heralded in international conservation circles, as well as the Tanzanian press, as a breakthrough in both conservation and poverty alleviation. A headline in Arusha Times (6 August 2006), posted to numerous international internet news lists, proclaimed: Using Wildlife to Alleviate Poverty. [3] It would appear that there is much to celebrate. In addition to linking conservation and poverty alleviation, WMAs promise a great deal that is currently valued in conservation, development, and govern­ance circles.

The idea that WMAs give communities ownership of natural resources, along with the legal authority to manage them, resonates with the current pri­orities and discourses of global governance and human rights agendas: com­munity empowerment, participation, and civil society. The vision is also consistent with large landscape conservation, one of the central imperatives of global biodiversity conservation. Large landscape conservation emphasizes the importance of conserving entire ecosystems, as opposed to patches of pro­tected areas. It holds that the participation of eco-friendly communities is cru­cial to this project. Finally, making communities business partners echoes neoliberal development models, which hold that the key to poverty alleviation is the global spread of free markets. These ideas are at the heart of Tanzania's National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (MKUKUTA).

When viewed in this way, the vision of WMAs is indeed an appealing one. It presents a scenario in which there are many winners and no apparent losers. Investment opportunities increase and the Tanzanian economy grows. More land gets set aside for conservation, and key species like elephant thrive. Western tourists are presented with a broader array of nature experiences, an increasing number of which are off the beaten path. Finally, local communi­ties are empowered to conserve natural resources and to prosper from new business opportunities.

Unfortunately, our research revealed a far different reality, in which simul­taneously promoting nature conservation, economic growth, and community prosperity does not lead to the exciting synergies outlined above. Almost all the local people we interviewed held that the Burunge WMA was planned and implemented behind their backs and against their will. Moreover, they saw it as part of a suite of conservation interventions that exacerbated their poverty through direct alienation from the natural resources on which their livelihoods depend. From their perspective, these interventions appeared to have two overriding imperatives: the business of conservation and the business of busi­ness. They believed that these imperatives superseded community needs and the putative national priority of poverty alleviation.

How are we to understand this radical discrepancy between the experiences of these communities and the official rhetoric of WMAs? A large part of the problem is that the creation of WMAs has not been a community-driven proc­ess. Rather, it has been driven in large part by a handful of transnational con­servation organisations, which have provided the necessary resources, expertise, and technology. Under Tanzanian law, a number of transnational conservation organisations have been officially designated to oversee the creation of WMAs. Accordingly, the country has been parsed out to different organisations: Gesellschaft ffiir Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) covering Selous and its environs, the World Wide Fund for Nature(WWF) supervising the southwest part of the country, Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) han­dling Serengeti and its environs, and the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) managing the northeast.

Moreover, these interactions have been taking place in the context of Tan­zania's transition to neoliberal development and governance models over the past 20 years. A major element of these models is reregulation: the use of the state to commodify previously untradeable resources-those that were previ­ously not owned, state owned, or community owned (Castree 2007; Igoe & Brockington, unpublished). This may be achieved through direct privatization (Vandergeest & Peluso 1995). It may also be achieved through state­controlled territories, like national parks, that are not privatised but neverthe­less made available to investors through rents and concessions (Ferguson 2006). Finally, as in the case of WMAs, it may be achieved by presenting col­lective legal titles to rural communities so that they may become partners in business ventures (Igoe 2007; cf. Lemos & Agrawal 2006 110: 310). In prac­tice, this often amounts to disciplining local people to exclude themselves from their own land (Neumann 2001). This is clearly visible in our case study of the Burunge WMA.

Before turning to the details of our case study, however, we provide a con­text for understanding these details in the following section, in which we de­scribe the specific types of reregulations that have made WMAs possible. We then describe the effects of these reregulations in the details of the processes that we witnessed and documented in our field research, as the Tanzanian Government officially gazetted the Burunge WMA to the surprise and chagrin of its supposed owners. We then discuss how and why these realities are ren­dered invisible in the discourses and images of transnational conservation. We conclude by proposing alternative approaches that we believe would contrib­ute to improved conservation governance and community prosperity.


   The Reregulation of Nature in WMAS Top


Considering the rhetoric of WMAs as participatory vehicles of conservation and poverty alleviation, it would be reasonable to expect that the laws and regulations supporting the creation of WMAs have been designed to give local people maximum control and decision-making power over natural resources in their community. To quote Alan Rodgers (2006), who has worked with the Tanzanian government on wildlife and conservation policy for nearly 40 years:

The national Village Land Act is quite clear that village governments have jurisdiction of land use in these areas. Villagers can decide to cul­tivate or not cultivate, to lease land to outsiders or not lease such land.

and

The Wildlife Policy is quite clear on this issue: "wildlife benefits must flow back into the village communities who bear the costs of living with wildlife; only when communities gain benefit from wildlife will people practice conservation."

The WMA Regulations do in fact emphasise the role of the village in inde­pendently resolving to create a WMA and in having the capacity and the legal authority to manage it (URT 2005). And yet, villager after villager in our sur­vey indicated that they did not have the power to decide whether or not to cultivate or to lease their land to outsiders. Villagers, including village officials, claimed that they had been brought into the WMA without their knowledge or consent. Furthermore, there is significant evidence that wildlife benefits rarely flow back to communities, and usually only reach a handful of well-placed village elites when they do flow back. [4]

This apparent discrepancy is inherent in the way that WMAs reregulate vil­lage land and resident wildlife. The land remains village property and there­fore land management in WMAs is subject to Tanzanian land tenure laws and theoretically under the legal control of the village or villages involved. [5] Offi­cially, villages retain the right to determine exactly how the land will be used, and by whom. But, as our field research demonstrates, WMAs are not de­signed in ways that allow the villagers to make informed decisions about this process (cf. Goldman 2003).

The process of establishing a WMA involves a series of bureaucratic pro­cedures that require rural communities to understand the potential value (or lack thereof) that a WMA would have for them, and then to reorganise them­selves and their land in very specific and difficult ways. In the words of Goldman (2001), they must become eco-rational subjects. The process sup­posedly begins when a village assembly officially requests the Minister of Land Natural Resources and Tourism (hereafter, the Minister) to allow them to have a WMA. Next, the village, usually in cooperation with other villages, must register a Community-Based Organisation (CBO) to manage the WMA. [6]

The next phase involves preparation of a Land Use Plan (LUP) and a Gen­eral Management Plan (GMP), which require data and the completion of forms that are quite technical and assume training of villagers in workshops and seminars that may not have occurred. [7] Even where this training has oc­curred, villagers still require professional advice from, and collaboration with, outside experts, who do not always act in their interest. Furthermore, the es­tablishment and management of a WMA require significant knowledge of the Tanzanian legal system and relevant legislation. [8] Unfortunately, such knowl­edge alone is insufficient, as Tanzanian laws and regulations are often contra­dictory, and sweeping powers granted to officials to enforce rules and enact changes in one government sector may conflict with those granted to officials in another. [9] Finally, many rural Tanzanians are illiterate and must rely on oth­ers for information and interpretations of laws and regulations. [10]

Once the technical process is complete, the WMA must be endorsed by the Director of Wildlife (hereafter referred to as the Director) and approved by the Minister. If and when this occurs, the CBO becomes an Authorised Asso­ciation (AA) and is granted a Certificate of Authorisation, and the WMA is officially gazetted. The granting of user rights, the final and most critical part of the process for local people, is at the discretion of the Director, both in terms of how wildlife resources are allowed to be used and who gets to use them. [11] Although the WPT envisions that WMAs will ensure that "local peo­ple will have full mandate of managing and benefiting from their conservation efforts" (MNRT 1998, §5.0), legal ownership and control of wildlife re­sources remains with the state (§2.9). Once a WMA is gazetted, although the land still officially belongs to the village, authority over that land is in prac­tice re-regulated to the Wildlife Division (WD), as well as the district and re­gional governments. From the local people's perspective the land has been appropriated, and their rights to occupy and use that land have been radically curtailed.

In addition to these restrictions on people's livelihoods and daily activities, investment possibilities within WMAs are also considerably circumscribed from the perspective of communities. The only investor activities allowed are those related to wildlife, most often tourist hunting. This situation reflects the interest of wildlife officials as tourist hunting is directly controlled by the WD. Hunting blocks are still allocated to hunting companies by the Director under the Tourist Hunting Regulations (URT 2002, Part II). Hunting block al­locations are subject to renewal or cancellation at the Director's discretion (Part IV) despite any direct contracts a village may have with a respective hunting company. [12] All fees for these activities continue to be paid directly to the WD and not to the village managing the WMA (URT 2005, §47.1).

The Director does not have the authority to regulate non-consumptive uses of wildlife in WMAs, such as walking safaris, photographic safaris, or game viewing. However, s/he does have the power to withdraw or revoke any in­vestment agreement (§66.5), thereby severely restricting direct deals between communities and investors. As non-consumptive safari companies are not fi­nancially obligated to pay tourist hunting fees, they are less attractive inves­tors from the perspective of the WD, and therefore less likely to win approval from the Director. The bottom line is that powerful individuals within the WD have every reason to support WMAs, albeit on their own terms, which in fact they have the legal power to impose.

In the event that a village is successful at securing an investment agree­ment, the WMA Regulations are not clear about where the revenues from this investment actually go. They merely refer the reader to "circulars issued by the Government from time to time" to determine how benefits should be allo­cated, and provide a reminder that benefit sharing "shall adhere to mecha­nisms of equitable distribution of costs and benefits targeted at economic development and poverty eradication" (§73.1). The WPT calls for distribution of revenue and benefits to stakeholders based on "their relevant roles in dif­ferent categories of land, the effort invested in conservation of the resource, and the institutional and management costs" (§3.3.9). The Regulations make no mention of a minimum or expected rate of return from an investment agreement, but only 50 per cent of the gross revenues are actually required to be returned to member villages [13] while the remainder is absorbed in various administrative overhead costs that are not clearly defined (§73.2). It is impor­tant to remember that the true value of this revenue allocation depends on the contract with the investor, who will also want to make money. [14]

All things considered, it is difficult to contemplate how a village can actu­ally earn significant revenue from a WMA. In most cases, if WMA benefits were equitably distributed to all the adult citizens of member villages, it would amount to no more than a few dollars a year. The Burunge WMA, for instance, will generate US $230,000 per year for 45,000 people, or US $5.20 per year per person. [15] Of course this money will actually be used for village development projects, which presents significant opportunities for pork bar­relling by local officials. These projects will accrue as indirect benefits, as opposed to the direct costs local people have borne as a result of the WMA. Moreover, the people who bear these costs most directly are the ones least likely to enjoy the benefits (Igoe 2006). Many of our respondents were in fa­vour of development projects-which although dubious would materialise- but hastened to add: 'you can't eat a dispensary or a school'.

In contrast to local people, stakeholders whose interests coalesce with the WPT's policy to "conserve areas with great biological diversity" and "foster sustainable and legal use of wildlife resources" (MNRT 1998, §3.1) are able to realise more tangible benefits. Since WMAs reregulate landscapes to ex­clude human habitation and radically curtail human activities, nearby pro­tected areas gain ready-made additions. Many of the people in the villages where we worked described the Burunge WMA as an extension of Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks-some even refused to distinguish between them. From the perspective of protected area managers and organisations like the AWF, whose priorities revolve around protecting the integrity of wildlife migration corridors between protected areas, WMAs help achieve this objective without the messy politics of actually establishing a new protected area.

This is often, if not usually, achieved without the informed consent and par­ticipation of local people. The tremendous geographic and cultural distance between communities and the places where the policies are formulated and funding generated makes it easy to construct convincing narratives of com­munity participation without any actual participation. Even if required to pro­duce 'the community', this can be achieved with a handful of handpicked representatives. As most donors and policy makers lack the time, connections, and expertise to effectively understand the complexities of conservation in ru­ral communities, they depend on these types of simplified representations in making their decisions. This allows purveyors of these types of representa­tions to become gate keepers between communities and donors, policy mak­ers, and investors (cf. Mosse 2004). While these techniques make it possible to generate the appearance of informed consent, the highly technical and le­galistic nature of WMAs makes it possible to create one without the informed consent of the majority of local people (cf. Cernea & Schmidt-Soltau 2006). This is what we found in our study of the Burunge WMA.


   'We are Now a Village Inside a Park!' Top
[16]

Our field research concentrated on four villages occupying the western mar­gins of Tarangire National Park: Mswakini Chini, Mswakini Juu, Minjingu, and Vilima Vitatu [Figure 3]. The majority of villagers are Arusha farmers, although Maasai and Barabaig pastoralists also live in the area. A smaller but significant number of other ethnic groups are also represented.

All the four villages lie inside the AWF's Maasai Steppe Heartland, which also includes Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks. According to the AWF's Conservation Heartland Programme, heartlands are landscapes of ex­ceptional biodiversity value, which have the "potential to conserve viable populations of African wildlife as well as key habitats and ecological systems well into the future". [17] In addition to the Burunge WMA, the AWF has started a land trust to acquire and manage Manyara Ranch, a recently privatised government ranch, and run it as a conservation area [Figure 4]. The trust also has the authority to negotiate for conservation easements through a programme called Kwa Kuchinja Easements for the Environment through Partnership (KKEEP) [18] . Both these interventions, described in detail elsewhere, have been beset with the same sorts of problems as the Burunge WMA (Igoe, in press).

We visited the Manyara Ranch in January 2006 on a field safari with stu­dents from the College of African Wildlife Management. During this visit, the community outreach person for the ranch told us: "these people need to un­derstand that they are in the wrong place. It is no longer safe here for them here. Our job is to help them understand this." Many of the local people we interviewed agreed with this assessment. In all the villages in our survey, people reported having a great deal of trouble with wildlife, especially in­creasing elephant populations. Elephants have made it difficult, and in some areas impossible, for people living to the north and west of Tarangire to make a living from farming or to even live safely in the area. Villagers were con­cerned about this situation, as well as with the idea that they were `in the wrong place'. Many had travelled throughout northern Tanzania in search of villages with available land to where they could move, but most had returned unsuccessful. Consequently they were doubly concerned that they would soon no longer be able to make a living from farming, and they were doubtful of the idea that they could instead make a living from eco-tourism by having their village government officially designate village land as conservation areas.

Two of the villages in our survey, Minjingu and Vilima Vitatu, were mem­bers of the Burunge WMA, which began as a village conservation area. Min­jingu's official land-use map designated large areas of the village as a Village Natural Resources Management Area. This type of zoning is required for a village to receive an official title from the central government under the Vil­lage Land Act. However, the area on the map also corresponded exactly to the wildlife migration maps at the Tarangire visitor's centre, funded and designed by the AWF.

When we asked about this correspondence and whether this area was meant to be a WMA, Minjingu village leaders expressed confusion and worry. They explained that their predecessors had attended seminars sponsored by the AWF in which they had been walked through the process of making a land use plan. Concerning the WMA, however, they felt uncertain. The Minjingu village chairman asked us: "What is the difference between a WMA and a CWMA (Community Wildlife Management Area)? We have heard a lot about this, but will it really bring us benefits? Perhaps you can help us to understand this better."

In order to learn what other people in Minjingu knew and thought about WMA, we conducted semi-structured interviews that approached the topic as part of a larger discussion of village history, and especially addressed chang­ing relationships between people and wildlife. We asked people whether they were aware of any project or programme designed to protect wildlife while benefiting local people. We also asked if they had attended any seminars or workshops dealing with conservation. Finally, we asked if they had partici­pated in creating the WMA, and who was in charge of that process-literally who had brought the cement-filled oil drums buried in the ground as beacons to demarcate the boundary of the WMA.

Our survey, which targeted households in every part of the village, revealed similar feelings of anger, ambivalence, and confusion. Since the 1990s, the AWF has facilitated numerous meetings to convince the villagers that they should set aside a wildlife migration corridor between Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks. People opposed this idea and were concerned that the conservation area was merely a wildlife migration corridor under a differ­ent name. [19] The majority of our respondents associated the conservation area with the corridor. Many were concerned that they would eventually be pre­vented from entering it at all. They also claimed that the boundary beacons were planted without consulting them. By many accounts, this was a hotly contested process. A number of villagers were surprised to find beacons in the middle of their farms. Sixty-three families living inside the conservation area were evicted. Others were concerned that a similar fate awaited them in the near future.

Most villagers professed little knowledge of who was behind these inter­ventions and claimed that they had never attended a seminar or workshop of any kind. A few had listened to the AWF representatives when they visited the village to 'raise people's consciousnesses' about the importance of having a conservation area. Most associated the area with the district game officer, who was under the authority of the WD. Many also claimed that he was at the forefront of the evictions. Many recounted meetings where he had told them that they should agree to be absorbed into the WMA because the government would make it happen whether they liked it or not. Resisting a WMA would be futile, he told them, while cooperating would bring lots of benefits.

When asked whether these interventions had produced any benefits in Min­jingu, the majority of the people we interviewed responded negatively. Many also added that the benefits that did accrue were realised primarily by village officials and a handful of village elites, who worked closely with the district game officer and the AWF. According to respondents, some of these indi­viduals had built new houses and purchased new cars from the benefits of these interventions. These claims were confirmed by a former village council member who claimed that she resigned from village government as a result of the corruption surrounding the conservation area. "I couldn't go anywhere in the village," she said, "without someone coming up to me and saying, you are one of the people who sold our country." "If we are not careful," she contin­ued, "we will have sold our country without even knowing how much we got for it." [20]

By all accounts, people never intended that village land would be carved out and made inaccessible to villagers. The Minjingu By-Laws for Develop­ment Activities prominently mention the need for protecting water sources and prohibiting tree-cutting or burning of forest without a permit, and the charge of every resident to farm and graze livestock responsibly (MVC 2005, §10-13). There is no mention of a WMA or of a conservation area per se. Vil­lage Assembly meeting minutes dated 19 August 2003 specifically state that villagers refused to approve the WMA, but asked for more information for fu­ture consideration.

Most people in Minjingu recalled that the village government had set the area aside as a 'forest reserve', which would be used for grazing livestock, gathering firewood, and collecting reeds for basket weaving, an important source of cash income for many villagers. In the long-term it would also be available for young families, who needed room to grow as land grew scarce in more central parts of the village. [21]

In our discussions with villagers, it was clear that they understood perfectly the need for environmental management and the protection of natural resources. However, many also sensed that the act of demarcating land specifically for conservation was tantamount to losing the land completely.

In spite of these concerns, however, it was clear that some villagers had participated in the technical process of becoming a WMA. Minjingu, as well as neighbouring villages, had representatives in the CBO established to man­age the WMA. By many accounts, these individuals were hand-picked by the district game officer and, in 2003, had participated in an AWF-sponsored workshop to explain the doctrine of a WMA and its operational procedures, and to help villages undertake appropriate LUPs so that they could be part of one. This seminar, and others like it, was conducted in English. Village repre­sentatives, for all practical purposes, did not speak English. Several of them described the workshop as confusing and intimidating. They were especially intimidated by the presence of 'big people', like district officials, members of parliament, a cabinet minister and university professors. They admitted that they felt obligated to keep quiet and go along with whatever they were told to do.

The resulting Minjingu LUP outlined how "broad-based participation" by villagers helped determine a zone from within the village that would be set aside for "Community-Based Wildlife Management Area purposes"-an area that happened to "encompass the entire area which is normally used as pas­sage by wildlife when migrating to and from the two national parks" - Tarangire and Lake Manyara (AWF 2004a, §6.3). The LUP discusses village by-laws that were prepared to "guard and guide the agreements arrived (at) by the whole village" (§7.3), but the village government has no record of these by-laws. [22] The LUP set aside 3,747 ha for tourist hunting, tourist photography and video-shooting, camping sites, and tourist hotels in the WMA- approxi­mately 16 per cent of the total village land area (§6.5). [23] Shortly after this workshop a group of people, informants were not in agreement about exactly who put the beacons in the ground.

Much consternation and conflict ensued. People were alarmed that the boundaries of the WMA actually enclosed much more land than they origi­nally expected. They claimed, for instance, that the edge of the village next to Tarangire had been enclosed, but that this was not part of their original agreement. A group of people whose farms had been cut by the beacons regis­tered some protest. They also dug up a beacon in the middle of a farmer's field and moved it further south. However, when the owner was arrested for this deed, the others were afraid to come forward and support him. As a result, the impact of this act of civil disobedience was greatly diluted. A group of elders, representing the people who were evicted, brought their grievances to the district offices in Babati. They were promptly arrested and told that things would not go well for them if they continued to make trouble for the government and the AWF, which after all had gone through a great deal of trouble and incurred considerable expenditure on their behalf.

Most recently, a group of Minjingu women were chased out of the WMA and beaten by game wardens working for a private hunting company holding hunting-block concessions from the WD in the area. The young men of the village quickly mustered themselves and advanced upon the hunting com­pany's camp with the intention of burning it down. Things were very tense, and the conflict would have exacerbated, when village officials intervened. Many people emphatically stated, "If it wasn't for the elders coming between the young men and the camp, people would have certainly died." [24]

Local people, especially village officials, already resented the hunting com­pany. They were angry with the company for not paying any benefits to the village until frightened into doing so by this near-violent event. To make mat­ters worse, the hunting company had sued a photo safari company, which had been quite regular in paying benefits to the village, and had them kicked out of the WMA. Furthermore, they perceived that the hunting company enjoyed exclusive authority for enforcement of the WMA. They believed that the company was in cahoots with the district game officer to keep them off their own land.

News that Minjingu was a member of one of the first four WMAs in Tan­zania did not reach Minjingu quickly. When it finally did, it did not arrive through official channels. Village leaders heard rumours in early April that the WMA had been approved. Accompanied by a group of elders, they trav­elled to the capital of Dar es Salaam to make enquiries at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. Meanwhile, although the news had not reached their village, it was already circulating to every part of the world as it was quickly disseminated over the e-mail lists of the World Conservation Un­ion. These e-mails included an attachment of the official announcement in the Tanzanian Government Gazette.

The document reached us via these channels just as the village envoy was returning, having learned that indeed their village was now part of a WMA. We were at the village centre when they alighted from the bus. We spoke with the village chairman who told us about the trip. He told us that he intended to call a village assembly meeting and asked that we be present. When he learned that we had a copy of the official announcement from the Ministry, he asked that we please bring him a copy. Chairmen from other villages were also quick to request copies. This request is indicative of how much they had been kept out of the loop as the Government Gazette is ostensibly a public document-published for the purpose of giving concerned parties adequate opportunity to respond to government decisions that affect them.

In the days following the discovery that they were now part of a WMA, vil­lage leaders were at a loss as to how to undo what had happened. As far as they were concerned, and as far as village council and assembly meeting min­utes confirmed, plans for a WMA were still being explored. They had requested opportunities to visit working WMAs to see what kinds of benefits their member villages had realised. Furthermore, they had requested more specific information concerning the value that could be brought by investors versus the costs of relinquishing village land. They claimed that the district officials and the AWF had promised to provide them with this information, but that it had never materialised. Members of the CBO-suddenly the Authorised Association-admitted that they had participated in the meetings, but claimed that they had never really understood what was being discussed, nor did they comprehend the consequences of the formation of a WMA for the village. Former village leaders made similar claims, and maintained that the plan was presented as a village and not a WMA plan. [25] Finally, during their fact-finding mission to Dar es Salaam, village leaders had discovered a ver­sion of their village assembly meeting minutes from 19 August 2003, which completely contradicted the minutes that they in their own files. The version on file with the Ministry specifically authorised the establishment of a WMA in Minjingu. [26]

In Vilima Vitatu a parallel story played out. Villagers had been involved in the same AWF-sponsored meetings and seminars, and similar discussions had occurred in village assembly meetings regarding a conservation area. The AWF and the district authorities had prepared a LUP that was virtually identi­cal to the Minjingu LUP, right down to the typos and the math errors. As far as the village leaders were concerned, however, their village assembly had never agreed to be part of a WMA. As in Minjingu, official gazettement of the WMA came as a complete surprise. Since most residents of both villages had used the land and other resources in the WMA, they were quite concerned that they would now be prohibited from entering the area and fined an exorbitant amount if they did. [27]

In interview after interview, Minjingu and Vilima Vitatu villagers told us that they were not involved in the formation of the WMA, that no one had told them how it would be managed, that they knew of no benefits coming from it, and that removing people from the area had done more harm than good for the villages. In particular, since there was no longer a buffer between the villages and Tarangire National Park, wildlife had become bolder and was straying into the villages far more often, causing damage to crops and houses, which the villagers could ill-afford. Finally, many villagers believed that setting aside village land for conservation would result in revenues from conservation bypassing them and going directly to other stakeholders.

As local concerns about the WMA increased, villagers began meeting to discuss what should be done. Having caught wind of these discussions, the district game officer made frequent appearances in the village, lobbying for the WMA and telling people not to do anything foolish. At a meeting of the Minjingu village council, he proclaimed that he would phone Dr. James Ka­hurananga, director of the AWF's Tanzania Office, and tell him that people in Minjingu were ungrateful for all the assistance they had received from the AWF. [28] Dr. Kahurananga had spent a lot of time and money on their village, he continued, and he would not be pleased to hear such talk. One of the vil­lage councillors retorted that he should go ahead and call Kahurananga, add­ing, "He has no authority here. He represents an NGO not the government." [29] A few days later, a ward councillor had this to say, "Everywhere I go these days I hear Dr. Kahurananga, Dr. Kahurananga! Who is this Dr. Kahurananga, and why is everyone so afraid of him? People in the district offices do what­ever he says. I'm not afraid of him. He has no legal authority. As far as I'm concerned a sub-village secretary (the lowest official government position) has more authority than Dr. Kahurananga!" [30]

In very little time, the people's anger at the district game officer and the AWF galvanised their resolve. The Minjingu village assembly met within one week, passing a resolution withdrawing their land from the WMA and dis­solving the Authorised Association. The resolution was signed by 631 mem­bers of the 700 member village assembly. Village leaders and other respondents claimed that some of those villagers not in attendance had par­ticipated in establishing the WMA. The former village chairman, who had presided over this process and who was now a ward chairman, officially re­fused to come to the meeting. He explained that a lower-level (a village) gov­ernment official had no authority to summon a higher level official (a ward chairman).

It is most likely, however, that the majority of those not in attendance were prevented by distance, illness, or more pressing problems. In fact, the level of attendance at most village assembly meetings in this part of Tanzania is usu­ally much lower. Indeed, village leaders held that this resolution was signed by more village assembly members than any resolution in the history of the village. The minutes approving the WMA, or not approving it depending on which version you read, was only signed by 205 people.

The meeting revealed the depth of the people's bitterness and sense of be­trayal concerning the WMA. Village leaders made fiery speeches, proclaiming themselves at war with the hunting company and other people who wanted to take their land and then guard it from them. Old-timers stood up and pro­claimed that they would have never tolerated such a thing back in their day. Young men said they were ready to take up arms to protect their land if neces­sary, and promised to see to any leader who did not stand with them in their resistance. Women proclaimed that Jesus was on their side. Hissing in unison they vowed that he would deliver them from the Satan who had come to their village, threatening their land and livelihoods.

The Vilima Vitatu village assembly met one week later, with similar re­sults. Two days after this meeting, the district game officer phoned the deputy principal of the College of African Wildlife Management and informed him that one of his faculty members and a student, along with two Maasai activists (our research assistants), were rabble-rousing in his district, calling village meetings, and telling people to withdraw from the WMA. Furthermore, that this group had broken the law by misinterpreting the English version of the WMA regulations to intentionally mislead the people.

As a result of this phone call, we arranged a meeting with the district game officer to clear the air. At the meeting he told us that he was shocked to learn that we were working in his district, but that he now knew all about our activi­ties from his numerous informants who operated in the villages where we were conducting research. He was certain that we were the cause of all the problems at Minjingu and Vilima Vitatu, since, before our arrival, the fully supported the WMA. We had not been in the area for a month and they had all turned against him. He could only conclude that someone had been deceiving them. Besides, his informants corroborated that we had misinterpreted the WMA regulations. Furthermore, we had arrived at Vilima Vitatu with known criminals (the village chairman of Minjingu and a former ward councillor). He finished by informing us that he had intended to have us arrested and the only thing that stopped him was that we came from the College of African Wildlife Management. He hoped we understood, however, that the kind of work we were doing was dangerous, as he himself had been chased out of villages with rocks and spears.

We explained that we had not called any meetings. The meetings we had at­tended were ordinary village assembly meetings of Minjingu and Vilima Vi­tatu. Furthermore, we had informed village leaders that we would not be able to speak at these meetings for the very reason that we did not want people to say that we had unduly influenced their decision. Moreover, we had followed all the appropriate protocol concerning our research in his district. We had deposited a letter from the College of African Wildlife Management at the district offices and had been given a letter of permission from the district commissioner.

After this exchange, he said that he could see that this had been one big misunderstanding. If we wanted to avoid such misunderstandings in the fu­ture, however, we would need to observe a few simple rules. First, we should never share information with local people, as this could be misconstrued as activism. In any event, they probably lacked the capacity to understand the in­formation. Next, we should avoid at all costs consorting with, and giving lifts to, known criminals, as we were likely to be seen as guilty by association. Fi­nally, we should first come to him with any questions we might have. He had been working on this WMA for almost 10 years. He was the expert, and could tell us what we needed to know.

He continued that we might have heard that the WMA had been established without the knowledge or participation of local people. This, he assured us, was flatly untrue. The district government and the AWF had taken every trou­ble to insure that local people would be fully involved. First of all, he ex­plained, the CBO had village members who represented local interests. Second, there had been numerous meetings, seminars, and workshops, and these had been well attended. Finally, he adamantly insisted that local people had been fully involved in hammering in the beacons.

He also speculated that we might have heard that people had been force­fully evicted from the WMA. This, he assured us again, was also not true. First, we needed to understand that the people living inside the WMAs were squatters and criminals-living in that place illegally. They were not even from those villages, and everyone-including they-would be better off if they went back to wherever it was they came from. [31] Of course, he opined with apparent regret, there were always a few troublemakers who had been dealt with accordingly. He wanted to make sure that we understood that legal procedures had been followed to remove the squatters, and there were not many, from the WMA. None had been forcefully removed; in fact they had fi­nally seen that they would be better off moving voluntarily. [32] Finally, he hoped we understood that all of them had been offered farms elsewhere.

He told us with a laugh that all the rumours we may have heard about him having manipulated the Minjingu village government into agreeing to a WMA was patently absurd. How, he asked us rhetorically, could anyone manipulate an entire village government? Now people were going around saying that he had forged village assembly minutes to show that they had endorsed the WMA. He wanted to make sure that we knew that it was not he, but a handful of self-serving local officials who had forged the minutes. The ones in Dar es Salaam were the real minutes and the ones in the Minjingu village office were the forged ones. He confided in us that these people had forged the minutes because they had a special deal with the photo safari company that had been recently evicted from the WMA. He took us further into his confidence by re­vealing that they were angry about these evictions because they would no longer be receiving kickbacks. That was why they had forged the minutes. These people were nothing but common criminals. He had his eye on them, and they would be dealt with accordingly.

When we left the field, citizens of Minjingu and Vilima Vitatu were work­ing to extricate themselves from the Burunge WMA. They had no illusions that this would be an easy process. As one elder wondered at the meeting of the Minjingu village assembly, "How do you pull out of something you never joined?" As always, the WMA Regulations are ambiguous and tilted towards the most powerful stakeholders. On the one hand, the Regulations stipulate that a village can leave a WMA simply by changing their LUP, dissolving the Authorised Association, or applying to the Director for de-gazettement. But on the other, all of these options must be endorsed by the Director and ap­proved by the Minister.

At our meeting with the district game officer, he assured us that this would never happen. Before going to the Minister, he claimed, the appeal will have to pass through the District Natural Resources Committee. Although this is not stipulated in the Regulations, the village leaders who travelled to the Min­istry at Dar es Salaam were told that they would need to take the matter up at the district level. Meanwhile, the district game officer, who is also secretary of the District Natural Resources Committee, concluded "the AWF and the government have put a lot of money and work into this WMA; we will not stand by and allow it to fail." [33]


   Conclusion: Does Reality Matter? Top


But certainly for the present age, which prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to the original, representation to reality, the ap­pearance to the essence... illusion only is sacred, truth profane. - Karl Marx, Feuerbach

It almost goes without saying that the story we have just finished telling is far less appealing than the story with which we opened this article. Indeed, one of the central challenges of writing against such a story is its fundamental ap­peal. The putative compatibility of conservation, neoliberal capitalism, and poverty alleviation offers solutions to the world's problems in which no one has to give up anything (cf. McAfee 1999). Rich and poor, animals and peo­ple, charity and private enterprise, Africans and westerners, consumers and producers, in short everyone winds up being a winner. In this worldview there are no losers, only stakeholders. Our case study, by contrast, reveals a world in which there are definitely losers.

To the extent that leaders of transnational conservation organisations ac­knowledge these types of realities, they tend to downplay their role in creating them and/or dismiss them as anomalous. Often they blame these problems on corrupt African governments. This allows donors and foreign investors to claim that they had nothing to do with the negative impacts of their activities. Ideally, their interventions would have benefited local people, were it not for the interference of corrupt African Governments. Unfortunately, corrupt as they are, these governments are also sovereign. Donors and investors could never meddle in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.

This is a disingenuous position, since anyone involved in conservation and development in developing countries knows that donors and investors habitu­ally meddle in the internal affairs of sovereign states. European colonies were expressly designed to facilitate outside influence on the inner workings of co­lonial states. Keeping such arrangements in place was a major concern of European powers when the colonies gained independence. This can be seen in the active role that the AWF, WWF, and the International Union for Conser­vation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) played in this transition in Tanzania: starting the College of African Wildlife Management, establishing national parks, and developing management plans and conservation policies. Europeans continued to hold positions in African governments through the early 1970s (Bonner 1993; Neumann 1998). Garland (2006) argues that Afri­cans made some gains in controlling conservation and natural resource management in their countries during the period of state-centred development (roughly 1967 to 1985), but with neoliberalisation in the 1990s white outsid­ers regained the kind of control they previously enjoyed.

Lest we swing too far in the other direction, letting African elites off the hook and blaming outsiders, a more nuanced perspective suggests that both groups are culpable. The hollowing out of African states by neoliberalisation has diminished their ability to govern. Sovereignty and control in such situa­tions is highly fragmented and decentralised -deployed in different ways by different state-actors, in different contexts. For state actors, this fragmented sovereignty often becomes an important asset that they can use to broker stra­tegic alliances with private investors and donors (Ferguson 2006). Both groups bring important resources to these alliances. Outsiders bring money, expertise, and technology, on which officials from impoverished states are highly dependent. State actors bring sovereignty- "the means of coercion that make it possible to gain advantage in struggles over resources tradition­ally the exclusive purview of the state" (Mbembe 2001).

Outsiders wishing to directly control, or otherwise define the use of these resources, depend on state actors for the stamp of sovereignty. This does not usually mean that the state actors cede sovereignty to these outsiders. The re­lationships that emerge from these dynamics are usually ones of mutual de­pendence, characterised by a great deal of strategic negotiation and occasionally intense antagonisms. These relationships are difficult to discern, obscured as they are by discourses of official prerogatives (Brockington & Igoe 2006; Igoe & Fortwangler 2007; Igoe & Brockington, unpublished).

It is also incorrect to claim that these types of problems are anomalous. The manager of Manyara Ranch told students of the African College of Wildlife Management that one possibility for KKEEP would be to move some of the local people 75 miles south to Hanang. Unfortunately, Hanang is also beset with land conflicts, which would be exacerbated if people were relocated there (Igoe 2005). [34] The situation is captured in the words of an informant who was displaced from Hanang, then evicted from the Burunge WMA, and currently faces displacement by KKEEP: "It's like we aren't Tanzanians and this isn't our country. Wherever we go, we are told, you can't stay here." [35] While each of these displacements has the appearance of a local land conflict, they are actually reflective of problems that are national in scope. It appears that Tanzania is now facing a potential crisis of internal displacement in which people are shunted from place to place as valuable natural resources are appropriated from communities for conservation, commerce, and increasingly both together. Most recently the government evicted herders from the Usangu Game Reserve as part of the government's initiative to open a Southern Tour­ist circuit, which would contribute to Tanzania's economic growth while tak­ing pressure off the Northern Circuit. [36] Ironically, many of these people had been displaced from the north or descended from people who had been (Ga­laty 1988). President Kikwete's first year in office (2006) will be remembered for his continuous remonstrations on national radio for people who had mi­grated to different parts of the country to go back to wherever they came from in the first place.

The situation in Tanzania is by no means anomalous either. Witness the re­cent activity within the IUCN concerning the clearances of Omo and Nech Sar National Parks in Ethiopia. [37] Although these clearances were undertaken by the Ethiopian Government, they were closely associated with African Parks Foundation, an NGO indirectly bankrolled by SHV Gas in the Netherlands and Wal-Mart in the United States. African Parks Foundation has been at the centre of similar controversies around Africa, including in South Africa. Al­liances among international conservation NGOs, private enterprise, and state actors are becoming increasingly common throughout Africa. These alliances actively exclude people from landscapes in the name of conservation through­out the continent, including in Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe (Cernea & Schmidt-Soltau 2006; Ferguson 2006; McDermott Hughes 2006). Similar dynamics have also been documented in Thailand (Vandergeest & Peluso 1995) and Laos (Goldman 2001).

Current rumblings in the halls of international conservation are also indica­tive of the extent of these problems. Chapin's (2004) article in World Watch, which dealt (among other things) with corporate influence on big conservation NGOs, provoked a minor furore at the World Conservation Congress that same year. Just as it appeared that things might be settling down Dowie (2005) published an investigative article in Orion on conservation refugees, followed by similar work in the San Francisco Chronicle (2006) and else­where (also in press). This type of work has amplified an ongoing discussion of the links between human rights and conservation, which is apparently not going away any time soon. It also represents a growing record of inequities, abuses, and trickery on a global scale, which our field study further con­firmed.

The fallout from these articles has sparked some positive developments. For instance, a group within Conservation International has started an initiative to address the social impacts of protected areas, especially those that are in the process of being gazetted. More commonly, however, large conservation NGOs have sought to limit the damage that these critiques might do to them. In doing so, they have focused on flaws and inaccuracies in these works, while sidestepping the critical issues that have been raised. AWF President Patrick Bergin (2005) responded with the following letter to World Watch:

I expect many people have written to you citing specifics of what they considered to be fair or unfair in Mac Chapin's article A Challenge to Conservationists. Our intention at the AWF is not to join this debate, but to focus our attention on building a different kind of conservation organization. We are now an Africa-driven organization that happens to have an office in Washington with certain supporting functions. More than 85% of our staff members are African citizens, and most of the remainder comes from a Peace Corps Africa or development back­ground. At AWF, we view the wildlife and wild lands of Africa as a key asset for the continent to draw upon in developing a sustainable future. We see the engagement of local communities as an integral part of our conservation strategy, not because it is fashionable but because we un­derstand that conservation efforts will never succeed if local people do not.

Unfortunately, by refusing to 'join this debate' it would appear that the AWF has been unable to acknowledge that these kinds of problems also have impli­cations for its operations. In doing so, it has apparently been unable to learn from its mistakes. The AWF's office in Tanzania has been the target of nu­merous complaints concerning the unfair and unethical treatment of rural communities. In response to these complaints, and associated conflicts, the organisation's Tanzania office was subject to an internal investigation and au­dit and the Washington office subject to investigation by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) (Igoe, in press). Conse­quently, the Tanzania office has lost a number of key personnel and its leader­ship has been restructured.

Ironically but consistently, Bergin has been quick to dismiss these com­plaints as originating with racist tour operators who cannot stand to see an Af­rican-Dr. James Kahurananga-in charge of the organisation's operations in Tanzania. This characterisation is inaccurate, however, as these complaints come not only from tour operators, but also NGO leaders, human rights activ­ists, government officials, local people, and even people working for the AWF. Having 85 per cent African staff in no way guarantees that the kinds of problems outlined in this article are not going to occur (Igoe, in press). Fur­thermore, since the AWF will almost certainly weather this shake-up, such problems will continue to be rendered invisible.

As Marx aptly noted over 100 years ago, simplified representations (the sign) are often treated as sacred; because they are so venerated, they are be­yond question and criticism. Empirical descriptions of the actual realities (the signified) are therefore regarded as profane. Profane in this case can be under­stood in two ways: 1) irreverence for something that is considered sacred; and 2) vulgar, as in uttering a profanity. As most critics of conservation can attest, the types of accounts and ideas presented in this article are often received in mainstream conservation circles as though the critic had uttered profanity in both senses of the word.

Even many of those who do acknowledge the types of critiques outlined in this article are not entirely comfortable with them. They are too off-putting and likely to alienate people who are potential allies of community conserva­tion, as well as people who control important funding sources. Furthermore, the implications of these critiques seem unpragmatic to people who are ori­ented to tangible short-term outcomes. Strategic essentialism, pragmatists of­ten point out, is essential to all politics and fundraising, not just conservation. As long as the ends are virtuous, manipulations of reality are not only accept­able, they are crucially necessary. Moreover, putting this kind of information in the public realm is irresponsible, as it gives enemies of conservation am­munition to use against any initiatives. Finally, we are told that people will get tired of hearing these sorts of things if we do not offer constructive alter­natives.

We are definitely in favour of constructive alternatives. However, we find these types of arguments put critics of conservation in a rhetorical catch-22 situation. Being part of a constructive solution means 'speaking the right lan­guage' so that potential allies can understand what we are saying. In our ex­perience, this is usually a euphemism for not talking about the kinds of things that we have talked about in this article and not presenting an analysis that is likely to discourage people or make them feel bad. In other words, the works of critics like Chapin and Dowie (and hopefully us) are not difficult to under­stand; people just do not like what they have to say. Unfortunately, solutions that fail to account for the types of problems that they highlight will almost inevitably bring us back to the types of simplified representations we have discussed in this article. Statements about being constructive and pragmatic ring hollow, since apparently constructive and pragmatic interventions have all kinds of terrible consequences, which will simply never be acknowledged.

For these reasons, we believe that finding effective solutions begins firstly with acknowledging the exact nature of the problems that those solutions are meant to resolve. This will not be possible if they continue to be swept under the rug. We are therefore in support of current initiatives to build structures of accountability in international conservation. There must be mechanisms that will allow and require conservation organisations and conservationists to monitor themselves and each other, especially with regards to human rights. This will also require a more systematic understanding of the social impacts of protected areas and related conservation interventions (Brockington et al. 2006; Igoe, in press).

Secondly, turning conservation directly over to rural communities is not the same as turning it over to non-western elites. Actually giving conservation to communities will require surrendering control to both the terms and resources of conservation, something that large conservation organisations are under­standably reluctant to do. However, current efforts by First People's World­wide to organise a global fund for indigenous protected areas indicate that things may be heading in this direction.

Thirdly, to the extent that these kinds of changes go against global neolib­eralism and established technocratic approaches to conservation, they are more likely to take the form of social movements and political struggles rather than paradigmatic technical and administrative interventions. As such, they are likely to be sloppier and more uncertain than current approaches. This will be difficult work. It will also be necessary work. The illusion of certainty and rigorously formulated technocratic reregulations are what got us into this mess in the first place.

Finally, everyone involved in transnational conservation networks, and who benefit from their involvement, are culpable: government officials who en­gage in rent seeking at the expense of their constituents; private tour compa­nies that take over land from local people without adequate compensation; international NGOs that support the displacement of local people to clear wildlife migration corridors; and researchers/consultants who reproduce they types of narratives that keep nasty realities out of focus. By admitting this culpability we are also all responsible for creating more equitable conserva­tion alternatives. As Chambers (1997) writes, everyone in these networks has both the efficacy and the responsibility to bring about positive change and to help undo the relationships of inequality that exist within them.

 
   References Top

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    Figures

  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4]


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    Introduction: Co...
    The Reregulation...
    Conclusion: Does...
    'We are Now a Vi...
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