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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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ARTICLE
Year : 2012  |  Volume : 10  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-14

Seeing white elephants? The production and communication of information in a locally-based monitoring system in Tanzania


Centre for Forest and Landscape, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

Correspondence Address:
Martin Reinhardt Nielsen
Centre for Forest and Landscape, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen
Denmark
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.92188

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The literature on locally-based monitoring in the context of conservation displays a great deal of optimism about the prospects of involving local people in the systematic gathering of information about the condition and use of natural resources and conservation areas to inform management decisions from local to national levels. This study challenges this notion based on a case study of a collaborative forest management and locally-based monitoring project that has been considered a successful showcase example in Tanzania. It does so by comparing information from locally-based monitoring of forest condition and financial transactions, as presented by community management institutions to higher authorities, with forest transect surveys and an audit of financial accounts. The results reveal that the information produced and communicated under the locally-based monitoring system contradicts trends in wildlife densities and human disturbance observed in the forest and under-represents actual financial flows. Interviews and observations further indicate that communication of this information takes place under conditions of ongoing power struggles over access to benefits of collaborative forest management. This study serves to caution that the information produced and communicated under the locally-based monitoring system may be shaped by the incentives and power struggles surrounding the particular context within which the system is based and therefore cannot be taken at face value.


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