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ARTICLE
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 13  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 166-178

Towards an Explicit Justice Framing of the Social Impacts of Conservation


1 School of International Development, University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom
2 Department of Zoology, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda

Correspondence Address:
Adrian Martin
School of International Development, University of East Anglia, Norwich
United Kingdom
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.164200

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Date of Web Publication2-Sep-2015
 

   Abstract 

This paper proposes that biodiversity conservation practice will benefit from assessment of environmental justice outcomes, especially in contexts of poverty and social marginalisation. Whilst there is an existing body of work that implicitly considers the justices and injustices arising from biodiversity conservation interventions, we suggest that a more explicit justice assessment might complement this work. We develop some general guidelines for such assessment, drawing on traditions of social and environmental justice, highlighting the importance of considering two types of justice outcome: distribution and recognition. We note the non-equivalence of these different justice values, implying that they cannot be traded-off against each other. We try out these guidelines through a case study of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. We find that the assessment helps us to identify intolerable social impacts of conservation, notably failures to adequately address the long-term impoverishment and domination of the indigenous Batwa people, and offers constructive insight for how conservation can better align with the need for environmental justice.

Keywords: environmental justice, revenue sharing, tourism, ecosystem services, recognition, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda


How to cite this article:
Martin A, Akol A, Gross-Camp N. Towards an Explicit Justice Framing of the Social Impacts of Conservation. Conservat Soc 2015;13:166-78

How to cite this URL:
Martin A, Akol A, Gross-Camp N. Towards an Explicit Justice Framing of the Social Impacts of Conservation. Conservat Soc [serial online] 2015 [cited 2017 Jun 26];13:166-78. Available from: http://www.conservationandsociety.org/text.asp?2015/13/2/166/164200


   Introduction Top


The premise for this research is that the conservation community needs to take justice issues seriously and that it cannot claim to be doing this until it has developed ways of assessing justice impacts of conservation interventions.

Few would contend the view that stemming current rates of biodiversity loss is an urgent challenge with enormous consequences for future human welfare (Cardinale et al. 2012). And yet many of the efforts made to meet this conservation challenge are contested (Redpath et al. 2013). Such conflict can occur where conservation fails to protect the material wellbeing of the poor; for example where access to subsistence resources is curtailed without adequate deliberation or compensation; and it can occur where subjective wellbeing is compromised, for example where local cultural norms are forcefully displaced (Martin et al. 2013).

Conservation organisations have increasingly tried to address such justice concerns, initially through a shift away from so-called 'fortress conservation' to embrace integrated conservation and development projects (ICDPs), as well as various forms of access and benefit sharing under community conservation, multiple use zones, tourism revenue sharing and agreements about intellectual property over genetic resources. With growing concerns about the apparent inefficiency of ICDPs in particular (Ferraro 2001), the focus has shifted somewhat towards more direct approaches to integrating ecological and social objectives, notably payment for ecosystem services (Wunder 2012). Most recently, some of the biggest international conservation NGOs have moved towards a rights-based approach connected to the umbrella Conservation Initiative on Human Rights (CIHR 2010). Signatories to the CIHR predominantly articulate justice as instrumental to the biological goals, as a pre-requisite for effective biodiversity conservation (Kashwan 2013; Martin et al. 2013); for example because it is assumed that this will help conservation interventions to benefit from local cooperation (BirdLife International 2011; Greiber et al. 2009; IUCN 2010; WCS 2009; WWF 2008). Such assumptions are increasingly supported by research, such as evidence that participatory management approaches are more often effective than exclusionary ones (Ellis and Porter-Bolland 2008; Porter-Bolland et al. 2012).

However, the history of conservation contains many counter-examples of conservation interventions that succeed in their biological objectives despite clear and sustained social injustices (Brockington et al. 2006). There is also a wealth of evidence to show that efforts to reconcile conservation with procedural or distributional fairness are systematically too timid (Ribot 2002), do not always reach the right people in the first instance (Lund and Saito-Jensen 2013), introduce new forms of coercion (Neumann 2004; Schroeder 2008), or dispossession (McAfee 2012; Peluso and Lund 2011) and are often not commensurate with the kinds of harms they are intended to remedy (Emerton 2001; Martin et al. 2013).

Political ecologists have sought to understand and address the societal structures that regularly give rise to conservation injustices. This involves analysing conservation struggles in the context of wider political economic processes, rather than restricting analysis to local factors such as population growth and resource dependence (Peet et al. 2010; Peluso and Watts 2001; Robbins 2011). For example, work on the social impacts of parks has raised questions about whose knowledge is represented by prevailing ideas about parks, and the political-economic contexts in which these ideas gain traction and become the models for conservation on the ground (Brosius and Hitchner 2010; West and Brockington 2006; West et al. 2006). These dominating ideas often serve to frame both the causes and solutions to declining biodiversity, with narratives about population pressure, about local poor people being the main threats, and about the impossibility for humans and highly valued biodiversity to co-exist (Brockington and Igoe 2006; Lele et al. 2010). Such ideas tend to exclude in depth political analysis of the role of tenure, authority, global markets, and the systemic implications of expanding capitalist relations. The ways in which some systems of knowledge subjugate others have been explored through different but overlapping theoretical lenses including 'virtualism' (West et al. 2006), 'assemblage' (Murray Li 2007), 'governmentality' (Fletcher 2010) and 'environmental statehood' (Ioris 2013). The consensus at the heart of these analyses is the significance of discursive, as well as material forms of power, the complex networks of knowledge and power that connect different actors in conservation landscapes, and associated mechanisms that produce injustices.

Robbins (2011) characterises political ecology as taking an 'explicitly normative' stance towards the environment. At one level that is completely correct, because there is a clear concern with what is right and wrong about current conservation discourse and practice (Duffy 2010). But we suggest that this concern might be best described as implicit rather than explicit, on the basis that political ecology tends not to draw on the conceptual tools that are commonly used in more explicit studies of social and environmental justice. To that end, this paper seeks to introduce a more explicit justice framing into the critical conservation literature, by which we mean drawing on the analytical toolkit of political philosophers who pose direct questions about what constitutes right and wrong (Olson and Sayer 2007). In particular, we draw on theories of human capability (Sen 1999) as a means of identifying what should be the central concerns of conservation justice, and how we might start to assess the performance of conservation in relation to these. The paper explores in more detail what this 'explicit' framing of conservation justice might look like, and then applies this to a case study of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (here after, Bwindi).

Study site

Bwindi is a 330 sq. km montane rainforest located in southwest Uganda (1160 to 2706 m ASL). The region has a rich history of human habitation going back 37,000 years, with some of the earliest evidence of cultivation by humans in Africa by the Batwa people and their use of fire to manipulate vegetation composition (UNESCO 2013). Whilst we know little about how the Batwa changed species composition in Bwindi in pre-historical times, what is clearer is that significant external drivers of degradation mounted during the twentieth century, with increasing agricultural and timber demand coming from outsiders moving into the area. The forest was first designated as a reserve in 1932, but was heavily hunted (for example buffalo and leopards became extinct in the 1960s) and then degraded by commercial logging during the 1970s and 80s. Its conservation status was upgraded to National Park in 1991, and it became a World Heritage Site in 1994. Bwindi is considered a high priority for conservation based on its high species diversity and endemism (Plumptre et al. 2003), and because it is home to almost half of the world's mountain gorillas.

Bwindi's success at protecting the mountain gorilla population and its habitat has brought economic benefits to Uganda but has also come at a cost to some local people. Whilst many had been requested to relocate from the forest following its initial designation as a forest reserve and re-designation as an animal park in 1964, this had not been well enforced and an estimated 2400 people were evicted without compensation in 1992 (Adams and Infield 2001; Blomley 2003). The Batwa people have been progressively evicted since the 1960s, with many being required to leave in the early 1990s (Tancau 2011; Turyatunga 2010). More generally, those living near to the park faced reduced access to both subsistence and commercial extraction of forest resources. This was particularly hard-felt because it coincided with a reduction in availability of other commons resources, including wetlands and non-gazetted forests (Hamilton et al. 2000).

The process of park formation generated considerable hostility, including violence against park staff, their exclusion from culturally important burial societies, and protests that included deliberate burning of the forest (Baker et al. 2012; Blomley 2003; Hamilton et al. 2000). In response to these conflicts, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), working with donors such as the World Bank and USAID, and NGOs such as CARE International; established a number of ICDPs, including some restricted access to resources and benefit sharing arrangements (Adams and Infield 2003; Blomley et al. 2010; Tancau 2011). Gorilla tourism started in 1993 and revenue sharing was initiated in 1994 to provide benefits to parishes that border the park. multiple use zones (MUZ) were established in 1994, now covering 20% of the park, and intended to benefit those park-adjacent parishes that benefited least from gorilla tourism. The Bwindi and Mgahinga Conservation Trust (BMCT) was established in 1996 with USD 4.2 million of Global Environment Facility and World Bank money to provide benefits to those in a two parish-wide band around the park. Alongside dedicated NGOs such as the United Organisation for Batwa Development in Uganda (UOBDU), BMCT has also introduced projects specifically targeting the Batwa people, through provision of land and housing. In 1998, the Human Gorilla conflict resolution (HUGO) programme was introduced in which local groups were organised to systematically chase gorillas back into the forest with a view to encouraging sustained behavioural change that would reduce crop losses.

There is little doubt that these efforts to increase benefits and reduce costs, together with the healing effects of time and livelihood diversification, have reduced the intensity of conflict (Baker et al. 2012). However, opinions vary regarding the extent to which underlying conflicts have actually been resolved, and about the extent to which twenty years of ICDPs have delivered justice for local people. On the one hand, the gazetting of the park, together with the development of gorilla tourism, have brought significant new income and infrastructure to the Bwindi area, reducing park-people conflicts (Baker et al. 2012; Blomley 2003; Blomley et al. 2010; MacKenzie 2012; Sandbrook 2010). On the other hand, this growing body of research into the social impacts of Bwindi has also found that the benefits and costs from the park have not been evenly distributed and have therefore created winners and losers (Ahebwa et al. 2012; Sandbrook and Adams 2012). Furthermore, this literature points to non-material forms of impact relating to failures to recognise rights to self-determination (Laudati 2010; Tumusiime and Svarstad 2011; Tumusiime and Vedeld 2012). As Namara (2006) describes in relation to one ICDP project, sometimes the very interventions that intend to improve the distribution of costs and benefits are themselves perceived to be coercively implemented, and to undermine local rights. She describes an apparently benign scheme to allow people to relocate from farmland that was blighted by foraging gorillas, and this became less benign as it left some people with no genuine choice but to sell their land.

Our intention in this article is to look at the same Bwindi case study, but to do so with our more explicit justice focus. The purpose of this is not to challenge the aforementioned literatures, but to explore whether a justice analysis provides additional and useful insights that might help conservation to both define and work towards more just practices.


   Methods and Approach Top


We explore the justice outcomes of conservation interventions around Bwindi with a view to generating findings about how conservation and social justice outcomes can be better aligned. Field research took place between July and December 2011 and involved three methods. Firstly, two 'expert panel' meetings were held to identify the issues around which claims about fairness are constructed locally. Second, we undertook a household survey (n=146) with a mixture of closed and open questions ([Table 1]). Surveys were conducted in villages in four locations, selected according to distance from the park (near=up to 5 kms, far=5+ kms) and the presence of the tourism industry (tourism areas, TA; and no tourism areas, NTA). Questions about distributive outcomes were based on the household as the unit of assessment, so for example gender disaggregation could only be considered by comparing female and male headed households. By contrast, questions that probed subjective opinions were aimed at individuals. Thirdly, we conducted focus groups organised along ethnic lines, with the Bakiga (the majority ethnic group) and the Batwa. Injustices, such as failures of recognition (defined below) typically occur along arbitrary social fault-lines. In addition to gender, ethnicity, and proximity to the park and tourism operations, we also examined material wealth as a determinant of household experience of conservation. This was based on a count of durable assets as a basis for a simple subdivision into economically poor and less poor households. Whilst simplistic, counts of locally relevant assets can provide a reasonable proxy for wealth inequalities without the cost of collecting detailed income or expenditure data (Davies and Smith 1998; McKenzie 2005).
Table 1 Sub-groupings of survey respondents in the analysis


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An important part of our research approach was the development of a justice framework and we describe this in detail here. This framework was largely derived from literature review although the details ([Figure 1]) were in part influenced by the case work itself, an example of which is mentioned below. Development of the framework is guided by two key decisions. Firstly, we accept that justice claims are contextual and plural, rather than transcendental and universal. There are not only multiple justice values or dimensions (distribution, participation, recognition) but also a multiplicity of reasoned ways of thinking about these dimensions. Secondly, however, we suggest that there is considerable overlap in some of the basic conditions that allow humans to live lives worth living. In other words, our pluralism is tempered by some normative generalisations about what constitutes the 'good' for human beings. In that sense, we embrace Olson and Sayer's (2009) challenge to overcome the seemingly powerful aversion to normative thinking within the critical social sciences, and the associated belief that empirical facts and normative values can and should be compartmentalised (Jasanoff 2004). To help bridge the gap between an empirical and normative approach to environmental justice we look to theories of human capabilities, wellbeing, and need ([Figure 1]) (Doyal and Gough 1991; Nussbaum 2011; Sen 1999).
Figure 1 Environmental justice and wellbeing

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Pluralism has a number of possible and overlapping facets. Firstly, it refers to the idea that claims about justice are multivalent-that they are constructed with different and arguably non-commensurate sets of values. In this sense, there can be no single metric of justice, even when this is a sophisticated one such as 'utility'. Secondly, different people are likely to employ different principles to think about each of these values, thus for example a utilitarian might present a good case for prioritising distribution of a sum of money to the poor (because they will gain more additional utility from a dollar than will rich people), whilst some others might present an equally reasonable case for equal distribution, or distribution according to merit (Sen 2009). Thirdly, each of us is likely to think differently about justice principles depending on the particular situation facing us. For example, we might consider that an equal share is the best way to distribute votes, but merit a better way to distribute jobs (Deutsch 2011). We might also feel compelled to think very differently about the right way to act in relation to those spatially or emotionally close to us, compared to those who are more distant (Corbridge 1993; Miller 2013).

In making the case for plurality of justice values, we accept that the distribution of material benefits and harms is a key dimension of conservation justice, but also acknowledge other, social dimensions, that might be equally strongly experienced ([Figure 1]). A focus on distribution is observed in the framing of 'fairness' in the Convention on Biological Diversity and associated Nagoya Protocols (De Jonge 2011; Martin et al. 2013; McAfee 1999). It is also prominent in the dominant strand of ecosystem services thinking that often reduces nature's values to economic ones (Garmendia and Pascual 2013), and more generally in the influential view that poverty and related injustices are predominantly a shortage of income (Sen 1999).

Value pluralism is represented in [Figure 1] as a three-fold classification of the salient aspects of environmental justice: distribution, procedure, and recognition (Schlosberg 2004; Sikor 2013; Walker 2012). Distribution refers to both costs and benefits and can be disaggregated across a range of scales and social categories. In our case study, examples of the costs of conservation include damage to crops from wild animals, and benefits include the sharing of revenues from tourism. Procedure refers to how decisions are made, and who is included in the process-for the current analysis it is considered as an antecedent to distribution and recognition outcomes, indicated by its appearance in a mediating position between these two categories of outcome. This is one example of how the development of the framework was partly iterative between front-end theoretical reading and later learning from the case itself. Procedure was initially treated as an independent category but this was adjusted as, in particular, we found that respondents' concerns about procedure were often determinants of their concerns about recognition. Following the work of Fraser (2001), we think about recognition in structural terms-as the societal structures that produce injustices in the form of lack of respect, discrimination, and domination across social fault-lines such as gender, sexuality, and ethnicity. In our case study, issues of recognition include apparent discrimination against an indigenous ethnic group, the Batwa.

For some social theorists, justice consists of meeting an irreducibly plural set of values, an outcome that cannot be achieved by offsetting losses in one domain with benefits in another. As Nussbaum (2011) argues, failure to protect one basic requirement for living a dignified life, such as self-determination, cannot be corrected through enhancement of a different requirement such as healthcare, albeit that the latter might be desirable in its own right. This commitment to pluralism compels us to reject a utilitarian approach to assessing justice in favour of a rights and needs-based one. Utilitarianism built from the premise that defining what is good is a matter of identifying individual utility or preference satisfaction. According to an influential rendering of this, justice could then be achieved through pursuit of the greatest happiness for the greatest number (Bentham 1789). This focus on aggregate welfare is unsuitable for two main reasons. Firstly, it potentially allows for intolerable harm to some people. In the case of conservation, there is considerable amount of literature that shows that those more likely to be rendered worse off are the poor, an outcome that might predict that even if 'many' people benefit from a park such as Bwindi, the 'few' who bear costs will be those who will feel the harm the most (and perhaps deserve it least). Secondly, utilitarianism seeks to aggregate different, incommensurate, components of life (Nussbaum 2007). It would have us take material satisfaction and social identity-based satisfactions and somehow reduce these to a single metric-to a net balance. But empirical studies find that this is not how people tend to experience or express justice outcomes (Sikor 2013).

The key alternative to utilitarianism-at least as applied to conservation controversies-is a rights-based or deontological approach, often but not exclusively linked to liberal political philosophies, and focussing not so much on the consequences of one's actions, but on the motives. In direct contrast to utilitarianism, this approach tends to assert the sanctity of certain individual rights, and the corresponding duty to strive to protect these.

We draw on a particular variation of rights-based thinking that frames justice in terms of meeting thresholds of needs that enable individuals (and also communities) to pursue ends that they value. This stems from a 'capabilities' approach to justice thinking that is increasingly influential in environmental justice thinking (Schlosberg 2013). Whilst this does not constitute a single, cohesive body of theory, it tends to share the idea that 'sufficiency' is important to justice-that justice is not so much about ensuring that people have the same, but that certain basic needs thresholds are met. A thresholds approach differs in an important respect to another widely used principle of distributive justice. Rawls (1971) arrived at the 'difference principle' which prioritises equality of treatment but allows that inequality can be just when it favours the poor. In other words, distributive justice for Rawls is about equalising difference rather than meeting thresholds.

We see two benefits in defining justice in terms of rights and thresholds. Firstly, it ties with empirical studies of everyday conceptions of justice. Brock (2009) reviews empirical studies of conceptions of distributive justice and finds that people-across different cultures-often consider thresholds (such as minimum level of nutritional entitlements) to be more important benchmarks for the assessment of justice than equality per se. That is not to say that there is a universal set of thresholds simply 'out there' to be observed, but only that there is a large consensus regarding the moral imperative to meet thresholds. Secondly, and related to this, a threshold approach delivers a clear political agenda to states and others who take on sovereign functions (Nussbaum 2011). A state or other actor with a sovereign mandate that is not delivering or striving to deliver key thresholds is not acting justly.

Sen (2009) considers thresholds in terms of the capabilities or substantive freedoms that individuals have; that define what they are able to choose to do and to be. Capabilities are a combination of the internal abilities of a person and the external social and political context in which they exercise these (Nussbaum 2011). For example, a state education system might nurture a person's internal ability to articulate political thought, but this might be curtailed by a political environment in which freedom of speech is denied. For Sen (1999, 2009), certain capabilities such as education are fundamentally and universally relevant to human wellbeing. However, Sen and Nussbaum disagree over how 'thick' a description of the human good is possible or desirable-to what extent it is useful and credible to identify a set of essential thresholds that define the content of justice. Nussbaum identifies a list of 10 central capabilities that provide a comparatively 'thick' normative content for social justice assessment; Sen prefers a thinner, more abstract normative content, maintaining that practical justice must stem from democratic deliberation of more detailed content.

For our framework, we sit somewhere between the two. We do not find it useful-or within our abilities-to conceive a universal list of capabilities or associated needs. But we do agree with Nussbaum that it is possible-and pragmatic-to identify some areas of capability that are 'so central that their removal makes a life not worthy of human dignity' (2011: 31). Such normative assessments of human good may be open to criticisms of ethnocentrism, essentialism, imperialism and so on (e.g., Davis and Ruddle 2012). But human suffering is a real, empirical experience, often with identifiable, proximate conditions such as loss of liberty or loss of shelter (Gough 2004; Olson and Sayer 2009). Even where contexts are complex, as conservation conflicts so often are, it seems to us untenable to hold that we cannot or should not make judgments about the human good and the corresponding circumstances of human suffering.

So what do we propose as the central content of a conservation justice assessment? The principles that guide us here are:

  1. Following the needs and capabilities approaches described above, we associate justice with meeting the threshold conditions for living a dignified life.
  2. Following the discussion of pluralism, we note that the determinants of wellbeing and dignity might vary across individuals and communities.
  3. But we also adopt a more generalised framing from Nussbaum, Gough, and others, namely that there are some common freedoms or capabilities that are necessary requirements for people to have adequate life choices to pursue these plural ends.
  4. Following Brock, Nussbaum, and others we understand that these essential capabilities cover both material and social entitlements.
  5. We draw on the environmental justice work of Schlosberg, Walker, and others to associate material entitlements with 'distribution' of environmental benefits and harms and social entitlements with 'recognition' of different knowledge systems and cultural attachments to nature.
  6. We draw on critiques of utilitarian aggregation to insist that these social and material categories of justice (and their sub-content) remain resolutely plural. Unlike a utilitarian system of aggregation, justice cannot be done by denying social freedoms whilst compensating with material ones.


[Figure 1] outlines this basic analytical framework, relating the multiple aspects of environmental justice (distribution, procedure, recognition) to the material and social aspects of wellbeing. The distribution of environmental benefits and harms is thus considered important because it contributes to the material conditions for a good life, such as good health. Such material requirements are of course context-dependent and may vary. Recognition is important because it contributes to the basic social conditions for wellbeing, including autonomy. As Brock (2009) argues, both material and social aspects of wellbeing are requirements for human agency, a concept we employ here to distil an essential capability that enables people 'to do and to be' what they conceive as a good life. We position participation and agency in central, cross-cutting roles between the two more distinct material and social dimensions of environmental justice and social need. Just as Brock highlights that agency is a product of social need provision, so too it is a determinant of meeting material needs. [Figure 1] acknowledges the parallel with environmental justice dimensions, whereby participation can be a product of having ones culture or knowledge system recognised which in turn is a determinant of distributional outcomes.

This is intended as a broad and open framework for adaptation to specific contexts of interest. For our present context, the distribution aspect is about the flows of conservation costs and benefit and especially how these affect those who are already poor. Uganda is a low income country with 38% of the population living below the income poverty line of 1.25 USD per day. We assume then that the poorest among our sample are already below or near to a material threshold required for wellbeing and that justice therefore, requires any intervention measures to at least do no further harm. Whilst harder to measure in practice, a threshold approach would also require that benefits are distributed in ways that strive to assist those for whom essential thresholds are not met. We see this justice 'content' as relatively uncontroversial because it corresponds with the pro-poor outcomes that many of Bwindi's conservation stakeholders publicly aspire to. For recognition, we adopt a similar approach, namely that the socially vulnerable should have similar opportunities as others, to act freely in accordance with what is valued within their own culture. Importantly, the relevance of this rendering of recognition is validated by our observations of the lives that people are actually living (Miller 2013; Nussbaum 2011; Olson and Sayer 2009; Sen 2009). In this respect we observe that already marginalised groups such as the indigenous Batwa people, as highlighted in our case, are already in positions where their wellbeing is curtailed by inadequate recognition-we do not need to rely solely on theory to conclude that such groups require special protection against harm from mal-recognition.


   Results Top


Recognition justice

In what ways has the conservation of Bwindi denied choices for socially vulnerable groups to act freely in accordance with what is valued within their own culture? Since Bwindi was gazetted as a park in 1991, park-people conflicts have gradually reduced in intensity as households have diversified their livelihoods in ways that render park resources less important to the fulfilment of life choices. Diversification has been rapid and widespread, with 45% now reporting two or more main sources of livelihood compared to only 14% twenty years ago. This change has involved a reduction in dependence on park resources, and thus some closing of the gap between the economic interests of park authorities and local residents. However, latent conflict is still widespread, especially among those who have found it hard to diversify, and among those whose justice claims are primarily procedural, related to the way they are treated by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). When we posed a simple question about relations with UWA, 82% of respondents agreed that UWA needs to better recognise local people's views about the park. When we pursued this view in less structured discussion; respondents reported a basic power asymmetry whereby UWA sets the parameters of what is up for discussion, and in doing so, excludes from the agenda those issues that are most important to many local people. In particular, those we interviewed would want to negotiate wider access to and control over the park. Thus some local people want to frame discussions about what is fair in terms of challenging the current model for park governance, and to articulate a co-determination model based more on co-existence with the park and its wildlife. UWA, by contrast remain committed to the existing conservation model that separates people from the park (except in prescribed MUZs), and therefore prefer to frame concerns about fairness in terms of benefit sharing from existing arrangements. As one respondent put it, "they preserve the park we want to access" (TAF19).

This is a difficult line for the UWA to cross. They have good reason to believe that uncontrolled access would pose real dangers to the park's wildlife, for example the spread of human diseases to mountain gorillas. And they consider controlled access to be difficult to manage, based on their experience with MUZs. A situation therefore exists in which the prevailing package of ideas and institutions serves to foreclose on the kind of debates that some local people think they should be allowed to have. It is a situation that leads many local people to perceive a highly asymmetrical-and unfair-relationship with UWA, in which their views are not entertained:

They want me to listen to them but they don't listen to me (TAF12)

They don't agree with whatever the villagers say (NTAF1)

UWA just think about its policies without considering ours (NTAF20)

Thus, whilst public acts of resistance have declined in frequency, private but widespread disaffection persists. Complaints are grounded in concerns about access to resources, but equally they are articulated in terms of the procedural and interactional conduct of park business and the subjugation of their knowledge by a more powerful coalition of stakeholders. There is a strong perception that UWA's efforts at consultation are tokenistic and truncated-many respondents comment that UWA do not listen, they do not write things down, they make promises that they do not keep and they are not transparent. This finding resonates with that of Ahebwa et al. (2012) who found widespread disillusionment arising from UWA's exploitation of power asymmetry to pursue its own agendas whilst foreclosing on others.

In our analysis of the impacts of conservation we distinguish between material economic impacts and intangible cultural ones. This distinction is not straight forward because the use of material resources is often itself cultural. We take an empirical stance to this distinction, asking respondents to identify those material practices that they consider to be culturally important and, by association, important to collective wellbeing. 70% of total respondents, and 90% of Batwa respondents agreed that the park prevented their being able to pass on traditions to their children. Perhaps surprisingly, however, few went on to express this in terms of cultural loss; rather they see it as the decline of certain livelihood practices and skills, such as hunting and mat-making, that they perceive as economically but not culturally important. Whilst 76% agreed that 'poachers' are no longer respected, discussion around this point suggests that few express this as an injustice. One respondent described poachers as 'heroes' for providing cheap meat (NTAF26), but such views are now unusual. We should point out that these findings are highly context-specific and there are many communities for whom loss of hunting rights or loss of access to craft materials might well be perceived as a significant cultural loss. Here, there is a shift towards conservation-mindedness that arises from the perceived benefits of tourism (even given the inadequacies of distribution as described below), long-running 'sensitisation' programmes from UWA and conservation NGOs and, more speculatively, a shift in aspirations as an adaptation to the reality of exclusion from park access.

The Batwa are the one group that stood out for expressing concerns about the cultural impacts of current park management priorities. All of those we interviewed stated that UWA needed to recognise their views about the park and respect difference. Most were also able to articulate social practices that could not be passed on to the next generation. Whilst this obstacle to cultural reproduction was of more concern to the Batwa than other groups, respondents tended to articulate their concerns in relational terms and it was clear that the 'lived experience' of these impacts varied considerably. For some, persistent sensitisation against hunting and other uses of park resources was felt to undermine respect for them-because the Batwa are widely perceived to be highly dependent on park resources, this sensitisation in effect paints them in a bad light - criminalises them-and fuels existing discrimination. Others, however, experience such impacts the other way around; essentially arguing that conservation might have changed their lifestyles against their will, but that this change has ultimately helped to improve their status and relationships with other groups.

This is a version of events that is also evident among the majority ethnic group, the Bakiga, for example stating that "The Batwa are now respected like the Bakiga. We used to think they were animals" (NTAF8). This view of the Batwa as sub-human persists even today, resulting in everyday discrimination, for example through differential wage rates and exclusion from local political affairs. Even at election times, they report that the Bakiga people are bribed to vote for existing leaders whilst the Batwa have to vote to avoid being beaten. The fact that conservation has forced the Batwa out of the forest and to live more 'like humans' is seen by some-across both ethnic groups-as leading to greater integration and mutual respect.

But of course, it would be wrong to conclude that conservation has been positive for Batwa recognition or that denying the Batwa choice about their own future can somehow be re-interpreted as the right thing to have done. Based on our prior framing of conservation justice, recognition for an indigenous people cannot be contingent on their assimilation to another group's values any more than recognition for women could be contingent on their assimilation to male values - even if some follow that familiar human trait of adapting to seeing the brighter side. This is a case where bringing some pre-conception of justice to the analysis is clearly helpful, as it guards against the well-known phenomena of 'adaptive preferences' (Teschl and Comim 2005), in which people adapt and update their preferences to fit with the (unjust) circumstances they find themselves in.

The Batwa, the women, and the asset poor were those who more often expressed concerns about cultural reproduction, including loss of particular skills such as traditional medicine and crafts. For some Batwa, hunting skills are still important as well as specialist knowledge such as that needed to collect honey from stingless bees. We also found one more common concern that cut across all of our social categories. This is that children do not have any opportunity to see the forest and its wildlife, with a sense of loss, for example, that many have never seen a chimpanzee. The reasons for this are interesting. For some it is expressed within a conservationist paradigm-that if local people are alienated from the park it will threaten the long-term basis for conservation. But for others there seems to be a feeling of more personal and communal loss arising from a disassociation from nature, including a feeling that a person's education will be incomplete without such association (Worthy 2013 explores this theme in detail). Such concerns appear to add to the sense of injustice felt in response to UWA's foreclosure of any discussion of what we called a co-existence model for the park.

As we will detail below, we found that the Batwa do benefit from the tourism Revenue Sharing scheme (though not from the more significant benefits such as employment). But even if these benefits were very large (which they currently are not), this would not influence our analysis of recognition injustice. As we argued in our framing of conservation justice, we do not consider that failures of recognition can be offset by corresponding gains in other aspects of wellbeing. Justice values and thresholds remain plural and failures of recognition are not commensurate or tradable with material benefits. This is not a case against compensation-indeed groups struggling for conservation justice frequently request compensation and retribution-but rather it is a case that compensation (in various guises) may be necessary but is rarely sufficient (e.g., Norwich Declaration 2013). At the same time, our framing also cautions us against any form of aggregation across a wider set of people whose views and preferences are recognised in this model of conservation. According to our way of viewing conservation justice, failures to maintain adequate thresholds of freedom for the Batwa cannot be rendered solely through appeal to the benefits gained by others. We would concede that such dilemmas can exist, e.g., where it appears that the essential freedoms of a few serve as a barrier to the preferences of many. But in such unfortunate circumstances, the political message would be clear-that sovereign agents would be compelled to act vigorously and in a participatory manner, to ensure a more just outcome.

Distributional justice

From both focus groups and interviews, it is clear that the distribution of tangible costs and benefits from the park is central to local conceptions of fairness and justice. From 1996 to 2006, revenue sharing has been set at 20% of the USD 30 park entrance fee and none of the USD 500 gorilla trekking permit. Since 2006 this has been supplemented by an additional USD 5 'Gorilla Levy'. For the typical gorilla tourist then, 2% (USD 11 out of USD 530) of payment to the park authority is now shared with local communities. During expert panel discussions, some concerns were also raised about the additionality of this money, with concern that it actually displaces local government spending on infrastructure and social development rather than adding to it (though this situation was seen to be improving). In addition to payments to park authorities for permits, tourists also spend on subsistence and souvenirs. Sandbrook (2010) found that 24% of such revenue is retained locally which in his study locations outweighed by four times other forms of non-farm income. There is wide access to non-monetary benefits resulting from tourism such as improvements to schools and roads, and much more constrained access to benefits with direct monetary value, notably tourism employment (Sandbrook and Adams 2012). Bush and Mwesiga (2008) attempted to compare such economic benefits with the costs of crop-raiding, finding that on average, costs outweigh benefits and that this is more likely to be true for the poorest.

The small size of revenue sharing benefits contribute to generally negative assessments by our respondents. Using a simple 3-point Likert scale (1=agree and 3=disagree), we asked respondents whether they agreed with the statement that 'the benefits of living near the forest are greater than the costs'. We found significantly higher levels of disagreement to this statement in areas without tourism than in areas with tourism, (mean + SE=2.45+0.11 and 1.92+0.11, respectively, U=1643, p=0.001). When asked whether everybody benefits from tourism, there was general disagreement with no significant difference in areas with tourism versus areas without tourism (mean + SE=2.98 + 0.02 and 2.51 + 0.10, U=1938, p=0.29). Lastly, areas with and without tourism disagree with the statement that everybody benefits from conservation with areas without tourism disagreeing significantly more than areas with tourism, (mean + SE=2.27+0.11 and 2.43+0.11, U=1734, p=<0.0001).

Those living closest to the forest (CTF) appear slightly more likely to consider themselves as losers ([Figure 2]a, b, c), in the sense that the costs outweigh the benefits, however the differences are not statistically significant (Mann-Whitney a: U=878, p=0.18, b: 886 and 0.30, c: 964 and 0.31).
Figure 2 Park benefits by distance
a-c. Views about park benefits by distance from forest edge (n=146) where 1=agree and 3=disagree with standard error bars


Click here to view


More positively, respondents report an increase in benefits from the park over the last 20 years ([Figure 3]). Whilst we have to treat data based on long-term recall with some caution, the finding that expanding numbers have benefited from revenue sharing and NGO activities squares with expert panel assessments.
Figure 3 Benefits from the park-past and present
Percentage of households reporting different benefits from the park, now and in the past (n=146)


Click here to view


Disaggregation of this data reveals some interesting findings. Significantly, when asked to state whether or not their households had benefited from access to MUZs, more households in areas with tourism responded 'yes' than in areas without tourism, 29% versus 7%, respectively [t(113)=2.77, p=0.007]. This is completely unexpected and may help to explain why those in NTAs are less likely to think that the benefits of the park outweigh the costs. MUZs were intended to provide benefits in locations that were not fortunate enough to benefit directly from tourism. However, in our research locations, that intention has not been achieved in practice. Also for our sample, we find that Batwa households are significantly more likely to have benefited from Revenue Sharing projects, and that women-headed households are significantly less likely to benefit from MUZ access (Mann Whitney p=0.003 and 0.023). Poorer households (based on durable asset counts) are no less likely to benefit from MUZs nor revenue sharing, Mann Whitney p=0.096 and 0.657.

Local people have experienced a number of costs of conservation. First, there are those households that were evicted at the time of park formation. Second, there have been a smaller number of what we might term 'constructive evictions', where circumstances become such that keeping one's land becomes untenable. In particular, this occurred in the Nkuringo area where a buffer zone was created to accommodate gorilla groups that were regularly nesting outside the park. Third, a much larger number of households have lost access to forest provisioning services such as timber and bushmeat. Fourth, some forest species bring both services and disservices. Mammals and birds bring economic benefits via tourism (and to a lesser extent now bushmeat), whilst flying insects assist with pollination but can also bring zoonotic diseases, notably Onchocerciasis in this location. The poor more frequently reported health problems arising from forest wildlife than the non-poor (23% to 19%) but not significantly so (p=0.205).

One picture that is emerging is that those living in tourism areas are receiving benefits but those outside these areas are overlooked. In principle, revenue sharing should benefit tourism and non-tourism areas equally whilst MUZs should mainly benefit non-tourism areas. In practice, both these interventions appear heavily stacked towards tourism areas, likely due to differences in physical accessibility, levels of direct engagement with park staff and gorilla-oriented NGOs, and associated empowerment to effectively apply for scarce resources.

In addition to those in NTAs, the Batwa emerges as another group of concern. Whilst we have found that they are more likely than other groups to benefit from revenue sharing and equally likely to gain access to MUZs, the accompanying loss of access during the last 20 years has been more acutely impoverishing, suffering the indignity of racial discrimination and high prevalence of health problems from malnutrition and diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria. The loss of access to food and forest medicines is still a major problem for the Batwa and viewed as a source of their health problems.

When we were in the forest we would not fall sick because of eating meat and honey which would keep us well (NTAC32)

We had to learn to eat the food of the Bakiga, otherwise we would die from hunger. Many died and lost weight tremendously (NTAC31)

Crop raiding is, not surprisingly, more of a problem for those living close to the forest with 18% (n=17) households located far from the forest reporting some loss due to crop raiding in contrast to 71% (n=114) of the households living near the forest (Chi-square=18.34, df=1, p=<.0001). Those with fewer economic assets are also significantly more likely to lose crops to wild animals (74% poor versus 55% non-poor respondents reported losing something to crop raiding, Chi-square=5.2, df=1, p=0.02).

A second picture that is emerging is that some groups are bearing more of a burden than others, namely those close to the forest, the asset poor, and the Batwa. And some groups are receiving less of the benefits: namely those in NTAs and the poor. Sandbrook and Adams (2012) also found that poverty serves as a barrier to highly valued benefits such as employment, and that wealth and location also play some role in determining access to public good benefits. The Batwa consider that the park designation has left them so poor that they cannot meet their most basic requirement of sufficient nutritious food for good health, a situation that has persisted for more than twenty years. In light of our conceptual emphasis on meeting essential thresholds, efforts to right this wrong should be considered woefully inadequate-there has been an injustice.

Remembering the time of eviction, members of a Batwa community in Remera parish, said that they were even left without firewood or blankets and therefore fell ill from cold as well as hunger. They had more recently been provided some land by the BMCT, and house construction through UOBDU although inspection confirmed that the land, whilst fit for dwellings, was not well suited to agriculture.

Inhabitants of areas with no tourism describe the tourism business and park management more generally as unfair in its distribution of costs and benefits. Only one NTA respondent mentioned the benefit distribution to be satisfactory, with many simply pointing out that they do not receive any benefits, and others claiming that fund distribution suffers from elite capture. Loss of access to forest resources appears to also have gendered impacts, although our findings are equivocal on this. Some women, especially in tourism areas, report that men had been most dependent on park-based activities for disposable income and prestige (TAF 11, 13, 15). Others, especially in areas without tourism and close to the park see things quite differently, for example stating that:

women who are bread winners whose activities most especially depend on the park have lost status in the community (NTAC23)

women were very much valued due to the fact that they went to the park, cultivated there, collected firewood etc... This has since stopped and given men the upper hand (NTAC1).

increased poverty especially among women thereby increased dependency upon men (NTAC2)


   Discussion and Conclusions Top


Tourism is thought to bring a range of benefits to the area, and those living near to and benefiting from tourism operations are better disposed towards the park. On the other hand, the share of the benefits from tourism is small and, according to our framing of justice, not fairly distributed. Those living away from tourism centres and the asset poor, are not benefiting proportionally. The latter is a particular concern in relation to the high poverty levels in the area and the fact that the poorest here are, by most definitions, living below the necessary material thresholds to support adequate life choices. Furthermore the intention to use multiple use zones to benefit those outside of tourism areas seems to have misfired in our study locations. The result is that the poor, and especially those in areas without tourism, are bearing the costs of conservation but not enjoying a proportional share of the benefits. The Batwa have lost most and even now describe their situation as one in which they are unable to secure sufficient nutrition to maintain good health.

Even among those living in tourism areas, there is a widespread concern about the power asymmetries in relationships with park authorities, revealed in unsatisfactory consultation procedures marked by prior framings of what is open for discussion. In particular, the dominant discourse is that conservation can only be served by exclusion of people from the park and more extensive access is therefore not a matter for discussion.

Expressions of cultural loss are less common than we had expected, especially outside of the Batwa community. Loss of access to materials for crafts, for example, is not generally seen as a major loss for the future wellbeing of the community. But our interviews did reveal quite widespread concern with the simple fact that children are not getting to experience the forest first hand and, in particular, some of its more charismatic animals. Batwa elders continue to talk about cultural loss as a wellbeing issue, but also express some satisfaction with improving relationships with the Bakiga community. Assessing the justice implications of such outcomes is clearly a complex matter that would benefit from a more dedicated and sophisticated study of local wellbeing. A crude utilitarian interpretation might point at expressions of social satisfaction to conclude that just ends have been achieved. But work on adaptive preferences would caution us against giving too much credence to expressed satisfaction by showing that those who endure injustice tend to adjust their subjective thresholds downwards, rendering self-assessments of wellbeing unsafe (Teschl and Comim 2005). This might explain, for example, why the Batwa express satisfaction with improving relationships with the Bakiga but do not (to us at least) complain that this improvement is dependent on their assimilating to Bakiga social norms. But as recent work on wellbeing has also shown, people's subjective feelings about what they have and what they do remains an important determinant of their wellbeing (McGregor et al. 2009). Further research would be needed to explore this complex relationship between wellbeing and justice thresholds. But for now, we think we can agree that conservation has contributed to producing some injustices for the Batwa, including the loss of essential freedoms for self-determination and current difficulties with meeting basic requirements for good physical health.

We might raise a utilitarian type objection here, by pointing to a greater good that is a consequence of successful conservation. For example, the 2011 mountain gorilla census estimated a population of 400 in Bwindi, up from 300 in 1997. But seen through our framing of environmental justice it is hard to see how this in itself could be a satisfactory justification for allowing harm to some local people. Contrary to a utilitarian approach, we have argued that it does not make sense to aggregate different types of value. In particular, it is wrong to combine into a net effect the positive gains in utility for those who value gorilla conservation (or for gorillas themselves) and the losses in utility for local people. To use such aggregation to claim that the overall consequence is good, is hard to argue rationally and a sounder conclusion is that conservation actions have simultaneously produced justices and injustices. We might even take this a step further and suggest that, in the first place, utilitarian framings of justice are implicated in the production of these injustices.

At least in our experience, conservation interventions are generally conducted in good faith by professionals driven by a sense of doing right. This sense appears to be driven by faith in a particular (utilitarian) model of justice that holds that conservation consequences justify their means. It is this model of justice that has allowed government and NGO conservation agencies to not strive to protect the rights of some local people, even when such striving could surely have been done-and still could be--without detriment to the conservation cause.

Responding to injustices will require some deep-seated transformations in the way that conservation operates in locations such as Bwindi, including attention to the fundamental question of whose ideas about justice dominate and at whose expense. But we also see some relatively straight forward ways in which injustices can be addressed. One example from our case study is to ensure that alternatives to tourism benefits (such as MUZs) are properly targeted. Another is to invest more in the level and quality of consultation activities. For the Batwa, we would say that there is a case for greatly scaling up attempts to improve both material and social conditions. This will require material resources linked to support for community decision-making about solutions to current problems, and a more open approach to deliberations about Batwa access to park resources and spiritual sites.

There is now widespread support for incorporating justice concerns into conservation practice, as reflected for example in the so-called 'new conservation' debate (Minteer and Miller 2011), and in the interest in rights-based approaches amongst practitioners (Kashwan 2013). But the political ecology literature still reveals a need for conservation to get serious about environmental justice. We believe that this will require, amongst other things, progress towards developing frameworks and tools that will help practitioners, activists, and scholars to render explicit the relevant justice dimensions and principles at play in particular contexts. Whilst this is challenging due to the context-specific and plural nature of justice thinking, such framings are necessary if we are to develop useful ways of assessing justice in conservation.

Indeed, as we began this paper saying, the conservation community cannot really claim to take justice seriously until it has developed approaches for assessing justice impacts. This paper has contributed to this challenge, by bringing literatures on environmental justice and political philosophy into a framing of the social impacts of conservation and demonstrating the utility of this framework through a case application. This may prove to be only a first cut at the problem at hand, but hopefully one that will stimulate debate about how we make progress in operationalising current commitment to a more just conservation.


   Acknowledgements Top


We are grateful for the funding from DFID, ESRC, and NERC under the Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation programme. This work was part of ESPA Framework Grant project NE/I003282/1 Just ecosystem management: linking ecosystem services with poverty alleviation.[78]

 
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    Abstract
   Introduction
   Results
    Discussion and C...
   Methods and Approach
   Acknowledgements
    References
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