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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 330-344

Sustainable Development? Controversies over Prawn Farming on Mafia Island, Tanzania

Department of Anthropology, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK

Correspondence Address:
Pat Caplan
Department of Anthropology, Goldsmiths, University of London
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.197607

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The world market for crustaceans has increased exponentially in recent years and so too have the number of production sites. However, the growth of this industry has not been without controversy, particularly regarding its environmental effects. In 2002, a large company based in Kenya applied to locate a prawn farm on Mafia Island, Tanzania, close to the Rufiji Delta. This scheme raised very differing views among various 'stakeholders': villagers living around the proposed site, the Mafia District Councillors (madiwan), government officials at varying levels, local and national activists (some in NGOs), the prawn farming company, and the experts whom they hired to produce environmental impact reports. There were opposing discourses around the rights of locals as citizens to retain control of 'their' resources, on the one hand, versus the needs of 'development' and the creation of jobs, on the other. There were also fierce debates about the importance and meaning of environment and sustainability, and the perceived role of corruption. This paper, based on fieldwork in 2002 and 2004, explores these complex debates and the ways in which the decision was finally made to allow the prawn farm to go ahead. It reveals the means by which the legal rights of citizens at the local level may be trumped by pressures emanating from those coming from above and outside who wield greater power.

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