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2007| October-December | Volume 5 | Issue 4
June 26, 2009
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Neoliberal Conservation: A Brief Introduction
Jim Igoe, Dan Brockington
October-December 2007, 5(4):432-449
The growing body of work on the 'neoliberalisation of nature' does not as yet pay adequate attention to conservation policy and its impacts. Similarly, studies of conservation have much to learn by placing conservation policies in the context of broader social and economic changes that define neoliberalism. In this introduction, we outline and analyse the ways in which viewing conservation through a neoliberal lens adds value (if you will excuse the metaphor) to the collection of critiques we offer, placing quite different geographical areas and case studies in a comparative context. We argue that neoliberalisation involves the reregulation of nature through forms of commodification. This, in turn, entails new types of territorialisation: the partitioning of resources and landscapes in ways that control, and often exclude, local people. Territorialisation is a starkly visible form of reregulation, which frequently creates new types of values and makes those values available to national and transnational elites. Finally, neoliberalisation has also coincided with the emergence of new networks that cut across traditional divides of state, non-governmental organisation (NGO), and for-profit enterprise. These networks are rhetorically united by neoliberal ideologies and are combining in ways that profoundly alter the lives of rural people in areas targeted for biodiversity conservation. The studies this collection brings together, which are all rooted in place-based detailed research, are united by their experience of these processes. We argue that the disparate collection of critiques on the neoliberalisation of nature needs more grounded studies like these. We conclude this introduction with some tentative recommendations for future research and policy on neoliberal conservation.
Conservation, Commerce, and Communities: The Story of Community-Based Wildlife Management Areas in Tanzania's Northern Tourist Circuit
Jim Igoe, Beth Croucher
October-December 2007, 5(4):534-561
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.
Between Bolivar and Bureaucracy: The Mesoamerican Biological Corridor
October-December 2007, 5(4):478-503
This article explores how the different elements of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (MBC) may not be so "naturally united" as implied by this slogan. I trace the history and evolution of this conservation corridor from its roots in the Central American environment movement to its transformation by the World Bank into a vague bureaucratic framework. The shift to embrace green neoliberalism, in turn, has served to mask threats to biodiversity from three other more powerful economic corridors being simultaneously constructed in the Mesoamerican region, namely: (1) the Puebla to Panama Plan, (2) Mundo Maya, and (3) the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). I conclude by describing some lost opportunities for indigenous and bottom-up environmental initiatives to suggest what a Bolivarian alternative might have been before the MBC became bureaucratised by transnational conservation interests.
Linking Neoprotectionism and Environmental Governance: On the Rapidly Increasing Tensions between Actors in the Environment-Development Nexus
Bram Buscher, Wolfram Dressler
October-December 2007, 5(4):586-611
There are rapidly increasing tensions between actors engaged in the governance of environment and natural resources in Africa. This becomes clear when reviewing current trends in the conservation-development debate and combining these insights with trends in environmental governance, most especially the commodification of 'nature' under pressures of neoliberalism. Our argument starts by showing how the conservation-development debate has become polarised due to increasing criticism of community-based approaches to nature conservation and how these unfold in terms of value and scale. We argue that the strong sense of urgency involved in this neoprotectionist turn amongst conservation practitioners has been reciprocated by an equally strong reply from community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) advocates, thereby further straining the choices that must be made with respect to conservation practice. Through a discussion of the current neoliberal turn in environmental governance, we suggest that the potential of actors to promote divergent and ambiguous values in policy and practice across scale has increased over the past decade and will continue to do so. This, in turn, may lead to environmental governance that favours the 'sustained' polarisation of actors' priorities in research and policy concerning conservation-development. We provide evidence for our case with empirical data from research done on the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP) in Southern Africa.
We Thought We Wanted a Reserve: One Community's Disillusionment with Government Conservation Management
Mauro Berlanga, Betty B Faust
October-December 2007, 5(4):450-477
A protected area near Cancun was the first in Mexico initiated by local communities. In 1994, three communities placed their lands in the federal category of an Area for the Protection of Flora and Fauna. Ethnographic research in one of the communities (2003-2004), documented local perceptions that the director of the protected area was not allowing local residents to participate in decision making concerning the major tourist attraction, a nesting colony of seabirds. Previously, an advisory council ceased to function, and a local conservation organisation of young people was disbanded. The latter had built observation facilities, provided services to nature tourists and protected the colony. The director was perceived as undermining this organisation and refusing to heed community requests for reforestation of the nesting habitats. Cumulative damage to vegetation from hurricanes eventually resulted in the complete disappearance of these birds (2005-2006). This created a decline in small-scale tourism, reduction of local livelihoods, and increased pressure on the reserve's director to allow the community to sell its commons, including beach frontage. If the community sells its lands, the buyers officially will be obligated to operate within the regulations of the protected area. The regulations allow 'eco-development', gated housing projects that include 2-5 acres of land per house. These homes are for the very wealthy, for vacations or retirement. Eco-hotels are also being built to serve an international elite. All of these developments exclude the previous residents.
Friends with Money: Private Support for a National Park in the US Virgin Islands
October-December 2007, 5(4):504-533
With the decline of state-sponsored funding for protected areas, private support has become increasingly important, and, in some places, predominant. This article explores and analyses the implications of private support for the Virgin Islands National Park in St. John, US Virgin Islands. Specifically, it focuses on the emergence of an organisation called Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park. This organisation's support has become essential to the management of the park, which consistently experiences significant shortfalls in federal funding. While this support has been beneficial to the park, it has exacerbated the long-standing tensions between park management and local people, which have existed since the park was established with support from Laurence S. Rockefeller in 1956. At issue are the ways in which the Friends Group raises money, the park programmes it funds, the interpretation of historic sites, synergistic relationships between the group and certain island residents, and the group's political capital in national arenas. The paper highlights the inequitable structural relationships in which local people find themselves and their values disregarded. By way of conclusion, the article addresses the more general implications of these dynamics for private support of protected areas, particularly how private support can disenfranchise those outside of philanthropic partnerships.
Staying Afloat: State Agencies, Local Communities, and International Involvement in Marine Protected Area Management in Zanzibar, Tanzania
October-December 2007, 5(4):562-587
As funding for international conservation initiatives has shifted away from directly supporting developing states towards privatisation and decentralisation in natural resource management, developing countries are working increasingly through international NGOs and private sector organisations to support protected areas. The government of Zanzibar has come up with an innovative system to guarantee access to international funds through its Environmental Management for Sustainable Development Act. This Act strategically enables external organisations to be designated as protected area managers while maintaining a role for the state as an intermediary in reaching local communities. The positive outcome is that it allows protected areas to be established when government resources are limited, but it also establishes a dynamic where the state's struggle to maintain power and relevance has negative implications for programme outcomes and sustainability. In the case of Zanzibar's marine protected areas, this system results in many challenges, including confusion over the links between conservation and development objectives, the limitations of ecotourism as a development strategy, the uneven concentration of programme resources, a lack of institutional investment in protected area programmes, and the negative implications for local capacity building if in future the state could be threatened by a strong civil society. More attention must be given to acknowledging the role played by the Zanzibari state, as well as strengthening local initiatives for natural resource protection.
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