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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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   2017| October-December  | Volume 15 | Issue 4  
    Online since January 31, 2018

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Disempowering Democracy: Local Representation in Community and Carbon Forestry in Africa
Melis Ece, James Murombedzi, Jesse Ribot
October-December 2017, 15(4):357-370
All major agencies intervening in community-based and carbon forestry – such as international development agencies, conservation institutions, and national governments – state that their interventions must engage local participation in decision making. All say they aim to represent local people in the design and implementation of their interventions. In practice, decision-making processes are rarely 'free', barely 'prior' poorly 'informative' and seldom seek any form of democratic 'consent' or even 'consultation'. Through case studies of representation processes in forestry programs in the Congo Basin region, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda, this special issue shows how forestry interventions weaken local democracy. We show that participatory and 'free, prior and informed consent' processes rarely reflect local needs and aspirations, they are rarely democratic and they do not permit participants to make significant decisions – such as whether or how the project will take place. The intervening agents' choices of local partners are based on expedience, naïve notions of who can speak for local people, anti-government and pro-market ideologies informed by a comfort with expert rule. Although elected local governments are present in all cases in this special issue, they are systematically circumvented. Instead, project committees, non-governmental organizations, customary authorities, and local forestry department offices are recognized as 'representatives' while technical project objectives are favored over democratic representation.
  3,463 2,278 -
Feigning Democracy: Performing Representation in the UN-REDD Funded Nigeria-REDD Programme
Emmanuel O Nuesiri
October-December 2017, 15(4):384-399
Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation plus the sustainable management of forest and enhancement of carbon stocks (REDD+) is a global climate change mitigation initiative. The United Nations REDD Programme (UN-REDD) is training governments in developing countries, including Nigeria, to implement REDD+. To protect local people, UN-REDD has developed social safeguards including a commitment to strengthen local democracy to prevent an elite capture of REDD+ benefits. This study examines local participation and representation in the UN-REDD international policy board and in the national-level design process for the Nigeria-REDD proposal, to see if practices are congruent with the UN-REDD commitment to local democracy. It is based on research in Nigeria in 2012 and 2013, and finds that local representation in the UN-REDD policy board and in Nigeria-REDD is not substantive. Participation is merely symbolic. For example, elected local government authorities, who ostensibly represent rural people, are neither present in the UN-REDD board nor were they invited to the participatory forums that vetted the Nigeria-REDD. They were excluded because they were politically weak. However, UN-REDD approved the Nigeria-REDD proposal without a strategy to include or strengthen elected local governments. The study concludes with recommendations to help the UN-REDD strengthen elected local government authority in Nigeria in support of democratic local representation.
  3,114 400 -
Facipulation and Elite Formation: Community Resource Management in Southwestern Ghana
Manali Baruah
October-December 2017, 15(4):371-383
Despite their stated commitment to democratic processes, the Government of Ghana and international authorities presume the accountability and ability of NGOs to represent local interests in forest resource management. This article scrutinises elite formation and elite capture through the case of a Community Resource Management Area (CREMA) in western Ghana. NGOs and the forestry department promotes commercial tree planting on farmlands at this CREMA site. This article shows how institutional mandates, technical and managerial priorities are used by higher-level authorities to rationalise the omission of accountability and representation in CREMA activities. Disregard for democratic processes thus centralise decision making and render political processes apolitical at the cost of effective local participation and control over forest resources. Also, the legal and administrative framework of the CREMA tended to empower the traditional elites. In addition, the recognition of a local NGO by state authorities to oversee natural resource management infringed upon the CREMA's mandate and encouraged the formation of new elites. Further, the higher-level authorities' promotion of tree-tenure privatisation reduced public engagement by enclosing and thus discounting the public forest domain. The combination of these factors compromise the accountability and equitable sharing of benefits in CREMAs. Nevertheless, the CREMAs have been endorsed by the government as an innovative institutional structure for implementing REDD+ projects in Ghana.
  3,079 426 -
Conflict to Coexistence: Human – Leopard Interactions in a Plantation Landscape in Anamalai Hills, India
Swati Sidhu, Ganesh Raghunathan, Divya Mudappa, TR Shankar Raman
October-December 2017, 15(4):474-482
When leopards are found in human-dominated landscapes, conflicts may arise due to attacks on people or livestock loss or when people retaliate following real and perceived threats. In the plantation landscape of the Valparai plateau, we studied incidents of injury and loss of life of people and livestock over time (15 – 25 y) and carried out questionnaire surveys in 29 plantation colonies and eight tribal villages to study correlates of livestock depredation, people's perception of leopards, and preferred management options for human – leopard interactions. Leopards were implicated in an average of 1.3 (± 0.4 SE) incidents/year (1990 – 2014) involving humans and 3.6 (± 0.8 SE) incidents/year (1999 – 2014) involving livestock, with no statistically significant increasing trend over time. Most incidents of injury or loss of life involved young children or unattended livestock, and occurred between afternoon and night. At the colony level, livestock depredation was positively related to the number of livestock, but decreased with the distance from protected area and number of residents. Half the respondents reported seeing a leopard in a neutral situation, under conditions that resulted in no harm. All tribal and 52% of estate respondents had neutral perceptions of leopards and most (81.9%, n = 161 respondents) indicated changing their own behaviour as a preferred option to manage negative interactions with leopards, rather than capture or removal of leopards. Perception was unrelated to livestock depredation, but tended to be more negative when human attacks had occurred in a colony. A combination of measures including safety precautions for adults and children at night, better livestock herding and cattle-sheds, and building on people's neutral perception and tolerance can mitigate negative interactions and support continued human – leopard coexistence.
  2,928 365 -
Choices have Consequences: REDD+ and Local Democracy in Kenya
Susan Chomba
October-December 2017, 15(4):400-413
The extent to which the United Nations Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation programme (REDD+) addresses critical issues of governance is hotly contested. This article focuses on the local institutions chosen as partners by a prominent REDD+ project in Kenya and the implications of this choice for local democracy. The REDD+ project briefly partnered with state-appointed local authorities to represent local interests, bypassing elected ones. Shortly after, the state-appointed authorities were abandoned in favour of 'project-created' carbon committees and civil society organisations. The choice to recognise some institutions while excluding others, was justified by the levels of downward accountability and of corruption, and arguments that state-sanctioned institutions were overburdened and inefficient. However, the article contends that this preference for carbon committees and civil society organisations over state-sanctioned institutions, and particularly the aversion to democratically elected ones, was not conducive for long-term strengthening of local democracy. The analysis pinpoints a tension between setting up parallel models of authority that can act as exemplars of democratic practice, while undermining democratically elected institutions that, in Kenya, are struggling to exercise newly devolved powers. Explicit strategies are required to enable learning from parallel governance models and for their migration into mainstream local governance structures, if local democracy is to be strengthened rather than undermined.
  2,610 358 -
Tourism Taxation, Politics and Territorialisation in Tanzania's Wildlife Management
Emmanuel Sulle, Holti Banka
October-December 2017, 15(4):465-473
Tourism activities occurring on communal lands such as Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) are increasing in Tanzania. This is the result of natural resources governance reforms aimed to empower communities to manage and benefit directly from resources found in their jurisdictions. This article explores the impacts of taxes imposed on tourism activities occurring on communal lands and the emerging politics of resource and revenue sharing among WMA member villages. In the process, we use empirical data gathered from two WMAs in northern Tanzania between 2006 and 2016. We find that while the current high tax rates on tourism businesses occurring at the grassroots level reduce revenue earned by communities, the main challenge facing the studied WMAs is the model of revenue sharing among WMA member villages. Currently, as the result of WMA regulations, villages which had prior arrangement with tour operators in their land have suffered revenue losses as they have to share revenue equally with other members of the WMA. We argue that the current tax regime coupled with the contested cost and benefit sharing model not only lower returns to grassroots communities--which in turn discourage their much needed participation in conservation-tourism initiatives--but also generate new forms of struggles over resource control.
  2,187 293 -
Climbing the Ladder of Participation: Symbolic or Substantive Representation in Preparing Uganda for REDD+?
Robert Mbeche
October-December 2017, 15(4):426-438
The United Nations (UN) and World Bank programme for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Deforestation (REDD) plus improving forest governance (REDD+) promotes carbon-emission reductions and sustainable forest management. The World Bank and the UN require developing countries to prepare for REDD+ via a consultation process with input from indigenous and forest-dependent peoples. This article focuses on stakeholder consultations carried out under the Ugandan REDD+ preparation process, examining whether these fulfill the conditions necessary for substantive local democratic representation. The article shows that even though REDD+ claims to be democratic and participatory, the Uganda program allows the input of only a few selected stakeholders – mainly the government actors and a limited number of NGOs. Further, despite claiming to be democratic and participatory, the program privileges REDD+'s programmatic goals over democratic procedures. In this context, the REDD+ consultations serve largely to—1) 'educate' the participants to secure their support in implementing the 'technical' aspects of the programme, 2) help the government to legitimise its REDD+ strategy; and 3) speed up the implementation of the REDD+ programme despite the lack of substantive representation.
  2,188 281 -
Getting ready for REDD+: Recognition and Donor-country Project Development Dynamics in Central Africa
Gretchen M Walters, Melis Ece
October-December 2017, 15(4):451-464
REDD+ (Reducing Emissions, Deforestation and forest Degradation+) is a United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) process through which governments reduce the impacts of climate change through forest conservation in a results-based payments scheme. Distinct from international negotiations about the REDD+ framework under the UNFCCC, there are also REDD+ projects that help governments to set up the institutional architecture, plans and strategies to implement REDD+. These capacity-building projects, in the first phase of 'REDD+ readiness', involve negotiations among national and international actors in which recognition and authority claims are used by participants to influence project-level negotiations. This study analyses the project development negotiations in a World Bank-led REDD+ capacity building regional project, involving six Central African countries between 2008 and 2011. It explores how the project created a 'negotiation table' constituted of national and regional institutions recognised by the donors and governments, and how this political space, influenced by global, regional and national political agendas led to 'instances' of recognition and misrecognition – in which some negotiating parties' claims of representation were acknowledge and affirmed, while others' claims were not. Focusing on Cameroon and Gabon, this article analyses how negotiations shaped full participation by Cameroon and only partial engagement by Gabon.
  1,888 236 -
Representation through Privatisation: Regionalisation of Forest Governance in Tambacounda, Senegal
Melis Ece
October-December 2017, 15(4):439-450
Government officials, development agents and scholars showcase Senegal's 1996 regionalization reforms as a step towards the deepening of decentralisation. Yet this article shows that the reforms narrowed down local democracy via neoliberal processes. The reforms defined the regional councils as development intermediaries, to serve as a space for the negotiation of public-private partnership contracts between local governments and business interests. Focusing on Tambacounda Region of Senegal, the article analyses the effects of the reforms on forest governance at regional and rural-community scales. First, using two project case studies, it illustrates the use of forest management plans and project-based environmental committees in enabling privatisation of rural community forest governance at the expense of democratic processes. Second, it examines how the intermediary role of the regional council compromised its ability to represent the substantive interests of base-level rural communities and helped instrumentalise the council to promote different privatisation alternatives offered by 'community-based' projects. This role was facilitated by a public-private development agency of the council. The discursive analysis of a regional council meeting illustrates that rather than offering a deliberative and participatory forum, council meetings were used to make representation claims about the 'local people' and to push a market-based neoliberal rationality.
  1,842 223 -
Theorising Derecognition of Local Government Authorities as Political Injustice: The Effects of Technical Claims in Senegal's Forestry
Papa Faye
October-December 2017, 15(4):414-425
Most developing-country governments have 'recognised' elected local governments (ELGs) by transferring to them the authority (e.g. rights and resources) over the forests within their jurisdiction. In practice, however, Forest Services are 'derecognising' ELGs – taking back these decentralised powers. This article shows that 'derecognition' is effectively a new 'recognition' dynamic in decentralised forest management in Senegal, in which Forestry officials and agents derecognise ELGs drawing upon technical claims. It also theorises derecognition as political injustice by demonstrating how the technical claims, although used in support of sustainable forest governance, cause political injustice through the following observed derecognition outcomes: 1) circumvention of ELGs that deprives them of the means to be responsive to local people (and thus disables them as democratic institutions); 2) subordination of the new participatory organisations created to receive the powers taken from ELGs to instrumental objectives of central forestry authorities; and 3) progressive privatisation of the forests that diminishes the democratic public domain.
  1,713 224 -
Democracy in the Woods
Dan Brockington
October-December 2017, 15(4):483-484
  1,503 230 -