Local agency, involvement and initiative in biodiversity conservation in Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar

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Title: Local agency, involvement and initiative in biodiversity conservation in Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar
Author: Vuola, Marketta
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Science, Department of Geosciences and Geography
Publisher: Helsingfors universitet
Date: 2015
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi-fe2017112251686
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Regional Studies
Abstract: Biodiversity conservation, as human activity, is inherently political. Attempts to preserve species and habitats with strict Protected Areas in the Global South often take place in already inhabited regions. Conservation has been often externally imposed on the local, rural communities, resulting in deprivation of their livelihoods and breaking up of their natural resources management traditions, but also in local opposition that threatens conservation outcomes. However, as rural livelihoods depend directly from their surrounding ecosystems, rural communities and conservation planners are argued to have substantial common interests. This study tries to understand the relationship between local communities and conservation authorities in order to create knowledge on how they could form partnerships and work together for natural resources management. This case study took place is Ranomafana National Park in South-Eastern Madagascar where several villages were visited in order to gain knowledge of conservation from the point of view of local communities. The case study follows ethnographic approach using qualitative, semi-structured interviews as the principal method of data collection. Employing a political ecology approach and looking at the institutional arrangements guiding conservation at the local, national and global levels and across formal and informal spheres, this study looks at the power relations in the current forms of co-management and the social impacts they have at the local level. Finally it tries to find out if any form of partnership is formed; if local people are able and willing to manage their natural resources in cooperation with conservation authorities. Although conservation has significant negative impacts on local livelihoods in Ranomafana region, in practice community participation to decision-making is very limited and the local people find it hard to get their voice heard. The results of the case study indicate that the main obstacle for co-management is the failure to respect the rights of local communities to equitable treatment, to recognition as stakeholders, and to participation in decision-making. The feeling of being disrespected creates resentment and mistrust towards conservation authorities. In these circumstances, economic incentives offered do not support community empowerment but rather create dependence from external help. Co-management activities can also enforce the existing inequalities at the local level if only the more powerful segments of communities are included. The case study also shows that local communities are important actors in conservation, able to challenge it – or support it if they view the rules as legitimate – but the actual community self-organising for conservation requires at least some authority over their surrounding ecosystem.

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