Wildlife is Our Oil: Conservation, Livelihoods and NGOs in the Tarangire Ecosystem, Tanzania

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Oxford University Centre for the Environment, Oxford University (2008)



The Tarangire ecosystem of northern Tanzania is proclaimed a site of global biodiversity significance. The economic value of wildlife in the Tarangire ecosystem is substantial and growing. Maintaining the health of this ecosystem is important to Tanzania’s overall tourism industry and macroeconomic health. A considerable proportion of Tarangire’s wildlife leaves the park for approximately six months a year, migrating onto village lands under the jurisdiction of local communities. Conservation of the ecosystem’s migratory wildlife populations largely depends on maintaining these habitats on communally owned lands, but, populations of most large mammal species have declined by over fifty percent in the last decade. This thesis examines the fortunes of community-based conservation in the Tarangire ecosystem. It sets out to develop a detailed case study on the diversification of pastoral households’ livelihoods, including the impact of gemstone mining, and the implications of community-based conservation for livelihoods. In so doing the thesis explores the political economy of conservation NGOs active in the area, and contributes to empirical knowledge and theorisation of pastoralist diversification and rural transformation in Africa. It shows that wildlife benefits are concentrated in the hands of the elite, and have limited livelihood or conservation impacts. By documenting the root causes of local resistance to conservation, this thesis explains the failures of new conservation strategies, and focuses in particular on problems with the interventions of major conservation NGOS in Tanzania.

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