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African Environments Lecture, African Environments Programme, Oxford University Centre for the

Environment (OUCE), University of Oxford, 24 November 2006

Conservation Myths, Political Realities, and the Proliferation of


Protected Areas
Martin Walsh
Department of Social Anthropology
University of Cambridge

Conservation myths,
political realities, &
the proliferation of
protected areas
African Environments Lecture, OUCE, 24 November 2006

Martin Walsh
Department of Social Anthropology
University of Cambridge

To begin, I’d like to thank Dr. Daley and the Centre for inviting me to give this lecture, and
Hassan Sachedina for coordinating the arrangements for my visit.
Martin Walsh (2006) Conservation Myths, Political Realities, and the Proliferation of Protected Areas
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1998 2002

MBOMIPA = Matumizi
Bora ya Malihai Idodi na
Pawaga = Sustainable
MBOMIPA staff, the Iringa District
Use of Wildlife Resources Game Officer, and resident hunters
in Idodi and Pawaga

Between 1997 and 2003 I worked as the Field Manager and Social Development Advisor of
MBOMIPA, a community wildlife management project in Tanzania. MBOMIPA was a
partnership between Tanzania’s Wildlife Division and TANAPA (Tanzania National Parks),
and was supported by DFID (the UK government’s Department for International
Development).

The basic task of MBOMIPA – inherited from an earlier project (REWMP, the Ruaha
Ecosystems Wildlife Management Project, 1992-96) – was to develop community wildlife
management in villages bordering Ruaha National Park, contributing to the development of
national policy and legislation in the process.

One aspect of this was to pilot a new kind of protected area on village lands, a community-run
Wildlife Management Area (WMA) that would replace the existing Game Controlled Area
(GCA) that was managed directly by the Wildlife Division and Iringa District Council.

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Martin Walsh (2006) Conservation Myths, Political Realities, and the Proliferation of Protected Areas
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THE DEVELOPMENT OF COMMUNITY


WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT IN TANZANIA
LESSONS FROM THE RUAHA ECOSYSTEM

Martin T. Walsh
MBOMIPA Project, Iringa, Tanzania &
Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, U.K.

disputed
Protected area boundary dispute, 2000

Ruaha
National Park r ea
tA
disputed en uth
e m ea So
ag d Ar
antrolle
disputed area M on
e C
lif e
li dbi Gam
W am
d kw
o seda-M
Usangu Game Reserve o p un L
gazetted 1998 pr

This work presented us with a number of challenges, not least of which were the
consequences of the creation of another protected area to the west. Usangu Game Reserve
was gazetted in 1998 and one interpretation of its boundary description suggested that it might
swallow a large chunk of our Game Controlled Area and the richest area for wildlife – with
negative consequences for village incomes from hunting. The hunting company operating
Usangu Game Reserve pressed their claim by bringing clients to Mkupule (the disputed area),
ignoring a request from Wildlife Division headquarters to stay out of the area until matters
could be settled.

I discussed this and other challenges to the project in a presentation to an international


gathering (the conference on African Wildlife Management in the New Millennium) at the end
of 2000. I talked about the negative consequences of this dispute (especially if it wasn’t
settled in our favour), other problems caused by the creation of Usangu Game Reserve (not
least the ejection of livestock-keepers and others), and pointed to the precariousness of our
position for as long as our work was in a legal limbo and the legal and institutional
frameworks for community wildlife management remained undeveloped.

The following is a quote from the written version of my presentation:

“To donors and other stakeholders in the wildlife sector nationwide, a negative outcome may
well be interpreted to indicate lack of real government commitment to developing community
wildlife management. If one of the wildlife sector’s most important donor-funded projects
can lose a case like this, then what hope is there for other initiatives in the country?” (2000)

The assembled grandees of Tanzania’s wildlife bureaucracy were less than pleased by this
and responded by arguing that the Usangu Game Reserve represented an opportunity rather
than a threat. After the meeting I was taken aside and told off for washing their dirty linen in
public. My next performance in a workshop was closely monitored.

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Martin Walsh (2006) Conservation Myths, Political Realities, and the Proliferation of Protected Areas
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2003

2000

2002

The offending presentation was made in a conference session entitled “Community-based


Conservation – the New Myth?” Debate about the pros and cons of community wildlife
management and “fortress conservation” is still very much alive in Tanzania, and the process
established to create community Wildlife Management Areas is about to be subject to a major
review.

In my presentation today, though, I want to use the same set of events to point to some of the
difficulties associated with “conservation myths” of a different order – the grand narratives
that are widely used as explanatory tools in our political ecologies and economies of
conservation, in particular the resort to neo-Foucauldian and neo-Marxist understandings of
environmentalism and globalisation to describe and explain events such as the ones I
experienced in Tanzania.

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Martin Walsh (2006) Conservation Myths, Political Realities, and the Proliferation of Protected Areas
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2004 2005

I can’t claim any particular credit for this critical tack. Anthropologists (some
anthropologists) have long questioned what my Cambridge colleagues Harri Englund and
James Leach (2000) refer to as the “meta-narratives of modernity”, explanatory narratives
which anthropologists themselves have helped to create. In my own sub-field, the
anthropology of development, nearly a decade has passed since Ralph Grillo (1997) attacked
the oversimplifying “myth of development” found in the work of Arturo Escobar and others,
and called for more ethnographies of development to provide an increasingly multi-sited and
multi-vocal alternative to Foucauldian constructions of the “discourses of development”.
Grillo’s call has since begun to bear fruit. On the slide I’ve drawn attention to two recently
published studies. Christine Walley’s Rough Waters (2004) is a study of the political
conflicts surrounding the creation of Tanzania’s Mafia Island Marine Park which questions
the adequacy of an explanatory framework focusing on the impacts of global on the local.
David Mosse’s Cultivating Development (2005) is an ethnography of aid policy and practice
in a DFID-funded agricultural project in western India, a project that Mosse himself worked
on. Mosse’s former employers and colleagues were extremely unhappy with his public
washing of their own dirty linen, and tried to block publication of this book. An article by
Mosse in the current issue of the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (‘Anti-social
Anthropology?’, December 2006) provides some interesting reflections on this. The
argument of the book itself is that development practice is not driven by policy but shaped by
the exigencies of organisations and the need to maintain social relationships. Walley makes
similar points when analysing the “social drama” of park development in Mafia.

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Martin Walsh (2006) Conservation Myths, Political Realities, and the Proliferation of Protected Areas
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Tanzania:
Protected &
Open Areas
(Baldus &
Cauldwell 2005)

My own argument is illustrated by select moments in the proliferation, expansion and


upgrading of “wildlife” (as opposed to forestry) protected areas in south-central Tanzania,
around Ruaha National Park.

More than a quarter of mainland Tanzania is covered by officially-gazetted protected areas.


This map (see slide), poached from a report on hunting, gives some idea of their extent,
though it omits some recent additions as well as forest reserves.

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Tanzania: Protected & Open Areas


(Severre 2000; 2003; Nelson et al. 2006; URT 2006)
Category of Protected Legal mandate / government authority Villages? Tourist Resident
(or other) Area hunting? hunting?

Ngorongoro Ngorongoro Conservation Area Ordinance, yes no no


Conservation Area 1959 / Ngorongoro Conservation Authority
n=1

National Parks National Parks Ordinance, 1959 / Tanzania no no no


n=14 National Parks

Game Reserves Wildlife Conservation Act, 1974 / Wildlife no yes no


n=33 Division

Game Controlled Areas Wildlife Conservation Act, 1974 / Wildlife yes yes yes
n=43 Division

Open Areas Wildlife Conservation Act, 1974 / Wildlife yes yes yes
n=? Division

Wildlife Management Wildlife Conservation Act, 1974 & Wildlife yes yes yes
Areas Conservation (Wildlife Management Areas)
n=4 (of 16 pilot areas) Regulations, 2002 / Wildlife Division

This table (see slide), adapted from another report (Walsh 2006), shows the principal
categories of terrestrial “wildlife” protected area and some of their uses:

• National Parks – for non-consumptive utilisation of wildlife, mainly tourism and game-
viewing;
• Game Reserves – especially for profession tourist hunting;
• Game Controlled Areas – both tourist and resident hunting;
• Open Areas – hunting areas that can be declared without gazettment;
• Wildlife Management Areas – the new category of community-managed area, that will in
theory replace many Game Controlled Areas (where not created from scratch).

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Martin Walsh (2006) Conservation Myths, Political Realities, and the Proliferation of Protected Areas
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Protected areas around


Muhesi Game
Reserve - 1996
Ruaha National Park

Kisigo Game
Reserve - 1991

Izazi Open Area


Rungwa Game
Reserve - 1946 Lunda-Mkwambi
Game Controlled
Area - 1984

formerly Rungwa Ruaha National formerly Iringa Game


Game Reserve Park - 1964 Controlled Area - 1951
South - 1951

proposed Idodi-Pawaga
Wildlife Management Area
Usangu
Game
Utengule Swamp Reserve formerly Utengule Swamp
Open Area - 1998 Game Controlled Area - 1953

This map (see slide) shows the current cluster of protected areas around Ruaha National Park.
As the dates indicate, the development of these has a colonial as well as postcolonial history.
I haven’t tried to show all the details of this history.

I’ve already introduced Usangu Game Reserve and the Wildlife Management Area that we
were planning for Lunda-Mkwambi Game Controlled Area south. Iringa Game Controlled
Area was short-lived, and turned into an Open Area for a time. Izazi Open Area is something
of an anomaly, apparently declared within Lunda-Mkwambi Game Controlled Area.

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Martin Walsh (2006) Conservation Myths, Political Realities, and the Proliferation of Protected Areas
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George Rushby

Proposal for Ruaha National Park, 1949

The creation of a National Park was first proposed in 1949 by George Rushby, a Senior Game
Ranger (and the subject of a bad docudrama, The Man-eating Lions of Njombe, which first
aired on television last year). Rushby made his proposal in response to policy developments
in the colony, ultimately stemming from the 1933 Convention for the Protection of African
Flora and Fauna and subsequent lobbying by the Society for the Preservation of the Fauna of
the Empire. His main thought seems to have been that a park would primarily help protect
people (and economic development) from wildlife rather than the reverse, a view which he
shared with many game officers engaged in wildlife control.

Following Rushby’s proposal, the existing Game Reserve was extended. The extension (not
the whole Game Reserve) wasn’t upgraded to National Park status until 1964, after
independence, with the help of grants from the New York Zoological Society and a sister
organisation.

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Martin Walsh (2006) Conservation Myths, Political Realities, and the Proliferation of Protected Areas
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Protected areas around


Muhesi Game
Reserve - 1996
Ruaha National Park

Kisigo Game
Reserve - 1991

Izazi Open Area


Rungwa Game
Reserve - 1946 Lunda-Mkwambi
Game Controlled
Area - 1984

formerly Rungwa Ruaha National formerly Iringa Game


Game Reserve Park - 1964 Controlled Area - 1951
South - 1951

proposed Idodi-Pawaga
Wildlife Management Area
Usangu
Game
Utengule Swamp Reserve formerly Utengule Swamp
Open Area - 1998 Game Controlled Area - 1953

At a distance the influence of (in this case) colonial policy and environmental discourses is
apparent, though the details tell a more complex story. Matters become even more involved
when we fast forward to the recent past and cases which are accessible through more than
official documentation (and having worked for a number of years in government offices that
continue to employ colonial-era filing systems, I’ve seen what gets written and what doesn’t,
and what gets lost or thrown away, accidentally or otherwise).

Let’s have a look at the new protected area that was causing me problems in 2000 – Usangu
Game Reserve (see map).

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Martin Walsh (2006) Conservation Myths, Political Realities, and the Proliferation of Protected Areas
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Mbeya Regional Game Office, 1995

Ruaha National Park, 1996

Proposals for Usangu Game Reserve, 1995-96

The case for the creation of a new Game Reserve in Usangu was first detailed in writing by
the Regional Game Officer in Mbeya. That was in 1995. The following year his proposal
was seconded by the Chief Park Warden of Ruaha National Park. Their principal justification
for the gazettment of a new Game Reserve was to protect the wetlands of Usangu from
environmental degradation by immigrant livestock keepers and their herds of cattle. This
degradation was in turn thought to be the main cause of the drying-up of the Great Ruaha
River downstream of Usangu.

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The Rufiji Basin

Great Ruaha River


Rufiji River

Usangu catchment

The Great Ruaha flows out of the permanent swamp in the north-east of Usangu, along the
south-eastern side of Ruaha National Park, and on to the Mtera and Kidatu Reservoirs. In
December 1993 the river dried up for the first time in living memory, and since then has
become a seasonal river, much to the consternation of the park authorities and other
downstream users. This became a cause for national concern in 1995 when power rationing
in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar was blamed by TANESCO (the Tanzania Electricity Supply
Company) on the low level of the reservoir at Mtera, which was blamed in turn on reduced
flows in the Great Ruaha, and ultimately on environmental degradation in its catchment,
including the wetlands of Usangu.

As subsequent research has shown, however, dry season changes in the Great Ruaha had had
little impact on reservoir levels, which were poorly managed by TANESCO using outdated
operating procedures. And livestock keepers were being unfairly scapegoated for the drying
of the river, which has largely been caused by the expansion of rice cultivation and dry season
irrigation in the south of Usangu.

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Martin Walsh (2006) Conservation Myths, Political Realities, and the Proliferation of Protected Areas
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But the anti-livestock narrative was good enough to justify the creation of the Game Reserve
and repeated efforts to evict the livestock-keepers and other residents of the wetland.

Although I knew that this narrative chain was flawed, I also acquiesced in the use of part of it
– the alleged impact of resource use in the catchment on hydroelectric power in the country –
to justify DFID investment in a project designed to tackle resource use conflicts in Usangu.
This was SMUWC – the Sustainable Management of the Usangu Wetland and its Catchment
– a project I helped to develop in 1997.

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Usangu Safaris Limited

I also expressed my disagreement with the plans for a new Game Reserve. By this time it had
become clear that there was another set of interests pressing for it – a tourist hunting company
founded in 1989 by a member of Usangu’s long-standing Baluchi community. This company
was engaged in a bitter struggle with resident hunters over access to game quotas in Usangu.
The creation of a Game Reserve would give the company exclusive access to hunting rights,
excluding other hunters as well as livestock-keepers and others.

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Usangu Safaris Ltd.


– hunting blocks

The author of the Usangu proposal was widely supposed to be acting on behalf of the Baluchi
hunting company, and his behaviour throughout this affair was cited as evidence for this. The
company also had a fair amount of political clout at higher levels, and in 1998 it purchased
the privatised parastatal TAWICO, the Tanzania Wildlife Company, acquiring many of its
assets, hunting block included, in the process.

In supporting the Game Reserve proposal, the Ruaha National Park warden was motivated by
the desire for a more effective buffer zone along the southern boundary of the park. Ironically
the hunting company and its clients were said to be responsible for many of the incidents of
bad practice (like hunting animals close to the park boundary) that the park authorities wanted
to guard against.

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Usangu Safaris Limited

The Game Reserve was gazetted in 1998 and the Baluchi company began to encroach on the
hunting block managed by MBOMIPA Project villages. The legal description of the new
reserve’s boundaries suggested that this was their due, although this description had been
developed without consulting villagers and ate into the Game Controlled Area that was being
developed on their behalf. As it happens the Wildlife Division had made funds available in
1996 for resolving this boundary dispute. But these were not taken up by the District Natural
Resources Officer responsible, allegedly because he had a personal stake in unauthorised
logging in the disputed area.

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Martin Walsh (2006) Conservation Myths, Political Realities, and the Proliferation of Protected Areas
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Protected area boundary dispute, 2000

ea
t Ar
Ruaha National Park en uth
e m ea So
ag d Ar
antrolle
disputed area M on
e C
lif me
ildbi Ga
W am
d kw
o seda-M
Usangu Game Reserve o p un
L
gazetted 1998 pr

My verbal intervention in December 2000 hastened the release of funds by the Wildlife
Division for the work of a specially-convened committee to investigate and recommend a
solution to the dispute. Although this committee came under a number of pressures, we lost
our case on a technicality. Lunda-Mkwambi Game Controlled Area had first been proposed
in the 1970s. Boundary descriptions were bounced back and forth until 1980 when the final
verbal description landed on the desk of an officer at Wildlife Division headquarters.

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Lunda-Mkwambi boundary description, 1980

Although this wasn’t a legal requirement (as he later admitted), he decided to add map co-
ordinates to the description, and went to the Mapping Division in Dar es Salaam to do this.
Unfortunately he didn’t know the area and placed the co-ordinates far to the east of the
verbally-defined boundary. When the gazettment went through in 1985 everyone simply
followed the verbal description with its named points of reference. When the gazettment was
scrutinised in 2001 the map co-ordinates took legal precedence over the verbal description.
We were left with no grounds on which to challenge the Usangu Game Reserve boundary,
short of asking for both gazettments to be revised. Perhaps not surprisingly, there was no
political will to support such a move. MBOMIPA’s Game Controlled Area and proto-
Wildlife Management Area shrank overnight.

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Martin Walsh (2006) Conservation Myths, Political Realities, and the Proliferation of Protected Areas
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Lunda-Mkwambi
Ruaha National Park Game Controlled Area

Usangu Game Reserve

Protected area proliferation

Kitulo National Park


Mpanga / Kipengere
Game Reserve

Before I hasten to a close, let me add a little on subsequent developments. Many years after
his mapping mistake, the man in question came to work in Iringa as our Regional Game
Officer. In part to keep himself busy at a time when he had relatively little else to do (as a
consequence of local government decentralisation), he set about proposing a new Game
Reserve in the upper catchment of Usangu. The creation of this reserve, Mpanga/Kipengere,
was justified in part by an environmental degradation narrative linked to that deployed in
Usangu itself.

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Cattle in Usangu

The original narrative has changed in the hands of different actors, but continues to be used in
various ways. At the Rio+10 Preparatory Meeting in London in March 2001, influenced by
the work of the SMUWC Project, the Prime Minister of Tanzania committed his government
to restoring year-round flows in the Great Ruaha River by 2010. In 2001 the WWF started a
Ruaha Water Programme with the same objective, and subsequently began to support the
development of Mpanga/Kipengere and Usangu Game Reserves.

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Ruaha National Park

Usangu Game Reserve

Protected area upgrading

Mpanga / Kipengere
Game Reserve

More recently, Mpanga/Kipengere has been annexed to Usangu Game Reserve. Following
the election of Tanzania’s new President (Jakaya Kikwete) late last year, efforts to eject
livestock-keepers from Usangu were redoubled. And in July the Game Reserve Manager
announced plans to upgrade the enlarged Usangu and incorporate it within Ruaha National
Park.

It remains to be seen how and when (and if) this will happen, and what the response of the
Baluchi-owned hunting company will be. I’m sure that there will be a lot more to come.

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Fishing in the Usangu Game Reserve (before eviction)

I’ve got relatively little information on these recent developments and can’t provide the kind
of detail that I can for earlier events. I’ve only sketched the outline of these and what I
understand of them. I would argue that when personal observation, ethnography or the
historical record allow us to pick apart events and describe the intentions and/or actions of
individual and collective actors, and the unintended consequences of these actions, then it
becomes increasingly difficult to interpret these events as effects of a conspiratorial
modernity. I fail to find what my good friend Dan Brockington has called Tanzania’s
“environmental-conservation complex”. This may be because I was (and am) a part of it, but
I prefer to think that the political realities that I’ve experienced are more complex than that.
The simplifying meta-narratives of environmentalism and globalisation are all to readily used
as substitutes for careful ethnographic and historical description and the analysis of local
causes and effects.

Recent writing on the global proliferation of protected areas – and I’m thinking here in
particular of papers published by Dan Brockington, Jim Igoe and Paige West (not necessarily
in that order) in Current Anthropology and the Annual Review of Anthropology – has been
weak on the causes of this phenomenon but perhaps stronger on some of its effects, although
they also recognise the general lack of detailed information on social impacts. But they are
happy to explain the proliferation of protected areas as an effect of neoliberality and the top-
down imposition of a series of global “-isms” – environmentalism, virtualism, and the
demands of late capitalism. But I think that this is a simplification too far. Of particular
significance is the way in which these discourses are appropriated and reinterpreted and
conjoined with other, sometimes local discourses by different social actors and groups. (And
Dan Brockington has himself written interestingly on this subject in his paper on ‘The Politics
and Ethnography of Environmentalisms in Tanzania’ (2005).)

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Martin Walsh (2006) Conservation Myths, Political Realities, and the Proliferation of Protected Areas
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This is exactly what has happened to the narratives produced to explain the drying-up of the
Great Ruaha and its supposed impacts on hydropower generation. Far from functioning as an
“anti-politics machine” (Ferguson 1980), these discourses of development and
underdevelopment are the very stuff of political contestation. But you won’t see this without
dwelling in at least some of the details that close-up research supplies. This includes (or
should include) ethnographic research in the sites of policy and decision-making at higher
levels than those that I’ve described today. The appeal to global ”-isms” and the meta-
narratives of modernity to explain everything is a symptom of ignorance of the details, and
one which can foster further ignorance by discouraging the kinds of research that can free us
from intellectual laziness.

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