My dissertation addresses the overarching question of how protected area managers can meet the needs/desires of local people and maintain a unique and valuable ecosystem. The Serengeti ecosystem provides the perfect backdrop for addressing this question with very poor people living in the midst of a very rich ecosystem. Other studies have also addressed this question, using primarily theoretical approaches that point out the limitations of conservation activities (Barrett & Arcese 1998; Johannesen & Skonhoft 2004) or by using socioeconomic data from part of the ecosystem to shed light on bushmeat hunting (i.e. the illegal hunting of wildlife for food) or conservation attitudes (Newmark et al. 1993; Loibooki et al. 2002; Kideghesho et al. 2007; Knapp 2007). However, these studies all lack two things, data encompassing the entire ecosystem and the incorporation of data on knowledge of protected areas.
My dissertation uses data from areas throughout the ecosystem and includes the analysis of knowledge along with socioeconomics, costs, benefits, and attitudes. In determining how to improve conservation, I critically examine a key assumption of community-based conservation, i.e. that local people are benefitting from conservation. I also focus on how monitoring and evaluating more than just local people's attitudes can provide important insight and suggestions for conservation policies. Although my data is specific to the Serengeti ecosystem, my emphasis on using socioeconomic data for monitoring, evaluating, and improving conservation projects can be applied in other places. My work in the Serengeti ecosystem provides a good template for how conservation practitioners can monitor and evaluate the human dimensions of their work and how this data can improve conservation efforts.
In addressing the question of how to improve conservation, I begin my dissertation with a chapter describing the socioeconomics around Serengeti National Park. Chapter one is based on a report solicited by Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) that provides a descriptive overview of the socioeconomic realities facing communities around the ecosystem and speaks to Tanzania's dual commitment to conservation and poverty reduction (Schmitt 2008). I amended the initial report to include data from all 20 of the villages that I studied and added analysis about differences between those villages participating in wildlife management areas and those not participating. Understanding the livelihoods and realities of people in the ecosystem is the first step to understanding how conservation projects are, or are not, affecting local communities.
In my second chapter I examine the effectiveness of both community-based and fences-and-fines conservation by evaluating the benefits provided to, and costs imposed on, local people by these conservation strategies. I use empirical data on knowledge of protected areas and the costs and benefits of both conservation and illegal natural resource use to examine how current conservation strategies have affected the decisions of local people. I begin my evaluation by assessing the knowledge of local people about Serengeti National Park and its surrounding protected areas. I then analyze the different costs and benefits local people receive from protected areas and wildlife. Without changing benefits or costs in a significant manner, both community-based and fences-and-fines conservation approaches are unlikely to change behavior of local people, and therefore, unlikely to be effective conservation strategies.
My third chapter identifies successes and problems in current conservation strategies by linking socioeconomic data with data on knowledge, benefits, costs and attitudes. I tie the socioeconomic data from chapter one to the knowledge, benefits and costs of chapter two, as well as examine data on local attitudes toward protected areas. I outline the socioeconomic characteristics associated with those who are knowledgeable about protected areas, those reporting benefits, those reporting costs, and those with positive attitudes of protected areas. I then point out what this larger picture of conservation suggests in terms of project success and future policies. Furthermore, I show the benefits of using more than just attitudinal data in evaluating conservation strategies.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. January 2010. Major: Conservation Biology. Advisor: Stephen Polasky. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 157 pages, appendices I-VI.
Schmitt, Jennifer Ann.
Improving conservation efforts in the Serengeti ecosystem, Tanzania: an examination of knowledge, benefits, costs, and attitudes..
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