A political ecology of community-based forest and wildlife management in Tanzania: politics, power and governance

Change log
Humphries, Kathryn 

My research is focused on investigating the socio-political processes taking place within Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) in Tanzania. I draw on a political ecology approach in an investigation of the politics of struggles over natural resources, their management and the benefits that can be derived from this. I bring together theories of policy processes, African politics and scale into an examination of power within two case studies of CBNRM from the wildlife and forestry sectors. I carry out a comparative analysis of these case studies, employing a qualitative methodology based on semi-structured interviews, focus groups, participatory activities, participant observation and document analysis. My research is clustered around three core themes. Firstly, I trace the process of policy reform that introduced CBNRM in both the forest and wildlife sectors, and examine the differences between the governance systems prescribed in policy as a result of these processes. The contrasts between the two sectors in Tanzanian CBNRM are important and multiple. Different policy pathways were adopted, relating to the distinct political economies of forest and wildlife resources and their politicisation within the context of power devolution for CBNRM. The prescribed governance systems in the two sectors contain important differences in the processes by which local communities can apply to participate in CBNRM, the mechanisms of revenue distribution, and the ways in which power is devolved to the local level. Secondly I examine the implementation of these prescribed governance systems and their performance in reality through an exploration of the configurations of power set out in CBNRM, and the struggles that take place around these in ‘politics of scales’ as actors attempt to benefit from CBNRM. I examine the ways the governance systems have been adopted and adapted from those set out in CBNRM policy. I argue that the distinctions between the prescribed governance systems in the two sectors produce separate contexts of re-configuration into the performed governance systems within the case studies. However, I also argue that while the contexts are specific to each sector, both the case studies revealed the same underlying socio-political process of struggles over power to both manage and benefit from natural resources. These struggles to control and benefit from CBNRM are closely linked to the unequal distribution of benefits that were witnessed in both case studies. Finally I examine the performance of CBNRM as an integration of systems of power set out in policy and hidden, often unacknowledged, local contours of power. I address the themes of how the reality of CBNRM differs from that set out in policy, examine the processes ongoing within the projects that permit and maintain elite capture and unequal distribution of benefits, and investigate the socio-political processes of corruption taking place within devolved environmental management. I argue that the struggles over power, combined with hidden aspects, especially neopatrimonialism, local moral economy and the cultural context of corruption, are central to these unequal outcomes and the capture of benefits by a small group of individuals. My research highlights that power, the politics of its devolution to the local level, the struggles that take place around it, and its subtle, hidden forms, lie at the heart of gaining further understanding of the ways in which policies develop, the unexpected outcomes they produce and the inequalities these often entail.


The full text of this thesis is restricted until December 2014 for publication reasons

political ecology, nature conservation, natural resource governance, Tanzania, Wildlife Management Areas, Community-Based Forest Management
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
This work was funded by a 1+3 scholarship from the Economic and Social Research Council