Community engagement in the governance of Transfrontier Conservation Areas: An analysis of the implementation of Sengwe Tshipise Wilderness Corridor, Zimbabwe

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

The past two decades have witnessed an increase in the number of transfrontier conservation areas (TFCAs) established between two or more countries to promote biodiversity conservation, peace and enhance socio-economic development. Established against a backdrop of increasing complexity in protected areas governance, TFCAs have been subjected to several scholarly critiques and a renewed focus on what nature conservation can achieved and increasing calls for more inclusive governance approaches and a global acknowledgement of the need for greater social safeguards for protected areas. These changes are largely evident in the conceptual design and implementation of TFCAs in many parts of the world. Couched in terms of preserving biodiversity, the expansion of these TFCAs has sometimes resulted in conflicts particularly with communities whose livelihoods depend on accessing natural resources. The majority of these conflicts resonate over meanings, spatial extent and rules of access. Numerous studies, adopting political ecology perspectives have interrogated the nature of these conflicts and present TFCAs as new forms of neoliberal governance. While some research has theorised and characterised the rise of TFCAs within a neoliberal political economy, and explored the challenges of implementing TFCAs particularly in Southern Africa, there are distinct literature gaps on the lived experiences of border communities and their place in transfrontier conservation. This research addresses this gap by focusing on the dynamics of community engagement in the implementation of the Sengwe Tshipise Wilderness Corridor (STWC), a biodiversity corridor established in the context of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, comprising the Kruger, Limpopo and Gonarezhou National Parks in South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe respectively. Guided by a constructivist paradigm, the research explores the multiple experiences of communities during the implementation of the STWC and GLTP starting with consultations in early 2003, through to the subsequent gazettal of the STWC in 2009. It focuses on the nature and working of community agency in the implementation of this Corridor and in doing so presents deviant evidence on the relations between local communities and TFCAs. Findings suggest that communities had significant agency to influence how the biodiversity corridor was implemented as well as determining the institutional arrangements for its governance. By investigating how a variety of actors on the ground across four wards in southeast Zimbabwe engaged with the abstract process ideals of inclusion, transparency and consensus building in the implementation of the STWC, it was possible to reveal the contradictory practices that shaped the evolution and implementation trajectory of the STWC. In addition, the research also explored how communities imagined the corridors and the role of the new STWC space in broader governance arrangements. Through the rise of social entrepreneurship in tourism development, the STWC assumed new meaning particularly to community trusts promoting ecotourism. Communities were involved in the co-production and/or co-creation of the STWC albeit through multiple and contradictory ways to negotiate the implementation of STWC. One way in which villagers used their agency was through place attachment to solidify claims to existing livelihoods and articulate for inclusion in ecotourism planning. There is need for further research on how communities in contexts were biodiversity corridors are implemented shape outcomes of governance.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Black, Rosemary, Co-Supervisor
  • Higgins, Vaughan, Co-Supervisor
Award date01 Mar 2016
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publisher
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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