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Protected Area-People Relationships in Tanzania: A Case Study of Saadani National Park and its Neighbouring Communities

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Document pages: 21 pages

Abstract: The importance of understanding relationships between protected areas (PAs) and surrounding communities in a specific context has received increasing attention. However, studies examining such relationships are rather limited for Tanzania. Using the case study of Saadani National Park, this paper examines the extent to which the approaches of park - people relationships (benefit-sharing, mitigating human-wildlife conflicts, managing PAs in collaboration with local communities, and opening limited access to park resources), widely applied by PA managers worldwide to foster positive relationships with local communities, have been applied by managers of national parks in Tanzania, including views of neighbouring communities on such approaches. Fieldwork involved a multiple-method approach of qualitative research based on focus group discussions with village leaders, in-depth interviews with park officials, informal discussions with key informants, document analysis and a four-month period of field observations coupled with my experience with the wider community.The results indicate that benefit-sharing is the main approach to foster positive PA - people relationships in Tanzania s national parks. Other approaches (mitigating human-wildlife conflicts, managing PAs in collaboration, and opening limited access to park resources) are also important in shaping such relationships. Some are also applied, but with great variation in the extent of application. Others (e.g., opening limited access to park resources) have not been considered at all, despite their relevance. There are hindrances to these approaches such as policy issues, financial limitations, their importance to the local community, and logistical difficulties associated with them. The major stumbling blocks to local communities collaboration in PA management are widespread poverty, low level of education, and maintenance of hunting tradition. These reflect the limited capacity for the local communities to conserve biodiversity. Poverty is one of the main contributors to biodiversity degradation - often reflected in overdependence on natural resources for a living, low level of education implies limited knowledge on conservation issues to make significant contribution to the protected area, and a tradition of hunting can lead to species extinction or a decline in species population - thereby threatening wildlife conservation.

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