Anthropocene conservation : governing environmental change, biodiversity and local resistance at Mount Elgon, Uganda
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This thesis examines the manner in which the global context of anthropogenic environmental change influences the nature of conservation governance at one specific protected area: Mount Elgon National Park (MENP) in Uganda. In doing so, it presents three academic papers, each of which tests a widely held assumption in the literature on conservation and development. Utilized methods include semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, ethnographic observation, content analyses, and archival research. Fieldwork was conducted between July and December 2011 at sites in both Kampala and throughout the Mount Elgon region. Paper I finds that the ‘triple-win’ policy rhetoric of an integrated conservation and carbon offset project at MENP contradicted management realities both during its tenure and after its collapse. Although external auditors expected the project to sequester 3.73 million tons of CO2 equivalent between 1994 and 2034, conflicts forced the scheme to cease reforestation in 2003. Examining the efficacy of attempts to avoid such conflicts, Paper II discovers enormous inequalities in both the spatial and the temporal distribution of shared revenue and other ‘benefits’ redistributed from biodiversity conservation. To highlight a salient example, the worst-off park neighbours received assistance equivalent to only 0.0085 USD per district resident over a nine-year period. Consequently, through the lens of ‘guerrilla agriculture’, Paper III examines the strategies that local people employ to protest the perceived illegitimacy of the policy arrangements that uphold these inequities. It reconstructs nonviolent-symbolic, militant, discursive-representational, and formallegal types of resistance, which enable local people to raise monetary incomes, when necessary, and also to withdraw into subsistence cultivation when terms of trade become exploitative or undesirable. Transitioning from diagnosis to prescription, the thesis concludes by offering a set of recommendations for addressing the problems outlined in the above papers. Collectively, these recommendations constitute an enforced sustainability approach to conservation at MENP. The model seeks to minimize arbitrary divisions between ‘human’ and ‘nonhuman’ territory, and instead emphasizes restricted and sustainable use. Collaborative Resource Management Agreements (CRMAs) form the core of this approach, albeit in substantively revised form. These will grant local residents inalienable rights to noncommercial resource access, which are linked to existing customary land tenure, and greater ownership over enforcement processes. Carbon finance and alternative funding mechanisms are also considered, although only in ways that synergize with customary land tenure and economies. By implementing these measures, it is maintained that all stakeholders will have achieved progress toward developing a more equitable model for conservation in the Anthropocene.