Conservation influences on livelihood decision-making: a case study from Saadani National Park, Tanzania




Downie, Bruce K.

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This research explores influences affecting livelihood decision-making of community members in rural Tanzania, especially the relationship between the decision-making process and conservation related actions and behaviours. The Theory of Planned Behaviour provides a framework to investigate such linkages. The selection of three villages within a study area which includes a formal conservation mechanism, Saadani National Park, provides a context for conservation policy, documented impacts on typical resource based rural livelihood activities and opportunities for livelihood diversification. The research documents the range of contextual and internal influences and their importance to people through reflection on both recent and potential future livelihood decisions. This research study employs a phenomenological qualitative research approach applied to a case study. Key informant interviews were conducted with two community leaders from each village, twelve senior tourism industry representatives from the three major local lodge operations and two representatives from the national park senior management team. Focus group discussions were also held in each village with a total of 82 participants. The groups were segregated by gender and age. Semi-structured interviews were held with thirty household representatives in each of the three study villages. Field data were supplemented with document analysis of materials related to local and regional community development and conservation initiatives. Results showed that in this resource based livelihood context, attitudes and perceived behavioural control emerged as the dominant influences on intended behaviour in part due to the importance of past experience on livelihood decisions. Participants expressed a lack of perceived behavioural control resulting from few livelihood options and changes in the environment resulting from external forces. Such perceptions of control, reinforced by past experience, led to attitudes that tended to be pessimistic or fatalistic. Secondary influences were a range of social norms including livelihood activities as hereditary occupations, notions of individual versus collective approaches to livelihood endeavours, and impacts of, and adaptations to, cultural and social change. Conservation had little direct influence on livelihood decision-making. The dominant attitude was one seeking to maximize returns from resource harvesting reflecting a priority on short-term necessity rather than long term sustainability. Relative to other external influences, people generally did not feel that their own use of resources played a significant role in the capacity of the resource to yield livelihood benefits. However, people did recognize environmental change and adapted their livelihood activities to maintain or maximize benefits. Such adaptations provide the basis for improving conservation behaviour through greater understanding and broadening livelihood options. Livelihood decision-making was also found to be highly constrained by the nature and scale of the local village economies. Scale restricts potential growth and limitations on land, and resources constrain outside private sector investment thus limiting expansion of wage employment. Significant influences from cultural and social norms were also found, especially with respect to the pursuit of hereditary occupations, the preference for individual versus cooperative enterprises and adaptations reflective of societal change. Information systems and flow were found to be relatively insignificant in the livelihood decision-making process of local villagers.



livelihoods, decision-making, conservation, protected area, Saadani, Tanzania