Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Rural Ugandans feel disadvantaged by conservation programmes

14 March, 2014 - 16:19 -- World Land Trust
Footprints across a field.

Research finds that communities in Uganda feel that they are treated as though they are worth less than wildlife. Letícia Jurema reports on a recent seminar at the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Rural residents of Uganda feel that they are in competition with wildlife and that restrictions on hunting to protect their crops and livelihoods puts them at a disadvantage, according to research carried out by Catherine M Hill, Professor of Anthropology at Oxford Brookes University. Professor Hill shared her findings in February at a seminar at the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Professor Hill concentrated her study on communities in Uganda, where human-wildlife conflict is a serious problem, because many people live close to large wildlife populations.

According to Professor Hill, in general the communities she studied feel that they are treated as though they are worth less than wildlife. Moreover, residents believe that the national and international agencies that are looking after the interests of protected species are perpetuating their problems.

Rural residents of Uganda feel that they are in competition with wildlife and that restrictions on hunting to protect their crops and livelihoods puts them at a disadvantage.
(From the results of research carried out by Professor Catherine M Hill, Oxford Brookes University)

During the seminar, entitled People-wildlife interactions and the human dimensions of conservation, Professor Hill suggested that rather than seeing this as a human-wildlife conflict, it is more helpful to understand the issue as human-human conflict. She went on to explain that because groups representing different interests often have conflicting agendas and differing perspectives on common issues,  this can have the effect of polarising stakeholders.

Historically, conservation has been dominated by biologists and ecologists, but increasingly it is recognised as a multidisciplinary field, where contributions from all sciences are valuable. The seminar successfully showed how a social science approach can shed light on challenges faced by local communities who can find themselves in opposition to proposed conservation measures.

Social dimension of conservation

At World Land Trust (WLT) conservation projects are selected on the basis of social criteria as well as ecological ones. In order to engage communities with the process of wildlife protection, WLT and our local partners recognise that conservation organisations must take into account the needs of local people.

For example, WLT supports the Emerald Green Corridor project in Misiones province, Argentina, which created a ground breaking conservation alliance between many stakeholders including Guaraní indigenous communities, the Argentinian government, a former land owner and conservation organisations.

This project is protecting 9,301 acres (3,764 hectares) of Atlantic rainforest, and the traditional way of life of the indigenous people resident in the corridor. Here, the conservation strategy and activities have been developed by the local communities who have a deep understanding of and reliance on the natural forest which supports their traditional lifestyle.

In another example, in India WLT is working in partnership with Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) on the Indian Elephant Corridors project, which directly addresses the issue of conflict between people and large mammals in a densely populated country such as India.

WTI’s project officers work closely with local communities, who are seeking solutions to the problems of reduced rainfall and reduced crop yields due to declining soil fertility caused by over cultivation. The communities, recognising the link between depletion of the forest cover and reduced rainfall, welcomed solutions proposed by WTI to improve agricultural productivity through the development of terrace farming as an alternative to the regular clearing of forests.

The community also participated in the designation of a small portion of their lands as a Village Reserve Forest to protect habitat for elephants and other threatened wildlife in this area too.  

This is why WLT always assigns the ownership of the reserves to local conservation partners or the communities. The sense of ownership as well as the benefits that can derive from the reserves, such as employment or ecotourism, will likely lead to the long term support of the conservation projects.

More information

Letícia Jurema is an intern in WLT’s conservation programmes department.

The seminar entitled People-Wildlife interactions and the human dimensions of conservation: Human-Wildlife Conflicts, People-Wildlife Interactions, or People-People Conflicts? took place on 26 February 2014 at the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI). Future RAI events »

Professor Hill's research in Uganda took place from 2005-2009, with funding from the Leverhulme Trust. More about Professor Hill including a list of published articles »

In India WLT is currently raising funds to protect the Rewak-Emangre Corridor in the Garo Hills. You can support both the Rewak-Emangre Corridor and Emerald Green Corridor by making a donation to WLT’s Action Fund.

Donate to the Action Fund »

Comments

Submitted by Roger Pearson on

This is a very disappointing own goal. At the root of any conservation project plan must be the effect upon and benefits to the local community; this is the only way projects can become sustainable and ultimately self-sustaining. I sincerely hope the trust of the communities can be won back.

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