Home » Projects » Past Projects » PAPR » Research Sites

Research Sites

Tanzania: Serengeti National Park and Saadani National Park 

Community profiles report: the Kesho Trust prepared a report which compiled all of the information gathered by our Community Coordinators.

In Tanzania, close to 30% of the total land area is set aside as protected areas, tourism is a hugely important and rapidly developing industry, yet the country remains among the poorest in the world and progress towards reducing poverty remains elusive. In Tanzania, the research focus will be on two communities adjacent to Serengeti National Park and three communities adjacent to the newly declared Saadani National Park.

Serengeti National Park protects abundant charismatic wildlife (e.g. the ”˜big five’), has spawned an internationally significant wildlife tourism industry, and is the most visited and highest revenue earner of all Parks in the country. In this respect (high tourism development) it is similar to Canada, but contrasts with Ghana. Research has shown that despite this tourism development, local communities living adjacent to the park live in abject poverty and human wildlife conflict, including poaching and crop depredation, is a significant and growing problem. Between 1992 and 2003, for example, SNP generated US $31 million from tourism but only 1.6% was allocated to adjacent villages for socio-economic development projects and an individual household in the Western Serengeti got an average of just US $250 per year from the implementation of development projects. At the same time, elephants are moving out of the Serengeti and into neighboring village agricultural lands and causing chronic, and sometimes catastrophic, damage to the fields of the rural poor. These findings point to a failure to deliver local benefits (versus national or foreign benefits alone), and highlight the need for exploring alternative approaches.

In response, the communities of Nyichoka and Rwamchanga, to date dependent on livestock and small-scale agriculture, are experimenting with a new approach to community-controlled conservation in Tanzania known as Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) that may serve to more equitably deliver the benefits of tourism and foster greater community control over conservation initiatives in the area. Indeed, these two villages present an unparalleled comparative opportunity for studying the way that governance approaches mediate the flows of protected area costs and benefits as they are physically adjacent to four different kinds of protected area: Serengeti National Park, two game reserves (administered by the Wildlife Division, a different government agency), the Ikona WMA and, finally, the Grumeti Fund Reserve, a controversial private area that effectively controls nearly 400,000 hectares in the area and promotes very high end tourism opportunities.

The coastal Saadani National Park also presents compelling comparative opportunities, particularly with PRNPR and Avu Lagoon. Saadani is easily accessible from Dar es Salaam, is among Tanzania’s newest National Parks, includes a marine element (like PRNPR), and has much less developed tourism infrastructure (compared to Serengeti or PRNPR but similar to Mole and Bui National Parks in Ghana). From the original 200 sq km Saadani Game Reserve established in 1966, the protected area grew as a result of three separate acquisitions since 1966 to its current size of approximately 1,000 sq km. and was designated as a National Park in 2005.

The adjacent villages of Mkwaja and Matipwili have household economies that are highly dependent on marine resources (providing a point of comparison with Ghana and Canadian coastal FN communities), are experiencing extensive crop damage from wildlife, and have begun to develop new tourism options. Saadani village, one of the oldest along the East African coast is an enclave in the park presenting significant challenges among the diverse interests in the area. Tourism has not developed to the degree experienced in other parks, presenting seclusion on game drives and river safaris (in contrast with Serengeti NP) and new opportunities for elaborating comprehensive approaches to benefit sharing. The comparative research framework and emphasis on information exchange will again encourage critical opportunities for south-south and south-north learning such as the community models described here.

Canada: Pacific Rim National Park Reserve (PRNPR) and the Tribal Parks of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation

These protected areas are embedded in the social-ecological system that includes the adjacent communities of Tofino, Ucluelet and several Nations of the Nuu-chah-nulth-aht such as Esowista (home to the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation). This area on the west coast of Vancouver Island was once a significant logging and commercial fishing region, but changes in the area have led to dramatic socio-cultural, economic and ecological restructuring in the area. The PRNPR is nearly ½ marine and coastal, is divided into three units (Long Beach, Broken Group Islands, and the West Coast Trail), thereby creating distinct challenges. The Long Beach Unit is stressed by factors inside and outside the boundaries, ranging from the footprints of the town sites of Tofino and Ucluelet, commercial fisheries, aquaculture, airport development, and the arrival of over one million visitors per year.

The rapid growth of the tourism industry associated with the PRNPR and surrounding area has led to the construction of a number of tourism lodges, growth in employment opportunities, and a real estate boom. Research has also shown, however, that the ecological basis of tourism associated with the PRNPR (whales, bears, sport fishing, cougars, old-growth forests, etc.) is stressed by tourism activity within and outside Park boundaries (whale watching, recreational fishing, resort development, etc.) as well as over-exploitation in the surrounding marine and terrestrial environment. There has also been a growth in negative human-wildlife interactions that include cougar and wolf interactions in the West Coast Trail Unit and deer and cougar habituation within the Broken Group Unit. Moreover, the equity of economic benefits associated with PRNPR related tourism has begun to be contested and there are widespread unemployment, health issues, and poverty, problems that are acute in First Nations communities of Vancouver Island.

Despite these challenges, there is enormous potential and capacity within these local communities and they have begun to look at additional protected areas as a means of addressing linked social, economic and ecological benefits. For example, the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation has set aside a significant portion of their lands as Tribal Parks. Tribal Parks are watersheds in traditional territory, managed to integrate human and ecosystem well-being as taught by Tla-o-qui-aht ancestors. The Tribal Parks initiative began when Meares Island was formally declared a Tribal Park by Tla-o-qui-aht Ha’wiih (hereditary chiefs) in 1984 but picked up steam in 2007, when Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations signed an agreement to pursue joint sustainability with the District of Tofino, and partnered with Parks Canada on a Tribal Parks Establishment Project. The Tla-o-qui-aht hope that the Tribal Parks will move beyond minimizing negative impacts of human activities by designing activities that will enhance Tla-o-qui-aht lands and communities, generate employment, and provide mechanisms for language revitalization and stewardship of their traditional teachings. There is increasing government and NGO interest in designating additional marine protected areas, as the current sites are considered inadequate to protect marine biodiversity.

Ghana: Bui National Park (BNP), Mole National Park (MNP) and the Avu Lagoon Community Protected Area

In Ghana, poverty is pervasive, most acute in rural areas, and linked to environmental degradation. The imminent construction of the Bui Hydroelectric Power Project will flood portions of BNP, resulting in the direct loss of habitat and species, increased competition in remaining habitats, and will displace local human populations from areas where they currently gather forest products and hunt. BNP is among the least developed parks in Ghana and management capacity is weak (a striking difference with Canadian Parks), and the BNP faces threats from poaching, agricultural encroachment and burning. BNP needs to find ways to support habitat restoration, manage displaced fauna, develop long term-monitoring programs, and deliver local benefits to support local people.

Mole National Park features impressive wildlife viewing though there is limited tourism development so far. Indeed, compared to Tanzania and Canada, Ghanaian nature-based tourism is not well developed, but is beginning to grow rapidly and the industry can learn from positive, and negative, Canadian and Tanzanian experiences. For Ghana, a compelling issue is how to manage tourism development in ways that sustain local communities without stressing wildlife populations. In MNP elephant populations are stressing adjacent communities and we will work to understand how these costs are distributed and examine the efficacy of innovative new mechanisms developed to offset these costs. The Mognori ”˜eco-village’, for example, is exploring ways to offset costs associated with elephant crop depredation and loss of access to bush meat by establishing tourism operations to provide alternative income and diversify village economies. There is also increasing interest in Ghana in community management of PAs, stemming in part from government decentralization programs. However, management capacities are low and strengthening communities’ capacities for the sustainable management of PAs and poverty alleviation is critical.

Seven new community conserved areas stand in marked contrast to the National Park model of governance. The Avu Lagoon, for example, is home to 15 villages and was recently established as a “community conservation area” where villagers have designed cultural tourism opportunities in their villages to build capacity for community leadership and to offset a voluntary loss of access to rare sitatunga populations.

Get Involved