Using analysis of governance to unpack community-based conservation: A case study from Tanzania

Community-based conservation policies and programs are often hollow with little real devolution. But to pass a judgment of community-based or not community-based on such initiatives and programs obscures what is actually a suite of attributes. In this paper, we analyze governance around a specific case of what is nominally community-based conservation—Ikona Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Tanzania—using two complementary sets of criteria. The first relates to governance “powers”: planning powers, regulatory powers, spending powers, revenue-generating powers, and the power to enter into agreements. The second set of criteria derive from the understanding of governance as a set of social functions: social coordination, shaping power, setting direction, and building community. The analysis helps to detail ways in which the Tanzanian state through policy and regulations has constrained the potential for Ikona WMA to empower communities and community actors. Although it has some features of community-based conservation, community input into how the governance social functions would be carried out in the WMA was constrained from the start and is now largely out of community hands. The two governance powers that have any significant community-based flavor—spending powers and revenue-generating powers—relate to the WMA’s tourism activities, but even here the picture is equivocal at best. The unpacking of governance that we have done, however, reveals that community empowerment through the processes associated with creating and recognizing indigenous and community-conserved areas is something that can be pursued through multiple channels, some of which might be more strategic than others.