...exploring how people shape the world's forests

July 2nd: Dan Miller dissertation defense: ‘Governing biodiversity and livelihoods’

July 2, 2013, 4-5pm, Room 2024, Dana Building, University of Michigan


Come support IFRI researcher and SNRE PhD Candidate, Dan Miller, at his dissertation defense.


Conservation Legacies: Governing Biodiversity and Livelihoods around the W National Parks of Benin and Niger


National parks and other protected areas remain at the forefront of biodiversity conservation efforts across the tropics. Yet systematic knowledge of their social and ecological impacts, the patterns of relationships among these impacts, and the causal mechanisms that generate impacts remains limited. Given the importance of international aid to tropical protected areas, it is imperative to understand better how such aid, conditional on local and national level governance factors, shapes impacts. This dissertation advances theoretical and empirical knowledge at these research frontiers by examining the European Union-funded ECOPAS (Ecosystèmes Protégés en Afrique Soudano-Sahélienne) project implemented in the W National Parks (WNPs) of Benin and Niger from 2001-2008. Variations in the two national political contexts provide an ideal opportunity to explore the influence of governance on the effects of protected area-related aid. Using a mix of qualitative and quantitative evidence collected during 15 months of fieldwork among 400 households in 12 villages, I develop and test hypotheses about the influence of key governance variables, including enforcement and property rights, on biodiversity and livelihood effects of ECOPAS in the WNPs. ECOPAS improved the state of biodiversity in the WNPs of Benin and Niger. Livelihoods impacts, however, were mixed. They varied spatially and socially within and between the two countries. The poorest social groups and households in villages where enforcement increases were greatest experienced up to a 15% decrease in incomes as a result of ECOPAS. National political context strongly moderated the effect of increasing protected area enforcement. State protected area enforcement had more positive biodiversity and less negative livelihoods impacts in Benin than Niger owing to better national governance quality and more advanced decentralization reforms. However, the failure of ECOPAS to adequately engage with decentralized local political processes in Benin made property rights more uncertain in the Park periphery, threatening sustainable conservation. Research findings demonstrate heterogeneity in protected area impacts and the importance of effective national and local-level governance arrangements for improved outcomes. Scholars and decision makers interested in the social-ecological impacts of conservation must attend more carefully to national and local-level political arenas to better understand the multi-stranded legacies of protected area-based conservation efforts.