Reshaping Conservation: The Social Dynamics of Participatory Monitoring in Tanzania’s Community-managed Forests
Drawing on a study of community-managed forest reserves in southern Tanzania, this article discusses how community members engage and shape inclusive protected area management practices to produce outcomes that were not intended by external implementers. The article shows how a participatory natural resource monitoring scheme operating in the area becomes part of the villagers' collective and individual efforts to assert their claims to territory and resources vis-a-vis the state, other communities, and other community members. By altering the monitoring procedures in subtle ways, community members strengthen the monitoring practices to their advantage, and to some extent move them beyond the reach of government agencies and conservation and development practitioners. This has led to outcomes that are of greater social and strategic value to communities than the original 'planned' benefits, although the monitoring scheme has also to some extent become dominated by local 'conservation elites' who negotiate the terrain between the state and other community members. Our findings suggest that we need to move beyond simplistic assumptions of community strategies and incentives in participatory conservation and allow for more adaptive and politically explicit governance spaces in protected area management.