Conservation and unscripted development: Proximity to park associated with development and financial diversity
Decades of research on the social dynamics of biodiversity conservation has shown that parks and protected areas have added hardship to rural communities throughout much of the developing world. Nonetheless, some recent studies have found evidence of poverty alleviation near protected areas. To build on these conflicting accounts, I use a comparative, mixed-methods design to examine opportunistic, unplanned, i.e., unscripted, development in indigenous communities near Tarangire National Park (TNP) in northern Tanzania. I ask the questions: (1) How is proximity to TNP related to community-level infrastructural development? (2) How has the process of development changed over time? and (3) How is proximity to TNP related to infrastructure-related social outcomes at the household-level? Results from semistructured interviews show that, compared with distant communities, communities near TNP have developed more extensive education and water infrastructure in the past decade by procuring financial support from a greater diversity of external organizations, including wildlife-related organizations. Correspondingly, household survey results show that education measures are positively associated with proximity to TNP, controlling for other factors. These findings support the notion that development can accrue near protected areas in ways that are diverse, uncoordinated, and opportunistic, and correspondingly distinct from heralded community-based conservation, community-based natural resource management, and integrated conservation and development project initiatives.