Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Public Policy Specialist in Cooperative Extension, Community and Regional Development, University of California / Davis

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2009
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Environmental Science, University of California / Berkeley
“Modernized Life Is How Things Are Now” : A Study of People and Park Relations around Chobe National Park, Botswana

Forty years ago, the Botswana government created Chobe National Park. As a result, five villages accustomed to hunting and collecting forest products relatively freely in this northern part of Botswana found their access to grazing, hunting and gathering lands severely restricted. Elsewhere this classic "fortress-style" approach to conservation has generated active resistance in the form of land occupations, community political mobilization or illicit hunting. Yet in the Chobe Enclave, the area of land inhabited by the five communities wedged in between Chobe National Park and Forest Reserve, no such dramatic conflict has erupted. Rather, poaching levels are low and while residents may grumble about the park rules, no visible grassroots resistance movement has developed. Why? For what reasons and through what mechanisms has a certain level of acquiescence for the presence of the park and nearby protected areas emerged amongst Chobe villagers? Drawing on theories from the fields of political ecology and agrarian studies, I contend that an ability of Chobe residents to re-work their livelihood strategies in relation to the landscape explains this phenomenon. Additionally, the nature of the political and social dynamics in the Enclave village communities may contribute to the lack of village collective resistance against the park. My research will examine first, the livelihood strategies employed by individuals and households in the Enclave, focusing in particular on the state-society negotiations that shape what livelihood and land-use options are possible, and second, the political and social community dynamics in the Enclave. Studying this anomalous case of people-park relations in Botswana provides a particularly interesting context, given Botswana's already recognized exceptionalism as a resource-rich yet democratically stable African country.