Between Policy Intent and Practice: Negotiating Access to Land and Other Resources in Tanzania’s Wildlife Management Areas
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This article analyses how states and nonstate actors’ efforts at sustaining natural resource lead to the exclusion of those who are most dependent on access to it. An access lenses review of Burunge Wildlife Management Area unravels the paradox between policy promise and practice. Situating our case in the context of neoliberal conservation that offers opportunities of patronage, rent-seeking, and capital accumulation to various state and private investors, we show that Wildlife Management Areas concentrate licit benefits to a few elites, while excluding the majority of rural peoples in accessing their customary lands and natural resources. This leads people to rely on illicit access mechanisms, and consequently, leading to violent confrontations between game scouts and people and protests and struggles to regain legal access. These conflicts erode rural peoples’ trust and willingness to support conservation. The widely overlooked socioeconomic and political contextualization in conservation policy formation, often framed in apolitical and normative terms, acts as a vehicle for different meanings and practices that are mobilized by different actors to promote their own interests. Thus, state and nonstate actors, whose interests override ideals of an apolitical conservation vision, jointly produce an austere conservation regime that strips local people from access to resources.