Theses Doctoral

Land Use, Diverse Values, and Conservation Practice in the Periphery of Makira Natural Park, Northeastern Madagascar

Cullman, Georgina

This dissertation examines the intent and reality of a conservation project that aims to be participatory and to provide benefits to local landholders. I make a contribution to research about the social impacts of conservation projects as well as to scholarship that aims to improve conservation policy and practice. Using both ethnographic and ecological methods, I explored the multiple and contested values related to land use. Changing local land use practices, especially reducing swidden agriculture, is a major focus of conservation interventions in the region. The conservation project has framed this change as a technical problem, and has devised economic incentives to shift local people's land use. Because of the dissertation's interdisciplinary approach, and the sometimes contentious relations between conservation biologists and practitioners and social scientists, I begin with a review of the challenges to achieving interdisciplinary collaboration. In the second chapter, I seek to understand how a government policy that was meant to benefit forest-dwelling communities was instead experienced as disempowering and restrictive. Chapter 3 uses land-use scenarios to evaluate the multiple objectives of Makira Natural Park (i.e., biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation and sustainable livelihoods support) through the lens of ecosystem services, concluding that the best strategy to meet Makira's multiple objectives is to support a broad diversity of land use types rather than eliminating some and favoring others. In Chapter 4, I demonstrate how the conservation project's reliance on an economic model of human motivation to shift land use practices relies on a set of values that are not necessarily shared by local landholders, which explains in part their lack of traction to date. I conclude with a series of recommendations for how to transform conservation practice in Makira to make it more effective, culturally appropriate, and just.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology
Thesis Advisors
Sterling, Eleanor
West, Paige
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 30, 2013