A cartography of dispossession: assessing spatial reorganization in state-led conservation in Saadani, Tanzania

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Proclaimed as the "most important conservation success story", protected areas have become the preferred method among state signatories to the Convention on Biological Diversity for addressing conservation challenges. However, state-governed protected areas have been criticized for their failure to achieve ecological and social goals. Reaching a consensus on wildlife conservation strategies has not translated into widespread acceptance of state-governed protected areas by local communities. Critics debate whether the state is sincere and efficient when exerting spatial control. This article analyses state-based conservation in the Saadani landscape in Tanzania, exploring the nature of spatial reorganization and institutional approaches guiding the establishment of protected areas. Spatial reorganization and the actions of conservation organizations have led to the disenfranchisement of the very people whose efforts had enabled biodiversity to be conserved. This is despite an apparent shift in the nature of Tanzania's conservation policies towards more participatory approaches. Through detailing mechanisms used by the state for exerting spatial control in Saadani, we highlight how the approach has been counterproductive for satisfying the country's commitment to the Aichi framework on biodiversity targets and has undermined grassroots backing for conservation. In the context of strong support from the international conservation organizations for Tanzania's conservation efforts, this suggests the need for reassessing global conservation policies and identifying urgent measures and effective mechanisms to protect rights to territory and ancestral tenure in places targeted for conservation.

Keywords: conservation, Convention on Biological Diversity, protected areas, spatial reorganization, actions of the state, Saadani, TANAPA, Tanzania, Uvinje

How to Cite: Orozco-Quintero, A. & King, L. (2018) “A cartography of dispossession: assessing spatial reorganization in state-led conservation in Saadani, Tanzania”, Journal of Political Ecology. 25(1). doi: