My research investigates the impacts that biodiversity conservation has on rural societies in Africa south of the Sahara. Specifically, it considers how conservation efforts impact the livelihoods, rights, and wellbeing of different groups of natural resource users acting in diverse local contexts. By analyzing various experiences with and perceptions of biodiversity conservation on the ground, my research illuminates how existing policies and practices work to the advantage of some rural groups and to the disadvantage of others. This approach yields practical insights into the social dimensions of biodiversity conservation, which need to be taken seriously if conservation efforts are to be equitable and sustainable in the long run. My research also contributes to theoretical debates in critical development studies, political ecology/economy, and rural geography by helping to illuminate why conservation efforts are often shaped by existing inequalities in rural societies and why biodiversity conservation tends to re-produce such inequalities in practice.
As this page indicates, I am also engaged in related work on the socio-environmental impacts of extractive corridors in East and Southern Africa and on the politics of global sustainable development.
Biodiversity conservation in Kenya and Tanzania
I have carried out most of my work on the social impacts of biodiversity conservation in Kenya’s central highlands and northern rangelands. My work has focused on better understanding diverse experiences with, perspectives on, and reactions to private- and community-based approaches to conservation among different groups of natural resource users. Information about existing and forthcoming outputs from this work can be accessed on the publications page of this website.
In 2017, I began work in Tanzania’s southern highlands as a member of a large international research project called Greenmentality: A Political Ecology of the Green Economy in the Global South. My contribution to this project involves trying to better understand the effects that expanding national park boundaries and wildlife management areas have on different groups of natural resource users in the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania. This work also considers how shrinking space for natural resource-based livelihoods impact efforts to restore water flows in the Great Ruaha River. Initial outputs from this work are expected in early-2018.
Extractive corridors in East and Southern Africa
In addition to my work on the social impacts of biodiversity conservation, I am involved in related projects that consider the socio-environmental impacts that extractive corridors have on rural societies in East and Southern Africa. This work has largely focused on investigating the implications of East Africa’s ‘energy boom’ for pastoralist livelihoods in Kenya’s northern rangelands. However, I recently began working with colleagues at the University of Sheffield and Aga Khan University Nairobi on a regional project that considers whether extractive corridor developments are living up to their promise of facilitating inclusive, sustainable development in rural parts of Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia. Information about existing and forthcoming outputs from this work can be accessed on the publications page of this website, with initial outputs from the regional-focused research expected in mid-2018.
The politics of global sustainable development
My work in each of the above areas contributes indirectly to the production and dissemination of knowledge relevant to the new Sustainable Development Goals – specifically, to Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure; Goal 13: Climate Action; and Goal 15: Life on Land. These contributions build on research that I have carried out on the SDGs directly, which advocates for the re-politicization of participatory development and argues in favour of creating space for alternative development/alternatives to development in global development processes. I remain deeply interested in research that seeks to better understand how invited and uninvited forms of participation have shaped the SDGs, as well as how the SDGs are translating into policy and practice and to what ends. Outputs from this work thus far can be accessed on the publications page of this website.
My fieldwork activities have been supported directly by the International Development Research Centre, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Overseas Development Institute. Some of my fieldwork activities have also been indirectly supported by the Research Council of Norway and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.
Some of my work on biodiversity conservation in Kenya informs my activities as a Fellow on a large international research project called Biodiversity and Security: Understanding Environmental Crime, Illegal Wildlife Trade and Threat Finance. Additional information about BIOSEC can be accessed here: https://biosecproject.org/.