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African community-based conservation: a systematic review of social and ecological outcomes

Kathleen A Galvin, Department of Anthropology, Colorado State University
Tyler A Beeton, North Central Climate Adaptation Science Center; Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University
Matthew W Luizza, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University


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Community-based conservation (CBC) institutions are widely regarded as transformative bodies that benefit social and ecological processes in coupled social-ecological systems. Yet, limited empirical evidence for this claim exists, especially on the African continent where community-based conservancies (CBCs) are being rapidly adopted in diverse institutional forms across multiple countries. We provide the first large-scale systematic review of CBC outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa. We review the literature on CBCs and develop a conceptual model that illustrates the nested scales of interaction in which CBCs are embedded, the institutional processes (“conditions”) reported as important for success, and the outcomes of CBCs on social and ecological systems. The mixed-method approach consists of inductive/deductive textual analysis of cases, geospatial visualization, descriptive statistics, and correlational analysis. Results indicate that more often than not, establishment of CBCs in Africa has led to negative or a mixture of positive and negative social outcomes, whereas ecological outcomes have been largely positive. The research conducted on CBC institutions has overwhelmingly focused on social outcomes, using qualitative methods. Monetary and nonmonetary incentives seem to be important but not sufficient on their own for positive outcomes. Devolution of rights to the local community is significantly associated with CBC outcomes but was not present in many cases, despite this feature being a hallmark of CBCs. A number of conditions were not reported in the cases reviewed, including leadership, social learning, consideration of cultural worldviews, and diverse partnerships. We provide indepth examples of the types and diversity of outcomes and contexts underpinning the presence or absence of societal processes, highlight important gaps in the existing research, and offer guidelines for research and evaluation moving forward.

Key words

Africa; community-based conservation; conditions; evaluation; social and ecological outcomes; systematic review

Copyright © 2018 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087