The Journal of Transdisciplinary Environmental Studies' (TES)
Volume 4, Number 1, October. 2005

ISSN 1602-2297

Conjunctions of Governance:
The State and the Conservation-development Nexus in Southern Africa

Bram Büscher
Faculty of Social Sciences, Vrije University Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Corresponding author: De Boelelaan 1081c, 1081 HV, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Ton Dietz
Department of Geography, Planning and Development Studies, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Abstract: From the fortress conservation paradigm in the 1960s and 1970s to the community based conservation paradigm of the 1980s and 1990s, the ideological linkage of people and conservation of natural resources in Africa seemed to have progressed towards local ownership and local management. At present, however, it looks as though the limits of community ownership over natural resources have been reached. According to powerful actors on the conservation scene, local people in Africa have not been able to effectively conserve their wildlife and biodiversity and thus – in their view - a more enforcing style of conservation, separated from local people, is needed again. Although this trend is still in its infancy, it is promoted with rigour and backed by substantial financial means. In this paper, we use the changing discourse in the environment-development nexus as a starting point to examine issues of governance and power over the conjunction of natural resources management and development in Southern Africa, with a special focus on the role of the state. By drawing on a case study whereby different states jointly try to manage the conservation-development nexus, here the case of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park between South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, we are able to better situate the role of the Southern African state within this nexus. We conclude that the way states are trying to govern transfrontier parks is not in par with the way processes of governance unfold themselves nowadays under the influence of the forces of globalisation and localisation. If Southern African states are to retain any control over the direction that the conservation-development nexus in Southern Africa will take in practice, they need to adapt to the current international governance climate, and they need to adapt fast. With Southern Africa’s history of enormous social disadvantages in relation to conservation, states just cannot afford to be bypassed by a resurgence of that same history.

Keywords: Southern Africa, governance, development, conservation, state, power

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