Fortress Conservation has become a rather successful book in its field (see reviews here) and is often mentioned when scholars want to refer to the problematic aspects of exclusionary conservation policies. The book describes the social consequences of a strong policy of eviction and exclusion of pastoral peoples from the Mkomazi Game Reserve (now National Park) in Tanzania. It is based on my PhD.
This is not a happy story. Mkomazi presents a grim tale of minorities bearing the burden of conservation policies, of the policies themselves having only a weak ecological justification, and of the representation of this situation quite ignoring the facts in some instances, and yet persisting strong and virile despite all this. Learning what had happened to people, and how they were so misrepresented, left a deep impact on me. Part of the learning I have had to do since then is to appreciate how stark the Mkomazi case is, compared to many others, how atypical the NGOs working there are compared to the rich variety that exists, and how complicated the alternatives community conservation offer actually are.
The following pages explain how the research began, some background information into Mkomazi, an account of the recent history of the Reserve and the plains on which it was inscribed, its environmental dynamics, the livelihood changes and the power and success of its version of conservation. In most of these pages I simply provide access to, with a little background, the papers written on each topic. I have also added a page which provides links to other writings about aspects of conservation in Tanzania. If you want to have a look at some of the conservation NGO’s representations of Mkomazi for comparison try here or here.
Finally, for the record, I never wanted to call Fortress Conservation by that title. I still hanker after its original name: ‘Saving an African Wilderness’ for it has a much gentler meter and is not so confrontational. I lost that argument, however, and can live with the result.