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Accepted Paper:

“It’s like fuel on fire”: COVID, conservation and conflict in a Tanzanian WMA  
V. Corey Wright (Utrecht University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the trials and tribulations of community-based conservation in the Enduimet Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in northern Tanzania. Throughout its history, the WMA has introduced many conflicts, disappointments and precarity. Like fuel on fire, COVID has exacerbated all of this.

Paper long abstract:

With its abundance of iconic wildlife, the dryland region of Enduimet has been a destination for the world’s trophy hunters and photography enthusiasts, throughout Tanzania’s history. Starting in the early 2000s, the area was reconstituted as a Wildlife Management Area (WMA) – a new model of community-based conservation (CBC). Like so many other rural communities in Tanzania, the indigenous community of Enduimet accepted the WMA amidst bold promises of tourism riches and renewed authority over its territory. Sadly, such promises have not been realized. Since its inception, the WMA has been rife with conflict and ongoing risks of displacement. It has led to a precarious existence for Enduimet’s indigenous peoples. Big international non-governmental organizations (BINGOs) loom large in all of this, as do big tourism businesses. This paper will explore how COVID has impacted the politics of CBC in Enduimet. Enduimet’s tourism revenue, which it relies on for managing the conservation area, has been decimated since the onset of the pandemic, leading to a host of direct and indirect impacts: staff have been laid off, anti-poaching teams reduced, governing structures and institutions compromised, power has been consolidated, community grievances have grown, and donor NGOs have found new opportunities to influence trajectories. Much of this is not new, but COVID has exacerbated ongoing adverse dynamics and polarizations. As one WMA leader aptly put it, “it’s like fuel on fire”. Nevertheless, despite some ominous developments, most recently, the effects of COVID have also seemingly influenced a further commitment to indigenous sovereignty.

Panel P048
The impacts of Covid-19 on tourism and conservation in dryland communities