Are we going any further? Contemplating the impacts of livelihoods-conservation initiatives

Peter Musinguzi

See Peter's profile here

I was brought up by and have lived with poor people in the rural village near the border of Kibale National Park (NP) in Uganda. I witnessed the Eviction of people from Mpokya in 1992 which was annexed to the Kibale NP when I was young. At home, we housed a few evicted individuals for a while on their way to a distant district where the government was resettling them. I love nature conservation but as a rural boy, I loved farming more as it provided both food and cash though never satisfactory.

 

peterHaving grown and witnessed such a hard life and people suffering at the border of the NPs, I became interested in the nexus of rural livelihoods and conservation. I used to wonder why we were sidelined in development efforts since we were at the proximity of the park and as such, the custodians of biodiversity. I became more perplexed as I grew up witnessing the village people perpetually remaining poor and yet the government officials would announce on radios about the very nice projects and programmes they had for people bordering the parks, but we would barely witness them at village level or if you were lucky, you could see an official once and never see him/her again. Some Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) would also (and still do currently) sympathize with the rural people bordering the park in my area and introduce interventions to improve our livelihoods. However, the introduced interventions would last for a short time and the village people returned to their usual ways of life hence you could not see the value added to the rural poor by such implemented interventions.

Such issues besides my academic and professional background arose my interest to dive deeper into academia and widen understanding of development versus conservation and contribute to answering why people are remaining poor despite governments’ and NGOs’ support through several interventions. I feel there are missing links to fully understand the complex nature of development and environmental sociological issues in developing and transitioning countries. As such, my career goal is to contribute to the body of knowledge within international development and natural resource management through developing or improving novel research methodologies, advancing relevant development theories and making practical and policy recommendations that could bridge such missing links.

peter 2

My work within in the ICCS at the University of Oxford has been fulfilling some of my ambitions. I have been involved with an evaluation project entitled “Can health investments benefit conservation and sustainable development?” under the supervision of Professor EJ Milner-Gulland and Dr Henry Travers.  I have been privileged to traverse the eastern and mid-western parts of Uganda into the villages bordering the great Ugandan NPs (Bwindi Impenetrable, Mt. Elgon) and Budongo forest. I was able to interact with poor rural communities in hard to reach areas and heard their stories and issues related to conservation and sustainable rural development.

sgdExcitingly, towards the end of June this year, I will head to the University of New England in Australia at where I will start my PhD studies to further try to unravel the nexus of development and conservation related interventions. The PhD will broadly specialize on impact evaluation and specifically try to advance a holistic understanding of rural social enterprises; their sustainability, socioeconomic impacts on smallholder farmers’ livelihoods and evidence of their relevance to natural resource management.

The struggle continues and as much is unearthed by different scholars, we will truly contribute to finding viable solutions to the overarching issue of poverty and more so in the rural areas of developing and transitioning countries around the World!