'Conservationists’ and the ‘Local People’ in Biodiversity Conservation: The Case of Nech Sar National Park, Ethiopia
Studies on biodiversity in Africa show its rapid loss and degradation. This is commonly explained with non-sustainable use by local people. Across Africa, extensive systems of protected areas (PAs) have been established to mitigate this trend. Creation of PAs, however, resulted in manifold conflicts with people who depend on the use of the PAs’ natural resources for their livelihoods. This study empirically analyzes gaps in knowledge and perceptions between conservationists 2 and pastoralists in Nech Sar National Park, Ethiopia, and suggests ways of integrating the knowledge systems into practices. Research techniques used are key informant interviews, focus group discussions and interviews with 60 sample ouseholds conducted between May 2010 and March 2011. Pastoralists who live inside the park describe changes in biodiversity by observing trends of important trees, grasses, and larger wild animals based on traditional cological knowledge. Conservationists tend to rely on standard scientific methods and “expert” observations to evaluate temporal and spatial changes of biodiversity. The pastoralists relate biodiversity loss to the rohibition of their traditional land management practices by the park authorities. Conservationists rather take the local people’s increased and non-sustainable resource utilization as a cause. We argue that improved knowledge exchange and understanding can be generated through more participatory and transdisciplinary research which can contribute to the development of innovative management approaches for the park that etter integrates local peoples’ livelihood needs.
Key words: Biodiversity conservation, Nech Sar, protected areas, traditional ecological knowledge