Baruani Mshale, a doctoral student, has once again done us proud. He has won the second prize for the best talk at the University of Cambridge Student Conference on Conservation Science (see http://www.sccs-cam.org/previous/prizewinners.htm). We wish him the very best as he finalize his studies.
"My research talk used empirical evidence from extensive ethnographic field work conducted in Kilwa and Lindi districts during 2009-2012 to argue that, reconciling between multiple competing forest values using the REDD+ approach remains elusive for four broad reasons. First the amounts and modalities of delivering carbon payments are inadequate in making avoided deforestation a competitive land use to traditional land uses of shifting cultivation and wood extraction (logging, charcoal and poles). Second local people recall harsh exclusionary conservation approaches during colonialism and independent socialist Tanzania to remain skeptical and argue that REDD+ is just another way of coopting locals in achieving government conservation goals. Third local people fear loosing their land rights if they accept REDD+ perceiving that REDD+ may result into "land-grabs". Fourth, while these contestations are not new, what is novel in my work is a conclusion that uncritical and careless adoption of western style deliberative democracy with its simplistic assumptions on equal information, powers and participation in consensus building is failing to serve as effective mechanism for claim making by local people. Instead local people have adopted varieties of passive as well as active resistance to claim their belongings to these forested landscapes. Borrowing from Marxist theory, I caution that, these resistance should not be intepreted as part of an emerging anti-REDD+ movement around the world, instead, they should be intepreted as alternative mechanisms for re-aligning REDD+ to safeguard local people's livelihood interests. The implications of my work to conservation and development initiatives is that such interventions should pay sufficient attention to the histories and politics of land contestations in Africa. REDD+ has the potential to reconcile between the multiple competing forest values given the low human populations in Lindi and large village areas such that participatory land use planning has the potential to allocate sufficient lands for the multiple uses. However, we need to pay attention to the increasing effects of external forces such as demands for land for large-scale agricultural investments and increasing timber demand internationally and how these forces interact with local level processes. As conservationists we need to abandon our simple ahistorical and apolitical assumptions about the importance of power devolution and benefit sharing. There is plenty of evidence that such simple assumptions are not working. We need to be more innovative, critical and persevere" - Baruani Mshale