Building robustness to disturbance: Governance in southern African peace parks
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Transboundary conservation has gained currency over the past decade as an effective means for achieving a wide array of goals ranging from improved biodiversity conservation to regional economic development to the promotion of peace between countries. Studies to analyze these competing claims oscillate between views of transboundary protected areas (TPBAs) as panaceas that can solve wide-ranging societal challenges in any type of setting to studies that view them as idiosyncratic entities with no generalizable traits, and few studies assess institutional arrangements for governance. This study, by contrast, uses 150 key informant interviews within two TBPAs in southern Africa – the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in Botswana and South Africa and the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park in Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe – to address analytically how different governance structures of transboundary protected areas maintain robustness in response to various types of disturbance.
The insights arise from the fundamentally different institutional development paths of the two cases. This study argues that that the bottom-up institutional development and the slow, unforced evolution of governance in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park have allowed governing bodies to learn how to adapt and respond to transformations in the social-ecological system from an operational level. By contrast, institutional development in the Great Limpopo has struggled operationally due to the top-down imposition of the park on local-level communities and officials and the short time horizons permitted for goal attainment. However, top-down park formation has resulted in other accomplishments, primarily in bridging international boundaries. The central premise is that the national-level commitment to the Great Limpopo results in greater degrees of cooperation at a policy level than in a park that develops from the bottom-up. Such high levels of policy cooperation without parallel gains in operational cooperation have led to unexpected challenges in the Great Limpopo.
0768: Environmental science