UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Strengthening conservation through localized definitions of wellbeing : understanding what is meant by 'A Good Life' in Namibia's Zambezi Region O'Connor, Alida


Effective conservation is more important now than ever before with biodiversity loss occurring at unprecedented rates. Conservation practices have evolved from ‘fence and fine’ strategies to participatory approaches. It is now widely accepted that conservation initiatives should deliver both socioeconomic benefits and biodiversity protection.  One of the best known examples of achieving this is Namibia’s communal conservancy programme. This thesis sought to understand how communities in Namibia’s Zambezi Region define wellbeing in general and as a function of the conservancies. This work aimed to move beyond universal measures of socioeconomic wellbeing to a set that includes a broad suite of concerns that are economic and social, environmental, cultural and political. Findings are based on two months of fieldwork in Namibia where data was collected through interviews and focus groups across six conservancies in the Zambezi Region. Through interviews and focus groups ten wellbeing dimensions emerged. These ten dimensions shed light on two important findings: First, the dimensions are inclusive of many well-explored wellbeing components, which challenges the notion that global indices do not adequately capture the dimensions of wellbeing. However, and secondly, it is how these categories are elaborated that make them useful at the local scale. Therefore, it is not the way wellbeing is categorized that is most important, it is how these dimensions are interpreted and incorporated in the process of conservation planning. These insights are significant because conservation initiatives that are better tailored to local needs can foster more meaningful community involvement, which Namibia’s programme has proved to be integral to conservation success.

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