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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The politics of collaborative governance : community-based conservation in northern Kenya Cockerill, Kasmira


Community-based conservation (CBC) approaches are complex governance spaces where diverse actors operating at multiple scales make decisions about and for local conservation. In this thesis, I explore CBC governance and decision-making in Kenya using multiple qualitative methods. First, I present a historical profile of Kenya’s national wildlife policy framework, identifying the events, ideologies and policies that led up to, and shaped the legal governance of CBC expression in Kenya today. This involved a comprehensive review of wildlife and conservation policy in Kenya from 1895-2016, focusing on a set of key governance attributes through the 120-year timeframe. Nine key informants participated in extended interviews to provide additional context and perspective to the 1200 pages of documents reviewed. Three insights relevant to understanding contemporary CBC in Kenya emerged from this analysis: (1) the continued expression of colonial relationships (2) the disproportional power of international conservation organizations (3) the tension between non-devolved national wildlife governance and the implementation of CBC. Second, to understand the expression of CBC at a local scale, I present analysis of governance structure, process, and the influence between scales of decision- making within the case study of Sera Community Conservancy in northern Kenya. During 13 months in the field, data was collected through: interviews (N=31), participant observation of meetings and decision-making settings (N=14), focus groups (N=4) with local elders and older women, as well as a review of over 400 pages of documents referencing governance process, NGO reports, and government legislation related to Sera Community Conservancy. Findings from this analysis are interpreted within a governance equity framework. Key insights include identifying the ways in which procedural equity is failing to function due to governance-related issues, including limiting the possibility of different knowledge holders to collaborate, systemic barriers to legitimate participation, and failure of transparent and effective communication. Overall, this thesis concludes that despite CBC’s objective of locally-informed decision making, local voices rarely influence outcomes at any scale of decision-making, while conservation NGOs disproportionally determine outcomes and priorities. This governance asymmetry constrains the value and undermines the legitimacy of local and indigenous knowledge, values, and practices within formal conservation in Kenya.

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