Dispossession and disenchantment: The micropolitics of marine conservation in southeastern Tanzania
Advocates of marine biodiversity conservation have intensified their calls for the rapid expansion of marine protected areas (MPAs) across the globe, while researchers continue to examine why some people in affected communities support MPAs and others oppose them. Drawing on an ethnographic study of dispossession and the micropolitics of marine conservation in southeastern Tanzania, this paper examines the local dynamics pertaining to the Mnazi Bay-Ruvuma Estuary Marine Park (MBREMP) in rural Mtwara on Tanzania's border with Mozambique. In-depth interviews with 160 individuals and eight focus group discussions with 48 participants were conducted in four sea-bordering villages. By analyzing the narratives of people living in the MBREMP's catchment area regarding their lived experiences with the MBREMP, the paper highlights inter-village and intra-village similarities and differences in the perceived significance and social impact of the MBREMP. Through narratives, people revealed their feelings of angst, disempowerment and vulnerability, emanating from their awareness of the state-directed dispossession they had experienced. The MBREMP's gendered impact was evident as women frequently blamed the park rangers for making their lives difficult through unreasonable and coercive restrictive practices. The paper argues that to achieve the laudable global goals of marine biodiversity conservation, it is imperative that the social complexities of the local context, livelihood concerns, gender relations, social hierarchies and the diverse perspectives of residents are ethnographically documented and integrated into policies leading to the practice of good governance of MPAs.