Thursday, 4 April 2019

When development and conservation clash in the Serengeti



March 20, 2019, University of Copenhagen
A proposed Northern Serengeti all-weather tarmac road that will bisect Serengeti National Park, a World Heritage site, has sparked considerable debate. Opponents say that the road could disrupt the migration of approximately 1.5 million wildebeest, zebras and gazelles between Serengeti National Park and Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, and increase already high levels of poaching. Proponents, on the other hand, argue that the road will facilitate national and local economic growth, which in turn will reduce poverty and improve the local quality of life, which is expected to lower pressure on ecosystems.
Research instead of 'Build first—worry later'
The pros and cons of road projects proposed for remote areas with high biodiversity conservation value are rarely examined before they are built in the explosion of road expansion projects that are currently underway in many developing countries.
Researchers from University of Copenhagen have used a method called a discrete choice experiment to determine how road development would affect local peoples livelihood activity choices in the Serengeti area. A discrete choice experiment allows researchers to use hypothetical scenarios to measure the strength of preferences and trade-offs for local people regarding different livelihood options. The study is published in PLOS ONE.
Contradictory outcomes
Solomon Zenas Walelign, one of the authors of the study and postdoc at University of Copenhagen, says construction of the road could result in one of two contrasting outcomes.
"One possible outcome is that increased market integration will allow intensification of existing crop and livestock production, and the development of non-farm micro, small and medium enterprises, both of which will reduce environmental resource extraction. However, a contrasting outcome predicts that people will expand existing production, which will lead to land conversion and overgrazing and commercialisation of hunting to meet urban market demands," Solomon Zenas Walelign says.

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