Community Perspectives on Conservation, Forest Livelihoods, and Social Well-being in Zahamena National Park, Madagascar

Open Access
Raboanarielina, Cara M.
Graduate Program:
Rural Sociology
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 04, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Albert E Luloff, Dissertation Advisor
  • Albert E Luloff, Committee Chair
  • Leland Luther Glenna, Committee Member
  • Carolyn Elizabeth Sachs, Committee Member
  • James Craig Finley, Committee Member
  • B Ikabolajeh Logan, Committee Member
  • Zahamena National Park
  • forest livelihoods
  • community perceptions
  • social well-being
  • social impacts of conservation
  • Madagascar
Madagascar is considered a biodiversity hotspot as many of its unique flora and fauna are found nowhere else in the world. Conservation initiatives, including the creation of protected areas and national parks, remain the primary method of protecting Madagascar’s forests and unique environment. Despite extensive research documenting the social impacts of conservation in Madagascar and globally, questions remain about how the creation of national parks and reserves influence the social well-being of forest dependent communities. This research examines local perceptions of social well-being in two forest-dependent communities near Zahamena National Park (ZNP), Madagascar. An integrated approach applying an interactional community and political ecology framework is applied to define, and conceptualize the various ecological, social, cultural, and political processes within the community context that shape social well-being. Because past research on the social impacts of conservation has failed to explicitly define or measure social well-being, this study emphasizes specifically how residents’ define it and the processes that impact individual and community well-being. Moreover, this approach merges past research on forest livelihoods and dependency with the social impacts of conservation to situate an analysis of social well-being within the community context. This mixed methods case study was designed to highlight how the interconnections between forest livelihoods/dependency and conservation impact social well-being. Multiple qualitative and quantitative data were analyzed including key informant interviews with both local residents and conservation and park mangers and stakeholders, facilitated discussion groups, participatory photography, and a household survey to evaluate how changes in resource access and relations with ZNP influence residents’ social well-being. Study findings indicate ecological, social, and political processes impact the social well-being of ZNP residents. The creation and implementation of conservation regulations result in changes in access to land and other resources, negatively impacting residents’ quality of life and overall social well-being. While significant community differences exist, overall, changes in access to the forest resource disrupts residents’ quality of life and well-being. These changes in turn create strains on community relations and communion. Although regression models do not corroborate these community differences, quality of life, education levels, income sources, and community beliefs about ZNP are significant predictors of resident social well-being. Implications for these findings on current conservation management and protected area policy are addressed.