Perceiving Productivity: Land Cover, Livelihood, & Community Landscape Perceptions Around Ndarakwai Ranch, Tanzania

Open Access
Shaffner, Paul Walter
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
Committee Members:
  • Brian King, Thesis Advisor
  • Africa
  • Tanzania
  • Kilimanjaro
  • Ndarakwai
  • Conservation
  • Geography
  • Political Ecology
  • Land Change Science
  • Dry Savanna
  • Ecology
The landscape of East Africa is becoming increasingly fragmented into a variety of land use types as urban and suburban areas develop, populations grow, pastoralists settle into agro-pastoralism, and agriculture modernizes and mechanizes. For wildlife this has meant loss of connectivity of previously continuous habitat. Countries and private entities have employed a number of different strategies in order to set aside and create habitat for its animal populations. With the international prominence given wildlife conservation in sub-Saharan Africa, private landowners have been increasingly managing their lands as wildlife habitat, in essence setting up private reserves which are used either for consumptive or non-consumptive tourism. This thesis examines ecological change in and around the first private game reserve in Tanzania, how the surrounding communities perceive these changes, and the current state of the relationship between the reserve and the communities. This is a unique examination because there have been no studies into the community dynamics that surround private conservation in Tanzania and indeed, very few studies have deeply examined this topic in sub-Saharan Africa more broadly. Land cover and change was assessed via remote sensing, repeat vegetation sampling (plot & transect), repeat photography, and key informant interviews. Community perceptions were assessed through focus group discussions, semi-structured interviews, and ethnography. Land cover of the ranch was determined to be a mix of dry savanna grassland and woodland, with biomass having rebounded after widespread previous disturbance episodes, but still experiencing signs of ongoing disturbance. The land cover of the villages was found to be a mosaic of agriculture and mix of heavily grazed grassland and woodland. Community perceptions of the landscape were filtered through the lens of their respective livelihoods and revolved primarily around emphasizing the value of a “productive landscape.” The definition of the productive landscape varied depending on the individual or group’s primary livelihood system. The relationship between the ranch and the villages is one marked by misunderstandings and resentment, though there are hopeful areas where growth is occurring. Additionally, this thesis seeks to contribute to current efforts to examine the theoretical and methodological space between land change science and political ecology, two subfields of geography. The study combined quantifiable ecological land change data with community narratives of land change as a way of building a more robust interdisciplinary understanding of how the landscape and community has changed.