Back to the barriers? Changing narratives in biodiversity conservation
The dominant approach to conservation in the 20th century was the establishment of protected areas from which people were excluded. However, in the 1980s, decentralized, community-based approaches to biodiversity conservation and natural resource management began to spread rapidly, especially in southern Africa. From the early 1990s, there have been a growing divide between proponents of community-based approaches to conservation (particularly community-based natural resource management, CBNRM) and those advocating a return to more traditional preservationist approaches to biodiversity conservation. Here we examine the growth of the community narrative and the subsequent revival of what we call the 'back to the barriers' movement. We discuss the importance of various actors and sets of policy ideas to this revival in Africa. Changes in narratives have had profound impacts upon conservation and natural resource management, livelihood strategies and political processes. We suggest that policy debate needs to become less formulate if outcomes are to be positive.