Alexander Omondi Imbo works in the field of wildlife and environmental conservation and management in Kenya and is currently pursuing his PhD studies at IHE- Delft. His research interests are on biodiversity and environmental management, community livelihoods and development, and climate change resilience building. For his PhD, he is conducting research on the institutional and others factors shaping access to natural resources in community based conservation (CBC). He also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Kenyatta University in Nairobi- Kenya, and a Master of Science degree in Sustainability, Development and Peace from United Nations University (UNU) in Tokyo- Japan. His Masters thesis focused on land grievances in Kenya and explored alternative land reform processes for sustainable solutions.
Conservation of wildlife and related environmental resources on community owned lands, also referred to as community–based conservation (CBC) has gained traction as a rural development approach in the wildlife rich rangelands of East Africa where wildlife constitutes an important component of national economies. The approach has been strongly promoted by state and non-state actors to complement the protected areas system of conserving biodiversity. In addition to conservation objectives, CBC is meant to provide other livelihood opportunities to host communities as an incentive for participation. It can enable them derive the market value of wildlife through various consumptive and non-consumptive utilisation activities alongside wildlife-compatible land uses such as livestock production. Empirical studies however indicate that outcomes of CBC in the East African rangelands are often below expectations. Whereas it may be argued that the conservation areas have to some extent strengthened the position of local communities in control of natural resources, very limited powers have been devolved to the local levels and much of the revenues from wildlife are captured by the state, private sector and local elites. Further, the conservation areas have restricted access of local people to land resources such as grazing areas, water, farming areas and biological resources. Even in instances where CBC is beneficial to host communities, local power relations and access regulations limit the capacity of some community members to derive livelihood benefits thereby eroding their support. Local communities then resort to a range of lawful and unlawful mechanisms in struggles to regain access. This research examines these mechanisms and how they impact on CBC outcomes. The study aims to understand the livelihood effects of community-based conservation by comparatively investigating the distribution of powers, rights and access in the management and use of natural resources in wildlife conservation areas.