Seeing the people for the trees: Impacts of conservation on human well-being in Northern Cambodia

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Title: Seeing the people for the trees: Impacts of conservation on human well-being in Northern Cambodia
Authors: Beauchamp, Emilie
Item Type: Thesis or dissertation
Abstract: Over recent decades, conservation projects, such as Protected Areas (PAs) and Payment for Environmental Services (PES), have increasingly incorporated poverty alleviation goals or targets towards improving human well-being in addition to biodiversity conservation outcomes. While methods to evaluate biodiversity are widely available, there is less guidance on how to measure the impacts of conservation interventions on human lives. Economic proxies have been popular, yet rarely reflect the multi-faceted incentives of resource users and their responses to conservation interventions. In this study, I use mixed methods to investigate the effects of conservation interventions on human well-being in Northern Cambodia, using three complementary approaches at different geographical scales. The Northern Plains landscape provides an ideal context for this exercise, because it includes two PAs and three PES initiatives, while also facing increasing development pressures in the form of large-scale agro-industrial development interventions: Economic Land Concessions (ELCs). I begin by exploring correlates of the spatial placement of ELCs, their outcomes in terms of deforestation rates, and the extent to which these development interventions trade off against conservation goals. The evidence indicates that ELCs not only fail to achieve their intended outcome but are also the main predictor of deforestation in the region, compromising environmental sustainability in the long-run. I then build on an existing longitudinal dataset from the Northern Plains to provide a medium-term evaluation of the impacts of PAs and PES on the socio-economic status of households in villages within PAs, compared with matched villages outside PAs. I demonstrate that external factors remain the main contributors to the socio-economic status of households across the landscape, with combined PAs and PES slightly reducing the rate of increase in household economic status and agricultural productivity, yet without impeding household development. The second half of this PhD offers a qualitative exploration of the conceptualisations of human well-being in the study area, to capture the multidimensionality and heterogeneity of well-being in the landscape. I find that individual well-being as well as village solidarity and trust are heavily linked with issues relating to land and resources, and their governance. From this study I developed locally relevant indicators pertaining to perceptions of salient land issues, which allow a more accurate assessment of the subjective dimension of human well-being across a landscape that features competing land uses from PAs and ELCs. The research findings highlight the complexity of attributing conservation impacts and capturing the direct and indirect consequences of conservation and development policies, and demonstrate how a more nuanced evaluation of conservation impacts on humans can guide future conservation interventions.
Content Version: Open Access
Issue Date: Aug-2016
Date Awarded: Nov-2017
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10044/1/54853
Supervisor: Milner-Gulland, Eleanor-Jane
Kountouris, Ioannis
Sponsor/Funder: Imperial College London
Economic and Social Research Council (Great Britain) - Great Britain. Dept. for International Development
Wildlife Conservation Society
Canadian Centennial Scholarship Fund
Funder's Grant Number: ES/J018155/1
Department: Centre for Environmental Policy
Publisher: Imperial College London
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Qualification Name: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Appears in Collections:Centre for Environmental Policy PhD theses



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