Protected areas as contested spaces: Nech Sar National Park, Ethiopia, between ‘local people’, the state, and NGO engagement
Drawing on fieldwork conducted in Nech Sar National Park in Southern Ethiopia, this paper shows that insufficient consideration of local livelihood needs and land-use patterns constitute major underlying reasons for the limited effectiveness of the national park. We interviewed a total of 120 smallholder and pastoralist households living in and around Nech Sar National Park, using semi-structured questionnaires. We also collected qualitative data through expert interviews, focus group discussions and participatory observation. The findings uncover that there is a mismatch between a top-down, state-initiated conservation approach, local needs as well as regional political interests, conditions to be found in many national parks in sub-Saharan Africa. We conclude that the situation in Nech Sar National Park calls for integrated land-use planning approaches based on transdisciplinary research and involvement of all stakeholders beyond the rhetoric of participation.