Tivoneleni [Be careful]: Can non-violent anti-poaching tactics reclaim commons in rural Mozambique?

Authors: Rebecca Witter*, Appalachian State University
Topics: Environment, Human Rights, Africa
Keywords: rhino poaching, violence, commons, care, conservation, Mozambique
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Bacchus, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Over the past decade, South Africa’s Kruger National Park has become embroiled in a rhino poaching crises. Many suspected poachers are Mozambicans, including the thousands of socially and economically marginalized Limpopo National Park (LNP) residents who were (in 2003) targeted for resettlement as part of conserving wildlife habitat. While a minority of LNP residents are directly implicated in rhino poaching, a collective (largely innocent) majority has been indirectly blamed for the crisis. The range of anti-poaching tactics that now target LNP residents involve illicit, structural, and slow violence in the forms of shoot-to-kill practices, surveillance and arrests, burnt houses and intimidation, mediated portrayals of greed, and re-mobilized support for resettlement. In these and other ways, anti-poaching tactics contribute to closing the commons in the name species loss and species protection for rural Mozambicans. Yet there are alternatives to violent responses. Approaches that provide benefits, uphold rights, and protect local assets increase the incentives for those living with wildlife to support conservation and provide a framework for non-violent outreach and response. Drawing from long-term ethnographic research conducted in the LNP (2003, 2006-2007, 2011, and 2016) and a review of literature, reports, news pieces, and an anti-poaching song, I assess violent vs. non-violent responses to rhino poaching. Non-violent responses to anti-poaching shift the motivation for and approach to intervention from mistrust, anger, and blame to tivoneleni [care, caution, and mutual respect and responsibility]. I consider the extent to which such approaches might also reclaim the commons for marginalized and displaced rural residents.

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