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Concientizando una Lucha, The Struggle for Community-Based Conservation in Nicaragua’s Pacific Isthmus

Authors: Cristina Murillo Barrick*, UC Davis Geography Graduate Group
Topics: Development, Latin America, Marine and Coastal Resources
Keywords: tourism, communities, conservation, protected areas, sea turtles, Latin America
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Within the Pacific Isthmus of Nicaragua, as in much of the global South, the establishment and management of protected areas has prioritized the conservation of species over the needs and desires of local communities whose livelihoods and income depend on access to natural resources. This research examines protected areas dedicated to preserving sea turtle species; I focus on the dynamic contestation/struggle -- lucha -- to meet both conservation and community goals through community-based conservation (CBC). Drawing on four months of community organizing, participant observation and interviews with community members and natural resource managers, findings from this study indicate the harvest of sea turtle eggs has historically represented a source of sustenance and, more recently, an opportunity to generate income in communities that experience high rates of poverty.
Finding suggest that decreasing community participation in natural resource management can result in decreasing community trust, and increasing conflict. On the other hand, increasing CBC through a variety of horizontal approaches can build trust in natural resource management entities and increase community engagement in a variety of non-extractive behaviors such as biological education, recreation and the development of employment opportunities through local tourism. By connecting these local dynamics to past and current politico-ecological patterns in Nicaragua, I further illustrate the connection between national democratic engagement and struggles to meet both community and conservation needs within protected areas by examining the emergence of a recent co-management committee that includes protected area managers and community members and has yielded promising results for both stakeholder group

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