Green Transformations, Charcoal and Social Justice in Rural East-Central Tanzania

Working Paper
  • Published 19/12/19

Over the last 30 years, Tanzania has taken different policy approaches towards the conservation of forests. Intriguingly, from the earlier integrated conservation and development approach to the ‘newer’ green economy, the idea that providing livelihood benefits is a key strategy for achieving conservation effectiveness has dominated. This one-dimensional conception of what ‘local people’ value and why precludes a clear understanding of substantive social justice considerations – what is being contested, why and by whom – when conflicts arise in policy implementation settings. Using a green economy project that addresses charcoal-driven forest loss in Kilosa, the paper examines a conflict between forest conservation and farming, and studies the variegated notions of justice that farmers express in relation to the conflict.

The paper builds upon a developing strand in the political ecology literature, that of empirical analyses of rural people’s conceptions of justice in environmental conservation, to demonstrate the analytical and practical values of a multidimensional justice framework. Its main contribution lies in illustrating how the framework can help to assess and reframe environmental interventions, going beyond one-dimensional conceptions, to focus attention on the diverse ways in which justice can be recognised or denied, at different levels and in different ways, for different groups of people. Particularly, it highlights that context matters, as despite the distributional ‘success’ of the project, disregarded concerns over procedural dimensions and the recognition of justice led to farmer evictions, covert resistance and continued struggles over land compensation. This paper therefore underlines that being attentive to a range of justice dimensions can reveal locally valued and contested aspects of conservation, and can guide more equitable and more just environmental conservation.