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Researchers at Vancouver Island University (VIU) have received a $2-million grant to spearhead an international study in three countries.The five-year project, called the Canada-Africa Research and Learning Alliance, will focus on reducing poverty and increasing environmental sustainability in communities adjacent to national parks and other protected areas in Canada, Ghana and Tanzania.
Research will be conducted in selected study sites in each of the three countries. There are two sites in Canada – Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations Tribal Parks in Tofino, three in Tanzania and two in Ghana.
“This exciting international project brings together 17 universities, government agencies, and communities from all three countries,” said principal investigator, Dr. Grant Murray, Canada Research Chair in Coastal Resource Management at VIU.
“We’re investigating the relationship between environmental conservation and poverty in communities around protected areas. There are four main questions or streams of inquiry: How do we maximize cost benefits of protected areas to local communities? How do we best manage human interactions with wildlife in and around protected areas? How do we improve the management of these areas, and how can we best transfer knowledge between academic researchers, community organizations, visitors and managers?”
Creating protected areas, like national parks, can generate significant economic and cultural benefits, but the benefits aren’t always equitable,” Murray said. “In some cases, conservation increases poverty in adjacent communities.
“People living on the boundaries of national parks or other protected areas often lose access to fishing, hunting, land use, recreation, tourism opportunities, etc. Their cost of living rises sharply. They suffer from what are supposed to be positive conservation actions, and their negative experiences erode local support for future conservation. National parks or other protected areas become a source of resentment.
“The goal of this study is to address the challenges of reducing rural poverty in and around protected areas, while finding ways to increase environmental sustainability. We hope to identify best case practices in each country and learn from each other.”
The Alliance is led by Murray, Kwasi Nsiah Gyabaah, the President of Sunyani Polytechnic in Sunyani, Ghana, and Ladislaus Kahana from the College of African Wildlife Management in Tanzania.
The Canadian team includes researchers from three universities: VIU, University of Victoria (UVIC) and the University of Guelph. Other Canadian partners are the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Parks Canada, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Tofino Botannical Gardens/Clayoquot Field Station and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations Tribal Parks.
Besides Murray, VIU faculty involved in the project are Dr. Rick Rollins, Dr. Ken Hammer and Dr. Nicole Vaugeois – all of VIU’s tourism and recreation management department, and Dr. Leslie King, vice-president, academic.
Murray added there will also be plenty of opportunity for student involvement in the project, from undergraduate research assistants to those completing post-doctorates.
Funding for the five-year study comes from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
A public information session to introduce the project to interested community members is taking place this Saturday in Tofino. Similar sessions will be held at VIU, UVIC and the University of Guelph later this fall. For further information, contact Jennifer Schofield, the Canadian Community Coordinator, at jennifer.schofield[at]viu.ca
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