Protected area governance, carbon offset forestry, and environmental (in)justice at Mount Elgon, Uganda
At Mount Elgon National Park in Uganda, local conservation authorities assert that a variety of benefit sharing schemes mitigate the negative consequences of exclusionary forest conservation and carbon sequestration for nearby communities. Among other initiatives, these include the redistribution of ecotourism revenue, the signing of collaborative resource management agreements, and the provision of ecotourism-related employment opportunities. Conservationists argue that these schemes result in triple-win outcomes for both the national park and local communities, wherein biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation, and development goals mutually complement each other. Taking an environmental justice approach, this report synthesizes findings concerning local notions of (in)justice, actual geographical and temporal distributions of benefits from conservation at Mount Elgon, and the effects of such distributions on perceptions and mobilizations related to environmental justice. In doing so, it identifies widespread expressions of resentment and hostility among local communities, as well as large inequalities in access to ecotourism revenue and other benefits both between and within them. To highlight a salient example, worst-off park neighbours received assistance equivalent to only 0.0085 USD per district resident over a nine-year period. The perceived injustices that arise from these inequalities exacerbate conflicts between conservationists and local people, and, consequently, result in ecological damage to protected forests. To alleviate both the environmental injustice and degradation entailed by these inequalities, the report concludes with a number of recommendations for universalizing sustainable access to collaboratively managed resources on Mount Elgon.