There are rapidly increasing tensions between actors engaged in
the governance of environment and natural resources in Africa. This becomes
clear when reviewing current trends in the conservation-development debate
and combining these insights with trends in environmental governance, most
especially the commodification of ‘nature’ under pressures of neoliberalism.
Our argument starts by showing how the conservation-development debate
has become polarised due to increasing criticism of community-based approaches
to nature conservation and how these unfold in terms of value and
scale. We argue that the strong sense of urgency involved in this neoprotectionist
turn amongst conservation practitioners has been reciprocated by an
equally strong reply from community-based natural resource management
(CBNRM) advocates, thereby further straining the choices that must be made
with respect to conservation practice. Through a discussion of the current
neoliberal turn in environmental governance, we suggest that the potential of
actors to promote divergent and ambiguous values in policy and practice
across scale has increased over the past decade and will continue to do so.
This, in turn, may lead to environmental governance that favours the ‘sustained’
polarisation of actors’ priorities in research and policy concerning conservation-development. We provide evidence for our case with empirical data from research done on the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP) in Southern Africa.