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Do you see what I see? Photovoice, community-based research, and conservation education in Samburu, Kenya




Beh, Adam Wesley, author
Bruyere, Brett L., advisor
Galvin, Kathleen, committee member
Davies, Timothy Gray, 1942-, committee member
Reid, Robin Spencer, committee member

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In the remote region of Samburu East District in north-central Kenya, community-based conservation (CBC) may arguably provide the best way forward for realizing conservation goals. Education is often identified as an integral part in realizing CBC goals in rural African contexts. Moreover, CBC efforts on the African continent have revealed mixed results regarding success, and there no agreed upon method for evaluating the effectiveness of community-based research on specific conservation education issues, particularly with those disempowered human populations living in and adjacent to conservation areas. Photovoice, a community-based participatory action research (CBPAR) strategy, is evaluated as an effective tool for realizing community-based research goals by its ability to address three core criteria: community-centered control, knowledge production and outcome-oriented results. The Samburu photovoice project employed park rangers and scouts, local teachers and community members in this creative CBPAR strategy to identify local conservation education concerns, and propose opportunities for community involvement in addressing these concerns. Over the course of 8 months, during one of the most severe droughts in recent memory, members of the Samburu community photographed their landscape and collectively addressed the current state of conservation knowledge. Through photo and narrative analysis and participant observation, the Samburu photovoice project is evaluated as effectively supported by the local community; has proven to produce conservation knowledge and allow for disempowered members of the community to have a voice on current issues that affect them; and has ultimately empowered some Samburu community members to act on their newly acquired knowledge. Implications for use as a methodology in Kenya and in other conservation education contexts are discussed. Additionally, narrative inquiry and holistic-content analysis strategies were used to uncover the culturally appropriate learning environment that may best allow for effective conservation education in the Samburu communities. Five of the original 26 photovoice participants were involved in semi-structured interviews to explore this learning phenomenon. The approach provided a rich description of three major themes regarding effective and culturally appropriate learning environments for conservation instruction in Samburu. This includes: exposure to new landscapes coupled with guided discussion, place-based and project-oriented instruction, and cultural drivers. Implications for the development of future conservation instruction in Samburu are given.


2011 Spring.
Includes bibliographical references.

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community-based conservation
narrative inquiry


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