Governance of tourism conservation partnerships: lessons from Kenya

R.W. Nthiga

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Governance of Tourism Conservation Partnerships: Lessons from Kenya

Rita Wairimu Nthiga

Since the 19th century nature conservation in Eastern Africa has evolved in different stages. Initial interventions emerged as a result of the decline and potential extinction of species for sport hunting. Colonial administrations thus started by formulating hunting regulations and licenses. More structured efforts began after the Second World War with the setting aside of national parks and reserves referred to as a ‘preservationist’ approach to conservation. To address some of the weaknesses of this approach, a community paradigm, that sought to integrate the objectives of biodiversity conservation with objectives of socio-economic development, emerged in the 1980s.

With the shift from ‘government to governance’, a variety of actors, including governments, NGOs and donor organizations, began to support market-based initiatives as a reaction to the flaws of community-based initiatives, including tourism-based ones, aimed at achieving conservation goals while at the same time addressing development challenges. In these programmes the partnership model has been increasingly adopted as a preferred mode of governance for addressing the objectives of conservation and development. In this thesis I analyze and explain the nature of governance in tourism conservation-development partnerships. The thesis studies two tourism-conservation-development partnerships in Kenya: the Sanctuary at Ol Lentille and the Koija Starbeds partnerships. Data collection involved the use of semi-structured interviews, document analysis and literature review, observations and informal discussions and focus group discussions.

This thesis studied the governance of the two partnerships making use of the concepts of participation, transparency, accountability, equity, and effectiveness. Although these concepts are also known as prescriptive ‘good governance’ principles, this thesis departed from this normative view of ‘good governance’ and applies the concepts in an analytical way to study and understand the nature of governance in the partnerships. Moreover, it also examined the inter-relationships between participation, transparency, accountability, equity, and effectiveness, power-relations among the actors involved, as well as the local, national and international contexts in which these partnerships operate. The thesis therefore aimed to answer the following research question: What is the nature of governance of the partnerships in terms of participation, transparency, accountability, equity, and effectiveness, and how can this be explained?

The results reveal both similarities and differences between the partnerships and show that governance in both partnerships is influenced by challenges related to among others un-balanced power-relations, inadequate local institutions, un-supportive legislative and cultural frameworks and cultural constraints. Despite these governance challenges both partnerships make important contributions to livelihoods and conservation. The research further reveals that partnerships are not simple institutions but comprise of ‘nested’ institutions which make their governance complex. In the thesis I therefore conclude that for partnerships to realize their potentials, they must be more consciously governed at the partnership level - by the various partners - and as a governance instrument more generally- by various societal actors.

Original languageDutch
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • van der Duim, Rene, Promotor
  • Visseren-Hamakers, Ingrid, Co-promotor
  • Wishitemi, B.E.L., Co-promotor, External person
Award date3 Dec 2014
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789462571662
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • tourism
  • sustainable development
  • wildlife conservation
  • nature conservation
  • partnerships
  • governance
  • community participation
  • kenya

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