Impact of Tanzania’s Wildlife Management Areas on household wealth


Large-scale area-based conservation measures affect millions of people globally. Understanding their social impacts is necessary to improve effectiveness and minimize negative consequences. However, quantifying the impacts of conservation measures that affect large geographic areas and diverse peoples is expensive and methodologically challenging, particularly because such evaluations should capture locally defined conceptions of well-being while permitting policy-relevant comparisons. Here, we measure the impact of Tanzania’s Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), a national community-based conservation and poverty reduction initiative. We use a novel, cost-effective impact evaluation method based on participatory wealth ranking and Bayesian multilevel modelling. We find that from 2007 to 2015 the impacts of WMAs on wealth were small and variable, with no clear evidence of widespread poverty reduction. Accompanying qualitative data suggest that apparently positive effects in one WMA cannot be directly attributed to WMA activities. Our results suggest that current WMA policy needs to be revisited if it is to promote positive local development.

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Fig. 1: Changes in household wealth from 2007 to 2014–2015.
Fig. 2: Mean differences-in-differences between trends in household wealth from 2007 to 2014–2015 associated with each of the six WMAs.
Fig. 3: Differences in wealth and WMA impacts associated with household characteristics.

Data availability

The datasets analysed during the current study are available in the UK Data Service ReShare repository,, and are fully described in a data descriptor paper29.

Code availability

Computer code used in this analysis is available from the authors upon reasonable request.


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This research was carried out as part of the project Poverty and Ecosystem Impacts of Tanzania’s Wildlife Management Areas (PIMA), NE/L00139X/1, funded with support from the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme. The ESPA programme was funded by the Department for International Development (DFID), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). A.K. also acknowledges support from the Understanding the Impacts of the Current El Niño programme of NERC and Department for International Development (DfID) (grant reference no. NE/P004725/1). We thank the Government of Tanzania for their permission to carry out fieldwork associated with this research project and the Tanzanian communities who participated in the research.

Author information




All authors contributed to the conceptualization of the project and the development of the survey and sampling procedures. J.B. led data collection in the field. A.K. analysed the data. A.K. led the writing of the manuscript, with all authors contributing sections of text, comments and review.

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Correspondence to Aidan Keane.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary methods, Tables 1–3 and Figs. 1–6.

Supplementary Data 1

The full set of criteria decided by and used in village-level focus group wealth-ranking exercises.

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Keane, A., Lund, J.F., Bluwstein, J. et al. Impact of Tanzania’s Wildlife Management Areas on household wealth. Nat Sustain 3, 226–233 (2020).

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