Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Leadership and Policies


Educational Administration

First Advisor

Edward R Carr


Since the 1980s, broad recognition has been given to the need for and the benefits of aligning the protection of biodiversity in threatened forest ecosystems with measures to address the needs and desires of people living near and depending on those ecosystems. With this research project I focus on one such ecosystem found at the Mulanje Mountain Forest Reserve (MMFR) in southern Malawi. Large amounts of money and time have been put forth by local, national, and international donors and conservation organizations to support the goals of biodiversity conservation and social development at MMFR. In order to explore how managers of MMFR have failed to successfully realize both of these overarching goals, I focus on inadequate and superficial engagement of forest managers with local populations and the effects of this deficient engagement on the health of the reserve. As part of the analysis I emphasize how certain local social contexts have been left unexamined in project design and how these neglected contexts translate into ineffective project implementation and outcomes. Furthermore I highlight how these unexamined contexts continuously reinforce the superficial nature of the connection between local community members and those charged with managing the reserve.

There are valuable lessons to be learned from this case study that can be extended not only to other areas surrounding MMFR, but also to the managers of protected areas worldwide who, in the face of changing global climates and associated policy

implications, are seeing the necessity for increasingly meaningful relationships with local communities and individuals.


© 2013, Mary Christian Thompson