Market-based conservation in melanesia: Contrasting expectations of landowners and conservationists

Bridget M. Henning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Conservationists have long been interested in the biodiverse country of Papua New Guinea but have had limited success on the ground. Direct payments for conservation appeal to Western conservationists because they compete with the material benefits from resource extraction enterprises. Direct payments are also attractive to Melanesian villagers because they appear to be the beginning of socially appropriate reciprocal relationships with conservationists. Market-based conservation assumes exchange takes place between independent, self-interested actors, but Melanesian villagers assume that exchange takes place between morally obligated, interdependent actors. Such cultural differences led to contradictory expectations and friction between conservationists and villagers in Wanang Conservation, the particular ethnographic focus of this article. However, direct payments have simultaneously satisfied some expectations of both parties. Direct payments may be useful in conservation but for different reasons than expected. They succeed as part of a wider socially acceptable reciprocal relationship, but direct payments alone will likely fail.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-310
Number of pages12
JournalConservation and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015


  • INHS
  • exchange relationship
  • market exchange
  • Papua New Guinea
  • direct payments for conservation
  • payments for ecosystem services (PES)
  • cargo cult
  • cost-benefit analysis
  • culture
  • neoliberal conservation
  • reciprocity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Ecology


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