The importance of national political context to the impacts of international conservation aid: Evidence from the W National Parks of Benin and Niger

Daniel C. Miller, Michael Minn, Brice Sinsin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


National political context is widely understood to be an important factor shaping the ecological and socio-economic impacts of protected areas (PAs) and other conservation interventions. Despite broad recognition that national political context matters, however, there is little systematic understanding about how and why it matters, particularly in the context of PAs. This article seeks to advance empirical and theoretical understanding of the influence of national political context on the impacts of conservation interventions through study of an international aid project in a large transboundary PA in West Africa. It uses multilevel regression analysis to analyze the variable effects of changes in enforcement - a central mechanism through which the Protected Ecosystems in Sudano-Sahelian Africa project sought to achieve its objectives - in the W National Parks (WNP) of Benin and Niger. We find that differences in national political context relating to governance quality and extent of democratic decentralization moderated the social-ecological effects of enforcement. Increasing enforcement levels in Benin's WNP were associated with significant increases in mammal species abundance while having little average effect on the incomes of households around the Park. By contrast, greater levels of enforcement in Niger's WNP were associated with sharply decreasing income levels among Park neighbors but did not have a statistically significant effect on wildlife populations. These results highlight the importance of national political context to the outcomes of aid-funded conservation efforts. They suggest that state-led PA enforcement will have more positive social-ecological impacts in better-governed, more decentralized countries and that conservation policy centered on PAs should therefore devote greater attention to engagement with higher levels of governance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115001
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 27 2015


  • biodiversity conservation
  • decentralization
  • enforcement
  • international aid
  • livelihoods
  • national parks
  • protected areas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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