Conservation implications of the diffusion of Christian religious ideals in rural Africa
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Throughout developing countries, major world religions are spreading into areas important for biodiversity conservation, and little is know about the potential effects of this expansion. This paper examines the effect of religious ideals on mechanisms that underlie changes in population growth, economic development, and land conversion within a polygamous, agro-pastoral society near Tarangire National Park in northern Tanzania where Christianity is spreading rapidly. Mixed qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection and analysis are used to (1) identify primary Christian ideals and church messages within local communities regarding family planning, development, and land use; and (2) estimate the association between church membership and household measures of family size, school enrollment, and land use controlling for other factors. Findings indicate that the effects of church messages and membership may be consistent with conversation goals to limit population growth, promote local development, and encourage certain land uses over others.
KeywordsReligion Christianity Conservation Africa Maasai Tanzania Land use Population Development
Data collection for this study was supported by a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship through the US Department of Education, a Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant (DDRI) through the National Science Foundation, and a research grant through the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I thank Gabriel Ole Saitoti and Isaya Rumas for their dutiful assistance in the field and Terry McCabe for his counsel with field logistics. Lastly, reviewers provided helpful comments that greatly improved the quality of this paper.
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