Conservation implications of the diffusion of Christian religious ideals in rural Africa

Abstract

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.

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Fig. 1
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Notes

  1. 1.

    Throughout the paper, the term “mission” is used broadly to indicate “an organized effort for the propagation of the Christian faith.” (See “mission” in Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved June 6, 2014.) When the data were collected in 2010, churches were the primary outposts of organized efforts.

  2. 2.

    In Tanzania, under the Land Act of 1999, all land is owned by the Tanzanian State. Leases or certificates of occupancy can be obtained for periods of up to 99 years and can be renewed.

  3. 3.

    I use a dichotomous measure of education because the mean, mode, and median for education attainment if the household head had any amount of schooling is the same, 7 years (i.e., finished primary school). Also, substituting the continuous measure for the categorical measure in these models did not affect the direction or significance of the other variables. For these reasons, I selected the simpler, more easily interpretable, variable.

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Acknowledgments

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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Correspondence to Timothy D. Baird.

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Baird, T.D. Conservation implications of the diffusion of Christian religious ideals in rural Africa. Popul Environ 36, 373–399 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11111-014-0222-3

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Keywords

  • Religion
  • Christianity
  • Conservation
  • Africa
  • Maasai
  • Tanzania
  • Land use
  • Population
  • Development