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The Conservationist Mode of Production and Conservation NGOs in sub-Saharan Africa

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The work of conservation non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is vital to the conservation movement and has attracted a good deal of comment and observation. Here we combine recent writings about the interactions of conservation and capitalism, and particularly the idea of “the conservationist mode” of production to explore the roles of conservation NGOs with respect to capitalism. We use an analysis of the conservation NGO sector in sub-Saharan Africa to examine the ways in which conservation NGOs are integral to the spread of certain forms of capitalism, and certain forms of conservation, on the continent. We examine their mediating role in mediating and legitimizing knowledge, in effect forging and reproducing desires for particular visions and versions of Africa, and in producing and promoting new commodities which meet these needs, all of which facilitates capitalism's growth. Finally we consider a number of limitations to the activities of NGOs, and on the nature of the research we have undertaken, which may help to place their work in context.

Keywords: Africa; Conservation NGO; conservationist mode of production

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester, UK; ,, Email:

Publication date: 2010-06-01

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