The thesis 'One Forest, Many Locals: different ways of managing natural resources in Tanzania' is an analysis of how the actors involved in a specific development project have different perceptions of forest. Hence how these varying perceptions can affect the outcome of a development project. The theoretical base for this analysis is the recognition of forest as a place, which can be analysed as a culturally constructed entity. The Mpanga project will analytically be seen as the interface situation, where the actors meet and interact. The research is based on one year fieldwork in Tanzania, in the village of Vuga, in the East Usambara Mountains.
In the last few decades there has been an increasing recognition that the old way of managing forest reserves as closed entities, protected by government guards, is not a sustainable way of protecting these areas. The need to include the local population in the protection and management of important natural resources has been recognised. This thesis, addresses the difficulties in recognising the local population. Furthermore the questions as to how a forest management project, based on local participation, can know who to cooperate with, without actually defining 'who the locals are', will be discussed through the empirical example, the Mpanga project. The thesis will describe how the village is a heterogeneous entity, and how the different fractions and groups need to be revealed before deciding on who needs to be represented in the new management regime. The thesis compares the philosophy behind the project and the different groups of villagers, by recognising that a forest is both a physical place and a more abstract culturally constructed entity. Thus, even if the actors use the forest in similar ways, this does not imply that the forest has the same denotation for actors involved in a project. In this thesis I conclude, to identify the locals we need to recognise the differences between the actors involved with a project, the heterogeneity within the village group, and the inconsistencies in the villagers' description of the forest, as a result of the situation the person finds himself/herself in. Only then will the project worker and the population in question become closer to identifying the 'real locals', - the villagers who need to be represented in a local participation project, in order for the new management regime to be sustainable.