Sustainable development which integrates conservation and development has proven to be a very complicated issue; how dowe humans manage our use of the environment in such a way that does not only decrease human poverty but also encourages human development while at the same time protecting and restoring biodiversity and the life-sustaining functions of ecosystems for ourselves and other species now and in the future? One approach that aims to do just that is community-based nature tourism (CBNT). CBNT aims to address the multiple demands of conservation and development encompassing the desire to link conservation and local livelihoods through tourism by providing an economic alternative to destructive habits, preserving biodiversity whilst reducing rural poverty, and of achieving both objectives on a sustainable, self-financing basis. CBNT, however does not occur in a vacuum but takes place in diverse communities that may already have strong natural resource management systems that dictate how individuals interact with nature through cultural norms and traditional beliefs and values. This dissertation presents a new conceptual framework, Political Ecological Place Systems (PEPS) and uses this framework to examine how human-environment interactions change as communities move from traditional forms of conservation to alternative forms such as CBNT through a case study of the Boabeng-Fiema Monkey Sanctuary, Ghana.
Field research was conducted from May 2007 to Feb 2008, multiple sources of evidence were used including interviews, archival, NGO, academic and government documents, direct and participant observation, focus groups, a household survey and map data. It was found that tourism activities are unevenly distributed and that this fact in combination with local history has created two distinct and diverging 'places' within the sanctuary. The divergence of place has impacted the ability of the communities to work together to achieve sustainable conservation and development. Theoretically, PEPS also reveals that place transformations occur through changes in layers and focal points on different scales and that socio-natural systems operate through a system of change. Sustainability within a PEPS framework is shown to require place resiliency.