Understanding the effects of a protected area on livelihoods of a neighbouring local community : a case study of Mokolodi Nature Reserve, Botswana.
Njiru, Lincoln Mwaniki.
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Establishment of protected areas continues to be recognized in many parts of the world as one of the most appropriate strategies of conserving biodiversity. As a result, their numbers have continued to increase globally with significant support coming from many national governments and international agencies. Some cases of earlier establishments of protected areas had negative effects on local communities especially where there was displacement and relocation of people, and loss of access to various natural resources important for livelihoods sustenance. In other cases however, protected areas brought positive effects to local communities such as creation of employment opportunities, contribution towards community development and giving the local people the opportunity to actively participate in natural resources management. All these effects have influenced livelihoods of many local communities in several ways. This study focuses on the effects of Mokolodi Nature Reserve on a neighbouring community from the angle of a community that traditionally did not have exclusive access and use of the land that is now the reserve, nor have a claim against it. Effects of the changes that have occurred on the livelihoods of the local people since the establishment of the reserve are looked at, as well as the attitudes and perceptions that people have towards the reserve. Relationships between the reserve management and the local people that have brought changes in the lives of the local people form a key component of this study. Further, ways in which the local people are involved in natural resource management in the area are explored, as well as the reserve‟s contribution towards enhancing better and sustainable livelihoods of the local people The study adopts a qualitative approach, with information being collected by use of structured questionnaires and key informant interviews. The majority of respondents were members of the local community. A few key informants were from outside the community but had associations with the area of study. Data was analyzed and presented in the form of descriptions, tables and graphs. Findings show that the reserve has brought changes, some of which have benefited the local community such as provision of job opportunities and creation of environmental awareness among the people. However, according to some respondents, especially the older, such benefits are minimal and only go to a few people. Such respondents hence consider the reserve to be of little or no benefit to the community. Attitudes and perceptions towards the reserve vary amongst respondents, with younger respondents appearing to have more positive attitudes and perceptions towards the reserve. Indications are that the relationship between the reserve management and the local community is not very well developed. The older respondents however appear to be keen on having good relationships with the reserve management established, as opposed to many of the younger respondents whose main concern is employment. Lack of community conservation initiatives in the area is considered a drawback towards increased people‟s participation in resource management in the area. Despite the varied opinions in terms of benefits and non-benefits, the reserve would still be considered to have played an important role in improving the livelihoods of the local people. Indications that some people have an interest in getting involved in various reserve-related activities, is a good opportunity for developing good relationships. This could also possibly change the negative attitudes and perception some people have towards the reserve. With continued interactions and learning of lessons from the past, there are opportunities for the reserve management and the local people to work together and hence find a balance between conservation priorities and local livelihoods. This would also work towards achieving one of the initial goals of the establishment of the reserve, of improving the standards of living of people in the local community.
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