Communities' perceptions and assessment of biodiversity conservation strategies : the case of protected areas in Kenya.
Makindi, Stanley Maingi.
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Protected areas in Kenya constitute 7% of the total land area with over 75% of wildlife in the country being found on private or communal land. Wi th one of the highest population growth rates in the world and facing a range of developmen t issues with limited resources, one of the greatest challenges in Kenya is reconciling and sus taining economic development with biodiversity conservation and sharing the costs and benefits of conservation between individuals, state and the general community. The study was info rmed by the relevant literature and the researcher’s fieldwork which was conducted in 2008 in three categories of protected areas under different governance types and primary management o bjectives in Kenya (Lake Nakuru National Park – government managed, Kimana Community Wildlif e Sanctuary – communally managed, and Kedong Game Ranch – privately managed). The res earch examined the general issues of how local communities in Kenya have embraced differ ent biodiversity conservation strategies. A major emphasis was on identifying those factors inf luencing their attitudes towards conservation approaches and their participation in conservation management institutions. At issue was whether support for a particular conservation strat egy is primarily a function of communities’ experiences with biodiversity decline or their rela tionship with the conservation authorities. The research employed both qualitative and quantitative techniques in gathering the data. A total of 270 community respondents and 45 staff respondents were interviewed. Several demographic and socio-economic characteristics of the local peo ple that include age, gender, educational level and location, amongst others, were found to signifi cantly influence the attitudes of the local people towards the protected areas conservation act ivities. The direction of the influences (whether positive or negative) depended on the mana gement category of the particular protected area. The general findings of the study suggest tha t although local people appreciate the crucial value of biodiversity and the role of protected are as in conserving it, there is some evidence of resentment towards some management activities of th e protected area regulators. Negative attitudes were attributed to perceived problems of living next to the protected areas such as lack of involvement of the local people in the managemen t of the protected areas, restrictive access to and use of resources from the protected areas, hara ssment by the conservation enforcing agents, conflicts with wildlife and lack of compensation fo r damages and losses incurred. Widespread support for the management activities was associate d with perceived benefits to the local populations such as support for educational program mes, social amenities, employment and business opportunities. It is clear from this study that different rationales of conserving biodiversity need to address the issue of protected area management in the context of sustainable development through a combination of conservation s trategies.