Ecotourism for sustainable development : economic valuation of recreational potentials of protected areas in the Congo Basin.
Tieguhong, Julius Chupezi.
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This study was designed to capture the complexity of man-to-forest relationships in the endangered, world-renowned tropical rain forests of the Congo Basin in Africa. Their biological complexity and integrity have been challenged by human development and new knowledge is urgently needed to save these forests and the people dependent on them. The scope of the study was enormous because of the complexity of the resource, the diversity of forest-dependent people and actors. The major benefit of this research was in accessing and exposing new and quantitative information in remote settlements of the region by applying innovative methodologies and analytical techniques. These included: 1. The definition of forest-dependency based on detailed annual inventories of sources of households’ incomes, their statistical ranking and interpretation with logistic regressions, and the Kuznets ratio and Gini coefficients as introduced by the World Bank; 2. critical appraisal of the international parks in the region based on auto-financing principles and tested with contingent valuation and tax maximization techniques, such as Laffer’s curves, and leading to the development of new conservation models of financial self-sufficiency and a new formula for practical park management; 3. the critique of poaching by explaining and exposing food insecurities, especially deficient supplies of animal protein and associated malnutrition among the rural poor; 4. assessment of housing inadequacy among forest dwellers and its impact on forest regeneration and resources; 5. clarification of the impacts of timber logging by accessing detailed unpublished information from timber companies; 6. the introduction of survey-based valuation techniques as essential prerequisites to policy formulation and the sustainable management of forests; 7. proposing a flow chart that embraced the resources and stakeholders through the flow of market values and services for further exploration. Contrary to traditional beliefs; the results showed that both poor and wealthy households are equally dependent on forest resources for their livelihoods with no significant difference in consumed forest products between the 25% higher income earners and the 25% lower income households. Forests contribute over 57% of wage income in the region and forest-derived income is of a higher total value than any other source, including agriculture. Among forest foods, wild fruit and bushmeat are by far the most important. Therefore, the clearing of forests for agriculture or instituting conservation policies that completely keep local people away from forests will result in constrained access to resources of immense importance to local livelihoods. However, the findings contradict the commonly propagated views that timber harvesting in the region is directly responsible for deforestation, the loss of forest structure and biodiversity. It was shown that the harvesting of saplings and poles for housing may endanger forest regeneration and species composition of forests neighbouring the villages. The desired financing of national parks should be through internally generated revenues, requiring deliberate investments in facilities and infrastructure. The necessity to satisfy the basic needs of the forest-dependent people remains urgent. The complexity of man-to-forest relationships is beyond one study and needs to be further expanded on, in our quest to sustainable forest management based on participatory principles. Such management needs to provide for and be supported by various stakeholders including the local communities, state agencies, donors, NGOs, and commercial conglomerates. Moreover, the need to understand forest values beyond market principles is required in order to translate the concept of sustainable forest management from a theoretical concept in the Congo Basin to one that can reduce conflicts, deforestation, poverty and famine.
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