An examination of the residents' perceptions of impacts of nature based tourism on community livelihoods and conservation : case study of Chiawa Game Management Area, Zambia.
Nature-based tourism is centered on the idea that local communities living within and around protected areas should derive benefits from nature resources. Likewise nature resources will simultaneously benefit from their interaction because the community will develop an understanding and appreciate the importance of conserving nature through various benefits derived. The research focus was on assessing the perception of residents of Chiawa, Zambia, regarding the benefits derived from nature-based tourism. This is the first study of this nature to be conducted in Chiawa. The overall aim of the research study was to examine the perceptions of the Chiawa community of the impacts of nature based tourism and its implications on the livelihood of the Chiawa residents and on the conservation of nature, upon which tourism is anchored. The three specific objectives were:- 1. To examine the perceptions of the community on economic impacts of nature based tourism on the livelihood of Chiawa Community. 2. To examine the perceptions of the community of the effects of nature based tourism benefits on support towards conservation of nature in Chiawa and Lower Zambezi National Park. 3. To examine perceptions on nature and extent of constraints limiting household participation in nature-based tourism. Various research methods were used to address the objectives of this study. These methods included quantitative and qualitative research techniques. Structured questionnaires with multiple choice type answers were administered to households and safari operators to collect data. These techniques were complemented with five focus group meetings conducted in village action groups (VAGs) of Chiawa GMA, and both participant and direct observation techniques were used during household surveys. The elements of analysis of the study looked at various factors that influence the perception of households on tourism benefits and conservation efforts by the community. Elements such as tribe, gender, education, length of stay, age and spatial distribution were analyzed. Elements of analysis from tour operators looked at business types, types of benefits filtering to the community through employment and community projects. It was established during the course of the research that both positive and negative perceptions on the impacts of nature-based tourism on residents of Chiawa GMA exist. However, the few residents who derived benefits from nature based tourism operations were positive and the rest were negative. The perceptions of the respondents on support towards conservation are above average. The study found that the most significant silent factor that may influence negative attitudes or perceptions is high levels of human – wildlife conflicts. This is not surprising considering that farming is the major livelihood strategy for most households. Demographic variables were not found to be useful predictors of perception responses. Several factors were established as limiting to household participation in nature based tourism, these established factors included, lack of working and start up capital, lack of understanding of nature based tourism business, lack of interest and lack of support from tourism agencies.
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