The values rural households attach to forest resources and their participation in community-based forest management : the case of three communities in KwaZulu-Natal.
Community-based forest management (CBFM) offers a better strategy for controlling forest resource degradation while at the same time benefiting local communities. With few exceptions, CBFM had been largely neglected in South Africa in the past. Lately, community forestry has, however, gained impetus through changes in the programs of the Department of Water and Forestry. Despite such efforts, a preliminary survey in some districts of KwaZulu-Natal showed that only a small proportion of households were participating in CBFM. The reason behind the lack of household participation could be that the objectives of most CBFM programs were not in line with the values rural communities attach to forest resources. Some authors have recommended that understanding the values households attach to forest resources is crucial for framing strategies on implementing CBFM. This study, therefore, investigates the values households in KwaSobabili, New Reserve B and Gudwini rural communities of KwaZulu-Natal, in aggregate, attach to forest resources and the factors influencing households to participate in CBFM. The social choice approach was used to measure the values households attach to forest resources. Hundred and fifty-one (151) household heads were asked to give scores of relative importance to 21 forest products and services on a 5-point Likert scale. Principal Component Analysis was used to generate composite indices or factors representing the values households attach to forest products and services. Ordinary Least Squares regression was then employed to determine the factors influencing such valuation of forests. The Multinomial Logit model was used to estimate the determinants of household position/status on participation in CBFM. The results showed that households in the three communities, on aggregate, overwhelmingly attach anthropocentric values to forest products and services. This was interpreted to be due to the high levels of household poverty that is rampant among many rural households of South Africa. However, in addition to the anthropocentric values, rural households also attach cultural/moral/spiritual and non-use/option values to forests. No differences existed across the three communities in terms of the anthropocentric and cultural values households attach to forest. However, households in Gudwini (who were managing a natural forest) significantly attached more non-use/option values to forest. This was attributed to the fact that households in this community believed that the natural forests were their heritage and were obliged to pass them to their future generations. It was also found that the anthropocentric and cultural/moral/spiritual values households attach to forest resources influence the decision to participate in CBFM programs. Other socio-economic factors (especially those that influence household‟s dependency on forests and the opportunity cost of their time in managing those forests) such as gender of household head, household size, levels of household income, total amount of social grants, perception of forest degradation, access to electricity, and distance to the forests have also been found to influence the household‟s decision to participate in CBFM. The study recommended that, since poorer societies have more materialistic orientation towards forests, CBFM programs should target poverty alleviation/income generation as the central theme to enhance participation in CBFM. Moreover, local people who depend more on forests and those with a lower opportunity cost of their time in managing forests could be targeted to ensure sustainable CBFM programs.
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