Assessing consumer demand and economic value of non-timber forest products in Kakamega forest, Kenya
Kiplagat, Andrew Kipkosgey
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Forests play a very important role in socio-economic and cultural development of any nation, Kenya being no exception. Of major concern to this study was the economic role Kakamega forest plays in the economy of rural households. Forests are a source of non timber products (NTFPs) such as firewood, herbal medicine, pasture, thatch, fruit, and vegetables for local communities. Because rural households largely depend on NTFPs for sustenance of livelihoods, it was important that household consumption patterns be understood so as to predict how trends may evolve in future with respect to conservation. It was also important to quantify and impute value to NTFPs consumed by households in order to establish how much forest resources contribute to rural household economies. This study analyzes the demand structure for NTFPs among rural households around Kakamega forest and quantifies their consumption. The economic value of NTFPs is also estimated using three methods: direct pricing, cost of collection and substitutes' approach. A consumer demand model, Almost Ideal Demand System (AIDS), is used to analyze household demand for NTFPs and predict its determinants. A random sample of 201 households was interviewed during the period of OctoberDecember 2006. Data collected include household characteristics, sources of NTFPs, quantities consumed per day, frequency of NTFPs extraction for household consumption, substitutes of NTFPs, unit prices and quantities consumed daily. In addition, data on distances and time taken to the forest, household value of time and forest management regimes were collected using structured questionnaires and interview schedules. The data was then sorted, coded and analyzed descriptively using a statistical package for social scientists (SPSS) to generate summaries in form of means, tables and graphs. Regression analysis on the demand model that had earlier been specified was also carried out with the aid of STATA computer package to determine factors that had significant influence on household demand for firewood. Results. highlighted important factors that influence the demand for firewood by the communities neighbouring the forest. In addition, results show the extent of dependence of NTFPs that include firewood, livestock grazing, medicinal plants and thatch grass. Main substitutes for the mentioned NTFPs included charcoal, napier, conventional hospital medicine and iron sheets respectively. Estimates from demand analysis indicated that age of household heads, participation in conservation awareness activities and sizes of household farms influenced demand for firewood. Comparison of NTFPs value estimates revealed that the substitutes approach had the highest value followed by cost of collection, and direct pricing approach the least. It was concluded that Kakamega forest contributes immensely to rural household economies. Several recommendations with policy implications are made to promote sustainable management of forest resources and the attainment of the Vision 2030 than seeks to improve conservation of forest resources and the incorporation of forest contribution particularly by NTFPs to the mainstream economy.
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