Opportunities and challenges of community-based forest resources conservation in Naro Moru ecosystem, Mount Kenya
Gathima, Veronica Ngima
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In spite of its significant role in soil and water conservation, production of wood and non-wood products, carbon sequestration, conservation of biodiversity and social benefits, the status of Mount Kenya forest ecosystem has deteriorated due to unsustainable exploitation. Most interventions aimed at forest management in the area have tended to ignore the participation of local communities, despite their significant role, towards the sustainability of forests. This study investigated opportunities and challenges towards community-based forest conservation. The area of study Naro Moru forest,Mt Kenya was chosen, purposively, due to the serious threats facing the forest ecosystem. The target population was the communities living adjacent to the forest. At least 30 respondents were randomly selected from four villages neighbouring the forest, giving a sample size of 120. Specific tools used in data collection were questionnaires, key informant interviews, focus group discussions and transect survey. Data collected was both quantitative and qualitative in nature and was analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics. The results from this study indicated that community involvement in forest conservation is inadequate. The major forest conservation activity in which the community was involved was agro-forestry (40%). Up to 87% of the respondents stated that the community has the capacity to manage the forest resources. Supply of heating and cooking fuel was the major use of the forest by the local community, and all the respondents interviewed used the forest for this purpose. Most farmers (71%) strongly agreed that the shamba system was vital in availing forest resources like wood and land for agriculture to the community and recommended for its reinstatement by the government. Community members in conservation groups were more likely to be involved in forest conservation activities such as management meetings (r=0.54, p=0.01, n=120) and reforestation (r=0.55, p=0.01, n=120). More educated respondents were less likely to be involved in forest conservation (r=-0.22, p=0.05, n=120). The greatest hindrance to community participation in forest resource conservation was government control over the use of forest resources as cited by 33% of the respondents. Policy interventions in forest management should be aimed at improving community participation in conservation activities, reducing forest ecosystem degradation, and improving community wellbeing.