The effects of ecotourism on community livelihoods and natural resources use in Kanjiado district, Kenya
Ndege, Winfred Wambui
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This study examines the effects of ecotourism on community livelihoods and natural resources use in Loitokitok Division, Kajiado District. The analysis is based on benefits; both direct and indirect accrued from ecotourism, change of resources use from consumptive to non-consumptive ways, effects on frequency of human-wildlife conflict incidences as well as response of the community to these incidences. Data for analysis were collected from a sample of 40 members of the community through questionnaire method. In addition, one member each from the institutions involved in ecotourism (AWF, KWS and Porini Ecotourism Company) in the area was interviewed. Direct observation and secondary data were also used to collect data. The Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) was used for data processing and analysis. The Chi-square test was used to determine if the differences in variables was statistically significant. The results from the analysis revealed that with the introduction of ecotourism in the study area members of the community did not only utilise the natural resources in consumptive ways such as for game meat, but also they utilize in non-consumptive ways such as viewing. There was a significant difference (P <_ 0.05) in the use of natural resources before and after ecotourism. The results also show that ecotourism has influenced the community's livelihood through benefits accrued from ecotourism. This has been possible through participation of the members in ecotourism either directly or indirectly. The findings however reveal that there is no significance difference (P<_ 0.05) in the level of participation by all members of the community. Some community members work in the ecolodge as waiters while others sell their souvenirs to the tourists. The conclusion that emerges is that though the community still utilises the natural resources in consumptive ways, ecotourism has enabled the members to use the same resources in a non-consumptive manner for the benefit of all. This in return illustrates that ecotourism is a sustainable land use option. The income accrued from ecotourism has played a role in boosting the economic status of the community, hence improving their livelihood. This has also been achieved through offering employment opportunities and financing the community's projects such as schools and water holes. The main recommendation is that ecotourism should be enhanced in areas in the vicinity of protected areas such as national parks more so in the rangelands or arid and semi-arid lands where livelihood options tend to be limited. This is because these communities experience losses and costs through attack and damage on lives and property from the wild animals. Indeed, wildlife does not recognize boundaries and most of it is outside the parks. Through ecotourism, the community will experience benefits from these resources and hence will in return conserve and manage these resources in sustainably. Ecotourism is therefore, a sustainable conservation strategy.