Dynamics of conflict in decentralised forest management in Mount Kenya forest
Wairuri, Stephen Chege
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Many developing countries have been decentralizing some aspects of natural resource management. Governments justify decentralization as a means of increasing access, use, management, and decision making on natural resources. In Kenya, decentralisation points to conflict resolution whether explicitly or implicitly. However, the questions of to what degree and in what ways decentralization affect conflict in management of natural resources in Kenya have largely been overlooked. Thus, the main focus of this study was to analyse the role of forest decentralization reforms in influencing conflict in management of forest resources in Kenya, with a focus on Mount Kenya forest. A case study approach was employed. A sample size of 375 respondents was used. The study was guided by a conceptual framework derived from Walker and Daniels Conflict Process Triangle. Data was gathered using a constellation of social science research instruments which include household questionnaire, Focus Group Discussions, Key Informant Interview and documents analysis. Data analysis of interview scripts and field notes was based on an inductive approach geared to identifying patterns in the data by means of thematic codes. Questionnaire data was subjected to quantitative analysis using SPSS Version 20.0. Results showed that decentralisation altered the substantive, procedural and relational permutations in Mount Kenya Forest. Consequently, after decentralisation of forest management, conflicts in Mount Kenya forest has reduced. Conflict scores were significantly higher for the period before decentralization of forest management (M = 29.7, SD = 5.6) than for the period after decentralization (M = 25.0, SD = 5.0), t(375) = 14.6, p<0.05. Variant legal frameworks have given traction to macro-macro conflicts. Impacts of conflicts before and after decentralisation were experienced more significantly by women. Fear, disharmony, distrust and delay in accessing forest benefits were cited as the most important impacts of conflict after decentralisation of forest management. The study found that access to the forest declined after decentralisation in Mount Kenya forest. The mean score for access/use before decentralization (M = 19.14, SD = 5.90) was significantly higher than for the period after decentralization (M = 17.82, SD = 7.58), t (375) = 3.528, p<0.000. Forest User Group members have more access to forest benefits than non-members. The study found there is poor enforcement of law relating to authorised firewood loads and livestock grazing. The study found that reliance on forcing and avoiding conflict management styles decreased after decentralisation. The use of accommodating, compromising and collaborating conflict management styles increased significantly after decentralisation. It can be concluded that decentralisation has achieved one of its objectives which is reduction of destructive conflict. The study concludes that decentralisation under the current legal regime is more of “deconcentration” rather than “devolution” (democratic decentralisation) considering that Kenya Forest Service (KFS) has the final say on the fate of Forest Management Plans and Forest Management Agreements. Laxity in enforcement of law will continue to undermine sustainable forest management. It is recommended that KFS and Community Forest Associations consults widely before reaching certain decisions on the forest. There is need to audit the conflicting sections of different laws and amend them to avert macro-macro conflicts. Lastly, the Forest Act amendment should give timelines within which Forest Management Plans and Agreements should be adopted and signed respectively. An amendment of the Act should also add a clause to protect Forest Management Plans and Agreements them from arbitrary decisions by KFS.