Role of non-timber forest products extraction on community livelihood and its effect on Kakamega Forest Biodiversity
Mwendwa, Patrick Mwanzia
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The extraction of non timber forest products has gained acceptance as an alternative forest management strategy that is sustainable as it provides substantial economic benefits to local community whilst conserving biodiversity. Kakamega forest is a case in point as the local people extract non timber forest products from the forest for their livelihood and as advancement to forest conservation. Given this mutual relationship, investigating the extent of success of the extractive forestry in rural development and conservation is a crucial issue. The objectives were to determine the types and utilization of non timber forest products extracted by households around Kakamega forest, to compare plant abundance and species diversity between Kakamega forest blocks under different protection regime and to examine the socio-economic livelihood status of communities living in the neighbourhood of Kakamega forest. This study has been conceptualized through a research framework focused on recurrent belief that extraction of non timber forest products improves peoples’ livelihoods and help in conserving forest resources. The research used mixed methods that involved both quantitative and qualitative approaches, including questionnaire survey, ecological survey, key informant interviews, focus group discussions and field observations. Quantitative data were subjected to descriptive statistics, statistical tests and ecological indices calculations, while qualitative data were content analyzed. The study results indicated that the neighbourhood community utilized thirteen types of non timber forest products for both subsistence and commercial purpose with firewood being most extracted. Noteworthy, too, is that female household members did most of extractions for their households and that most of the time the extraction was on weekly basis. The results also established that non timber forest products extraction was accelerating plant resource depletion with significant reduction in plant density and species abundance in the forest by 4.74±8.29 plant species, P<0.05. Moreover, the extraction affected regeneration and ultimate abundance of plant species. Kakamega forest neighbourhood community depended on diverse sources of income for their households’ livelihood that included income from agricultural production, wage employment, off-farm businesses and forest resource extraction. The study confirmed that forest based income contributed the most to the total household income with 36% income share. Therefore, for each Kenya shilling gained from forest income there was Ksh 1.021 increase in the total household income. Consequently, households that depended more on the forest were also more well up in terms of total household income. However, forest dependence contributed to income inequality and high poverty incidences in the study area. Overall, the research findings indicated that there was overdependence on kakamega forest by the neighbourhood community that had caused localized poverty and degradation of resource base and thus interventions were necessary in order to meet development and conservation objectives. Some of the key interventions include review of current managent plan based on latest research findings, effectively enforcing managemet policy, control of population growth, expansion of livelihood opportunities and provision of alternative source of energy in the study area.