Opportunities and constrainsts towards sustainable ecotourism development in Kenya's rangelands: the case of Il Ngwesi communal Ranch and sweetwaters Game Sanctuary, Kenya
Mwakima, Margaret Wawuda
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Rangelands constitute about 80% of the land surface in Kenya. They are mainly used as pasture for both livestock and wildlife. The presence of wildlife has led to the development of several ecotourism enterprises such as 11 Ngwesi Communal Ranch and Sweetwaters Game Sanctuary in the Laikipia Ecosystem. Here as the presence of ecotourism activities in the rangelands is considered an economic success, overall benefits to the local communities are questionable. Thus there is need to establish the linkage between economic benefits accruing to local communities and natural resource management. This study, therefore, assesses opportunities and constraints towards attaining sustainable ecotourism in 11 Ngwesi Communal Ranch and Sweetwaters Game Sanctuary in order to determine whether it is better achieved through privately owned or community based enterprises. Household surveys, informal interviews and observations were the main primary data collection methods. Secondary data was obtained from documented and un-documented literature such as government and non-governmental organization reports, bulletins, articles, institutional brochures, academic journals, specialized magazines and the internet. Data analysis was performed using both descriptive (Percentages, means, standard deviation) and inferential (t-test, and x2-square test) statistics. Quantitative data was processed and presented using figures and tables. This was achieved through the use of the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) software and Microsoft Excel spreadsheet while, the respondent's perceptions were measured using a 5-point Lickert type of scale. Results from the attitudinal scale in both study areas indicate that ecotourism through wildlife activities contributed significantly to the well being of the local communities (2.17) in general as well as to specific individuals (3.91). These economic benefits to the local communities instill a positive response towards natural resource management, hence the sustainability of ecotourism in rangelands. This was more evident in It Ngwesi Communal Ranch compared to Sweetwaters Game Sanctuary. In It Ngwesi, 96% of the respondents indicated that there was equitable distribution of income from ecotourism activities; while in Sweetwaters 48.5% cited that there was a lop-sided trend in this distribution. Despite the presence of human wildlife conflicts in the two study areas, 98% of the respondents felt that the benefits received from wildlife far outweighed the losses caused by wildlife (1.89) and that these benefits had led them to appreciate wildlife better (1.46). The respondents' support of ecotourism development and natural resource management in Il Ngwesi Communal ranch relative to Sweetwaters game Sanctuary was found to be significant at (x2°65.14; df = 1; P<0.05). This means that ecotourism is more likely to be sustainable in communally owned ecotourism enterprises than those are that are privately owned. On the whole, this study has underscored the value of community participation in ecotourism activities as a prerequisite for improved natural resource management in the rangelands. In order to encourage this participation, the study recommends increased government and private sector support for the local communities. In addition, there is need for improvement of infrastructure, regularising of the land tenure system, provision of capital and increased capacity building for the communities in Kenya's rangelands.