Factors Determining Household Membership to Community Forest Association for Participation in Management of Upper Imenti Forest, Meru County, Kenya
Musyoki1, Josephine Kamene
Ming’ate, Felix Lamech Mogambi
Muriithi, Joseph Kariuki
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Participatory Forest Management in Kenya was commenced in 1997 with the main objective being the improvement of forest conditions and enhancement of livelihoods for forest adjacent communities. This study was conducted in Upper Imenti Forest where PFM is implemented by Meru Forest and Environmental Conservation and Protection Association (MEFECAP) which got registered in 2006 as a Community Forest Association (CFA). Identification of factors affecting household membership to the CFA was considered important in this study because it will provide the information required by policymakers to develop strategies for promoting sustainable community participation in forest management for increased forest cover and improved forest conditions for sustainable forest productivity. A total of 384 participants were selected randomly from villages surrounding nine beats of the forest and stratified into two groups namely PFM and Non-PFM participants. Quantitative data was collected through a household survey using a semi-structured questionnaire. Qualitative data was collected using interview schedules and focus group discussions among key informants selected through snowballing. Factors determining household membership to CFA were identified using chi-square values obtained through analysis of quantitative data using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 25. The CFA officials indicated a positive trend in CFA membership associated with the support provided by Upper Tana and Nature Kenya to start eco-tourism projects within the forest. Factors determining CFA membership were identified as: age (F = 13.035, p = 0.000); household size (F = 10.472, p = 0.001); total income (F = 43.564, p = 0.000) and total accessible land (F = 10.730, p = 0.001). PFM participation in Upper Imenti Forest was noted to be gender indiscriminative and it was not influenced by the marital or education status of the household head. It was however noted that by the end of June 2020, MEFECAP had 1943 registered members from the 9 beats of Upper Imenti Forest with 62.5% (1215) being women. It was also found that for CFA members, gender was a significant determinant in choice of user group membership at a 5% significance level (t = 5.635, p = 0.02) with the firewood collection user group having the highest number of members (858) with 98.8% of them being women. For tree nursery, grazing, grass cutting, beekeeping and ballast, the majority of the members were male gender. Hindrances to CFA membership for non-members including inadequate information about PFM and CFA, poor CFA management, lack of a legal benefit sharing mechanism and lack of a conflict resolution mechanism among others need to be addressed. The study further recommends that the participation of youth is encouraged and that all efforts be made to increase income generation through participation in PFM for sustainable community involvement in PFM implementation through CFA membership.