Nature conservation in a tropical rainforest

Abstract: The loss of tropical forests has led to establishment of protected areas such as national parks to conserve environment. National parks often affect the livelihoods of local people, especially when they are strongly linked to natural resources. For conservation efforts in a national park to be efficient, cooperation of local people is required. This thesis focuses on valuations of conservation regimes, ecotourism and conservation held by local people, and on the contribution of national park and non-timber forest products to their livelihoods. The data originated from personal interviews in local communities around the Okwangwo Division of the Cross River National Park in Nigeria. In Paper I, the contribution of the Okwangwo Division to development of local communities was examined. The results showed that local people who reside around the park benefit from different types of infrastructure, employment and income from tourism. Some of the development projects undertaken by the park authorities appear to be capital intensive both in the short and long term, and risk becoming unsustainable. A choice experiment approach was applied in Paper II to elicit the preferences held by local people for different nature conservation regimes. The results showed that most of the respondents preferred the nature conservation regime that would give them more access to infrastructure. Paper III reports a study regarding willingness to conserve a leafy vegetable (afang) important for communities in the vicinity of the Okwangwo Division, using data from a contingent valuation approach. The findings showed that local people have a willingness to conserve the afang. However, since conservation of afang would entail costs to landholders, there is a need for incentives to encourage them. Data from the contingent valuation approach was also used in Paper IV to examine the willingness of local communities to contribute to ecotourism. The results revealed that most of the respondents were willing to contribute money for an ecotourism project associated with the Okwangwo Division. The findings also suggest that impacts of ecotourism on the traditions of local people should be considered when designing an ecotourism project. The income that local people around the Okwangwo Division derive from sale of non-timber forest products (NTFP) was assessed in Paper V. The results showed that NTFP play an important role in livelihoods of the local people. The results suggested that a shift from primarily subsistence to more of a cash economy may lead to an unsustainable exploitation of the products.

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