Local Community Values and Perceptions of Natural Resource Management in Northeast Gabon

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2017-04-28

Authors

Hamilton, Nina

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Abstract

Conservation and development activities could positively or negatively affect communities dependent upon natural resources to sustain their livelihoods. Yet, community values and priorities are often not considered in landscape-level management decisions. This study pilots the use of value mapping as a means of documenting the importance of forest resources for rural communities living in multi-use forests in northeastern Gabon. Community mapping with a resource prioritization activity, in which participants distribute tokens across the map to score resources by their importance to local livelihoods, was conducted in 10 villages to assess local values and perceived threats to natural resources, and identify potential solutions to address local concerns. Perceptions of forest access and community forests as a community-based environmental management approach were also investigated through surveys and key informant interviews. Findings suggest that crops are the most highly valued resource and communities value a wide range of forest resources. There are significant differences in how men and women value natural resources, closely linked to the traditional roles that each gender plays in natural resource use. Community members identified forests elephants and logging operations as the greatest threats to resources, but put the onus of designing and implementing solutions on the State. Despite an overall positive perception of forest access, satisfaction with forest access increased with distance to the national park. There was widespread awareness among village chiefs about the benefits of community forests for forest protection and community development. However, there remain significant barriers to the establishment of community forests, including the lack of village scale community organizing and technical assistance. To integrate local communities into the decision-making process regarding access rights to natural resources, I recommend prioritizing: (1) mitigation of crop raiding with transition to intensified agriculture, (2) work with forestry operators and NGOs to improve local perceptions of industrial logging operations and promote community forestry, and (3) implement a decentralized approach for communities to access information on and participate in regional land-use decisions. These steps would likely mitigate tension that could derail national conservation and development goals, while promoting strategies that are compatible with both local and national interests.

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Hamilton, Nina (2017). Local Community Values and Perceptions of Natural Resource Management in Northeast Gabon. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/14172.


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