Effects of National Development and Conservation Strategies on Rural Livelihoods Around Makokou, Gabon

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Kovach, Alexis


Clark, Connie
Poulsen, John Randolph

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Balancing development and conservation is a struggle that all countries face, but is especially difficult in tropical, developing nations. Development activities in these nations often rely on extractive industries to diversify the economies and increase employment, while conservation activities aim to curb deforestation and protect biodiversity. Both activities can positively and negatively affect rural communities that depend upon forest resources to sustain their livelihoods. As extractive industries grow throughout the tropics, development and conservation increasingly collide. It is important, therefore, to identify the approaches that most effectively secure the objectives of each, while respecting and benefitting rural, forest-dependent communities. This study seeks to compare and contrast the effects of development and conservation activities on the livelihoods of rural communities in Gabon, a tropical nation committed to balancing development with conservation, and to help guide decision-makers in the development of socially just and effective approaches. The primary development activities in Gabon consist of logging and industrial agriculture, while conservation efforts are focused around national parks. To determine the effect of these activities on rural communities, I conducted a household level livelihood and perception survey in 135 households in 15 villages around the city of Makokou, Gabon. I collected information on demography, health, social capital, natural resource use and consumption, asset wealth, and income as well as perceptions towards each development and conservation activity. Overall, I found that park households had few employment opportunities and were not able to supplement their income with hunting because hunting pressure from Makokou depleted the resource base and because of small hunting territories limited in size by their proximity to park borders. I found that logging concessions positively affected local livelihoods because they provide both direct employment and the opportunity to supplement income through the commercialization of bushmeat. I also found that industrial agriculture provided significant employment opportunities and seemed to be limiting household level natural resource exploitation. All activities, however, are not making significant strides towards meeting conservation goals. These results highlight the importance of integrating development and conservation activities to secure the livelihoods of rural communities and the viability of species and ecosystems.





Kovach, Alexis (2017). Effects of National Development and Conservation Strategies on Rural Livelihoods Around Makokou, Gabon. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/14208.

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.