Value of ecosystem services and socio-economic factors that enhance community participation in forest management in Aberdare forest, Kenya



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Egerton University


Forest ecosystems have been a valuable source of economic wellbeing of human populationsfor centuries, particularly to the forest adjacent communities. The relationship between humanwellbeing and ecosystems consist of complex systems that are mostly nonlinear, uncertain andoften not clearly understood. To enhance forest sustainability, the deliberate evaluation ofecosystem services, human interactions and appropriate ways to involve the public inmanagement is imperative. However, little has been done to demonstrate how forest ecosystemservices and public participation could contribute to forest conservation and socio-economicdevelopment of forest-dependent communities. This study therefore evaluated forestecosystem services and socio-economic factors that influence community participation inforest management to enhance forest conservation while improving livelihoods. To achievethis objective, the study interviewed local communities bordering Aberdare forest ecosystem.The study was based on semi-structured questionnaires administered to a stratified randomsample of 202 households, six focus group discussions and benefit transfer method. The datawas analyzed using Chi square, Spearman’s rho correlation and regression analysis. Thefindings of this study showed that the net annual benefit of ecosystem services wasapproximately KES 36.8 (US$ 0.37) billion where regulating services constituted 98%. Thecommunities lost KES 172 (US$ 1.7) million annually to wildlife. The net annual return fromforest conservation was higher as the opportunity cost of forest land conversion wasapproximately KES 4.2 (US$ 0.04) billion. The significant factors included forest managementapproach (χ² = 17.551, p < 0.001), distance to the Forest Reserve (χ² = 29.071, p < 0.001),distance to the National Park (χ² = 27.303, p = 0.008), gender of household head (χ² = 10.719,p = 0.002), land tenure (χ² = 34.313, p < 0.001) and sources of income (χ² = 31.353, p < 0.001).Economic factors that included farm size, household size, annual income, land tenure, andimportance of the forest ecosystem were found to significantly influence the regression modelwith R2 being 0.703. It can be concluded that if only provisioning ecosystem services areconsidered, there is a net loss arising from conservation. Therefore, it is imperative to encashall the ecosystem services to decrease forest conversion and depletion based on economicforces. Further, increasing economic benefits to the community will positively influenceparticipatory forest management. This study recommends that to fully engage the communityin participatory forest management, there is need to consider their basic livelihood strategiesas well promote forest products availability on the farmlands to reduce pressure on the forestecosystems.