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Community’s attitude towards conservation programs in rural protected areas

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May 1, 2017 by Species Ecology

Literature review on reasons and factors behind community’s attitude towards conservation programs in rural protected areas

Karlina Indraswari

Considering the perception, opinions, attitudes and aspiration of a community has shown to be an important factor in determining the success of a conservation program in rural villages located near global vital forested areas. These conservation programs often focus on conserving forests, wildlife, carbon and in general, the environment. By considering the voice, hopes and worries of communities, project developers may know what to focus on, and how it Is best to approach a community when designing a project.

To understand further about the community’s perception, their attitude and factors that influence these perception and attitudes, I did a short literature review from 27 published articles that talked about the same topic. I searched literature by using search engines, such as www.scopus.com and www.webofknowledge.com. I searched for articles using keywords such as “attitude”, “perception”, “conservation” and other related words. Articles I took were from different regions in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. I focused mainly on conservation or forest protection programs which are in tropical regions and has the final goal to support the preservation of a forest, either through establishment of protected areas, establishment of community management forests, establishment of wildlife protection areas, establishment of REDD interventions, or establishment of ecotourism with objective of environment preservation.

From the result of my review, I wanted to find out in detail about the reason behind positive or negative attitudes of a community. Positive attitudes are attitudes of villagers and/or communities that support conservation programs, while negative attitudes show rejection of conservation programs. I wanted to know why communities would they accept a program and reject another?

  1. The highest scoring reasons behind positive attitudes towards conservation are as follows (in ranking order):

  1. Villagers/ communities perceive that the conservation program is beneficial due to the benefit received from the program

The highest-ranking reason for a positive attitude from communities is that communities obtain a benefit from the program. Benefits obtained from a program may vary, it may be in the form of a financial benefit, distribution of food, distribution of land, and many more.

  1. Villagers/ communities perceive that this conservation program is needed for natural resource conservation

Communities that support conservation programs may be positive because they feel that it will cause betterments for their natural resources. They often realize that their source of resources (which is often forest) is not always sustainable. There are occasional fears that the supply may run out or be threatened if not preserved well. They believe that conservation programs are very beneficial because they help conserve the source of their livelihood, and thus further supporting the programs.

  1. Villagers/ communities perceive that the role of management of this conservation program has made community

  2. the program is run by the help of a government agency or even a non-profit organization which works in the area. People who work to promote conservation projects will from now on be called a proponent. If the proponent listens to people’s a el that this program is important

The third highest reason that communities support conservation programs is the work of the people who manage the program. Often spirations, and if the proponent includes the community in either the designing or implementation the program, (or both) the community often feels supported and will in turn support the program.

  1. Villagers/ communities perceive that the presence of tourism from this program has made community feel that conserving the area is important

Tourism is often considered as an important aspect of a positive attitude. Tourism is often related with benefit obtained from tourists. Interaction with outsiders and money obtained from profit of tourism is seen as an extra source of income and is beneficial.

  1. Villagers/ communities perceive that the increased awareness from program/protection has made community feel that conserving the area is important

Communities find the conservation program to be beneficial because it increases community awareness. Community become more understanding about the environmental changes that happen around them, and what should be done to save the forests and environment around them. As a result, they get involved in conservation activities. They often feel thankful towards the proponent for the increase of this awareness.

  1. Negative attitudes

  1. The presence of program/protection has caused prohibition of exploitation/access

Prohibition of access is the highest-ranking reason for a dislike or negative attitude towards a conservation program. Often conservation program causes a previously free accessed forested area, into a protected area with limitation or even prohibition in access. The reason of this boundary creation is so that forested areas can be preserved and not cut, encroached or even burned, activities which are often done by surrounding communities in forested areas. This however, causes high retaliation because these forest areas are the main source of livelihood activities of the community. They have survived generation after generation being dependent on the forest. A sudden halt to their activities means loss of a livelihood, including loss of income source and activity source.

  1. The presence of program/protection has caused crop damage

A conservation program often creates increased boundaries and limitation in forest encroaching and hunting. The increased protection and reduction in hunting is thought by communities to cause an increase in the number of crop-damaging wildlife (e.g : wild boar, monkeys). The increase worries and anger communities because it also causes increase in crop damage.

  1. There is a lack of community participation in intervention activities and/or decision making

Communities are often not supportive of programs which are one-sided, meaning it is designed and implemented by the proponent only, communities often are not asked for consents and have no say in its implementation and can only receive its impacts. These programs which do not have community participating in them often receive negative attitudes.

  1. There is a lack of benefit received

Often conservation programs have benefits which they prepare for communities to encourage participation. However these benefits are not seen to overweigh the loss received. It is rather seens as very little beneficial compared to the loss experienced. This causes negative attitudes.

  1. The program/protection has caused conflict

The presence of the program and the proponent has caused differences in community opinions and thus leading to conflict. Community often perceives that the proponent and the program is the cause of increased tension and conflicts, and thus causes negative attitudes.

After knowing the reason behind acceptance or rejection, I wanted to know more in depth about the factors which influence positive or negative attitude. I wanted to know more what causes a positive attitude, what causes a negative. Do certain factors play a more prominent role? For example, is a person is wealthier, will they be more accepting to conservation programs than those which have less wealth? From my review of the same 27 articles, I found out that the most important factors which determine a person’s or a community’s attitude were (in ranking order) :

  1. Education was the highest-ranking factor. It was found to be a factor in 14 out of 27 studies and it has positive influences towards a person’s perspective on conservation. How does education play as a factor? I found that the higher the education of a person, the more the person is willing to support conservation/forest protection programs. People with higher education tend to have a higher environmental awareness, they realize more that protection or access restriction of an area is done to, none other than, preserve it, so in turn it can still be used and enjoyed in future generations. People with lower education however, do not have that high environmental awareness. These people often assume that the protection does nothing but limit their access to the forest and further cause their inability to encroach, log, or harvest forest products. They often feel that their freedom to take what they can from the forest has been taken away from them and they will protest.

Another interesting aspect to look at, is that the increase in a persons, also often a community’s education is done proponents that have programs that include environmental awareness information dissemination and even at times, environmental education. The more active a proponent is in their activities, often the higher the education level of a community increases. People or communities who have low environmental awareness are often those who have little education intervention from proponents, or those who are directly engaged in forest degrading activities and have antipathy for conservation projects/programs.

  1. Benefit. The amount of benefit (mostly financial benefit) which is received by a person and/or a community was a second highest factor influencing perception and attitude. Benefit was found to influence perception and attitude in 11 out of 27 studies (8.3%). 9 studies stated a positive influence, (the more benefit received in a community causing a more positive attitude and perception), while 1 study stated a negative influence (the more benefit received the more negative the perception/attitude). The negative influence was mainly due to the lack of benefit received or the poor distribution of benefit to communities, resulting in community being dissatisfied of how the proponent manages the distribution (Shrestha, R. K., & Alavalapati, J. R. R. , 2006).

  2. The amount of a person’s wealth (or income) is the 3rd most influencing factor. I found a total of 8 studies that mentioned the influence of a persons wealth towards their attitude. From the 8 studies, I found 5 studies that mentioned that wealth had a negative influence. This number is higher than the positive influence. How does wealth give a negative influence? Well, in villages areas, often wealth is associated with owned land, plantations, farms, or even owned parts of the forest. These mentioned lands which are owned by wealthy people, are also often located inside a vulnerable forested area. When conservation programs enters villages, they often promote limitation of access to these forested areas, at times even in the form of new establishment of protected area boundaries which includes the land owned by these wealthy people. This causes tenure issues and conflict, when the wealthy people feel that their land, and source of income is being taken from them. Conservation programs cause these wealthy people to have “more to lose”. People who don’t have as much land, has “less” or even “nothing to lose”.

Another case example is when an establishment of protected forest areas do not have conflict with these people’s land, however the protected area has caused limitation, or even prohibition in forest access, hunting and encroachment and preservation of wildlife habitat. When wildlife habitat is protected and the ban for encroaching and hunting is present, wildlife which live adjacent to the village often enter the village and damage crop. The increase in crop damage further causes a reduction in income and wealth, and loss for people with wealth.

On the other hand, I also found 3 studies mentioned that wealth gives a positive influence towards a persons attitude, which means the more the wealth a person has, the more positive attitude a person tends to have on conservation. IN these cases, the wealthy people do not have conflicts due to the little or even no land conflicts. Wildlife also often do not enter village and raid crops. The presence of conservation programs rather benefit these people in the studies because they also receive benefit from programs.

If one were to conclude what makes a conservation program successful, and what to avoid, one may consider the following :

  1. make sure to give villagers/communities good education to increase their environmental awareness and further realize the importance of conservation. This will help in them understanding the reason behind protecting an area

  2. Make sure to give adequate benefit to villagers/communities, to feel like they have gained something from the program

  3. Make sure to have good management and community engagement, make sure the villagers are involved

  4. Try to minimize crop damage and limitation of access while also promoting conservation.

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