Willingness to pay for environmental conservation: a contingent valuation analysis of the communities living around the Queen Elizabeth Protected Area in Kasese District, Western Uganda
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National Parks and the environment as a whole provide many services that contribute to human wellbeing and poverty alleviation to the extent that some groups of people particularly those that live around them are highly dependent on services provided by these sites and are directly harmed by their degradation. Benefits include increased revenues to government, employment and a better environment, improving living standards for the population and the fragile flora and fauna also benefit, since more conservation is used to protect endangered species. However, in trying to value these benefits to the community, traditional market based methods do not adequately value them, owing to the fact that much local resource use takes place at the subsistence level, outside formal market systems. This has practical policy implications not only in placing environmental protection firmly on the agenda of economic planners and decision makers, but also make a strong case for increased investment in environmentally protected areas in the interest of sustainable economic development and social equity. In this study, we use Contingent Valuation Method to elicit willingness to pay for environmental conservation. We also estimate the costs of the Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP) to the surrounding community, A total of 129 households were included in the survey and respondents were subjected to an elicitation questionnaire that presents an environmentally destructive scenario, and the costs to them that come with it if they were Willing to Pay to avoid those costs. A Random Utility Model is used and a Probit regression adopted. The effects of household socio-economic characteristics that affect individual WTP decisions are also analyzed using probit analysis The results indicate that at least 56 per cent of the people are willing to contribute to environmental conservation programs with an estimated Total WTP amounting toUS$97,180.54. However the social cost due to existence of the QENP on the adjacent community was estimated at US$61,644. We also find that distance from national park and amount to contribute (bid/start price) were significant determinants of willingness to pay. From the policy perspective, these findings are fundamental and point to certain policy implications that include co-management practices in environmental protection, community mobilization and education, enhanced incentives to the community to appreciate the benefits from the environment particularly the national park, and strengthening monitoring and problem animal management (PAM) systems, to allow for coexistence of the national park and the community.