Attitudes of local communities towards protected areas without tourism incentives: A case study of Ajai Wildlife Reserve, Arua District.
Atuzuyo, Heather Comfort
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Approaches to the management of protected areas that involve the participation of local communities are now being widely promoted by conservationists. This is because conservationists view local peoples' support for protected areas management as an important element of biodiversity conservation. Local people’s support has often been linked to the direct benefits communities get from the protected areas. These benefits are in form of biomass resources, protected area funds allocated to local villages by state agencies and revenue from wildlife tourism. There are however some protected areas especially remote ones that offer no or limited opportunities in terms of direct incentives accruing from tourism. It is not well understood whether there is local support for such conservation areas. Ajai Wildlife Reserve is one such remote conservation area where there is no contact with or benefits derived from tourism by local communities as there are no tourism incentives. This study therefore, sought to assess attitudes of the local communities towards Ajai Wildlife Reserve, and establish the costs and benefits of conservation to the local communities. Semi-structured interviews with households (n=70) were conducted in six villages adjacent to Ajai Wildlife Reserve and with 10 Uganda Wildlife Authority staff. Local people’s attitudes towards Ajai Wildlife Reserve (AWR) varied considerably. Fifty four (54%) percent of the respondents were not happy with the PA and considered the reserve as a liability serving foreign interests while 43% did not consider it as such. The majority (54%) wanted the protected area degazzeted. This negative attitude was also reflected in the relationship between Park management and the community which was said not to be cordial (51%). Despite this negative attitude, the majority of respondents recognize the value of AWR in influencing local climate (72%), in regulating soil erosion (67%), air purification (46%) and environmental conservation (47%). The attitudes of the people have been influenced by costs and benefits (100%). These results indicate that the benefits can outweigh the costs, even though the latter are significant. For local communities living around protected areas to support conservation objectives, land owners must derive significant benefits from it so that wildlife management is seen as an economically viable activity that can favourably compete with other land uses.