Benefits and challenges of integrated conservation and development projects on local communities adjacent to Sapo National Park, Liberia
Goll, Blamah S.
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This study was carried out to assess the social impact of Integrated Conservation and Development Projects (ICDPs) on local communities adjacent to Sapo National Park in Liberia. Specifically, it was meant to determine the benefits local people derive from ICDPs; assess the challenges in implementing ICDPs around Sapo National Park; and identify potential strategies for overcoming challenges to the implementation of ICDPs. The study employed cross-sectional research design and participatory rural appraisal tools (questionnaires, focus group discussions and key informants interviews) to collect data from 120 randomly selected respondents in three counties of Sinoe, Grand Gedeh and River Gee. Data were analyzed using Chi-square and descriptive statistics. The findings show that the ICDPS were beneficial in terms of community projects such as erection of bore holes (80%), provision of employment (75%), and training in livelihood projects (66%). There was a significant relationship between age of the respondents and household benefits from ICDPs (X2 = 55.215, df = 5, P = 0.000). Reduction in poaching (91%), community park encroachment (81%) and facilitating park boundary opening (80%) were the major benefits derived from ICDPs. The major strategies used to make ICDPs succeed were engaging local communities in ICDPs through use of local project monitoring committees (80%); provision of training to local community groups (73%); and development of community committees with agreed terms of reference to take on daily tasks (60%). The ICDPs implementation challenges faced by ICDPs were high illiteracy levels among the local people (90%), gold mining by local people within the park (80%), and inaccessibility due to bad roads (78%). Setting up local integrated conservation and development projects based management committees (75%), use of feedback workshops (71%), and improved working relationship with local people around the park (70%) were the strategies used to overcome the implementation challenges. In concluding, the ICDPs provided employment, training, basic sustainable livelihoods projects such as goat multiplication, piggery, rabbit, guinea pigs raising, oil palm farms, community forests establishment, rice cultivation that helped to address the basic local inhabitants needs and community services such as construction and rehabilitation of schools, latrines, market buildings, roads and brought about reduction in poaching activity within and around the park. It is recommended that community involvement be prioritized; there is need for park managers and development and conservation partners to put in place sustainability strategies to provide social needs of people.