Enhancing local participation in environmental resource management in Semliki National Park
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The general objective of the study was to examine the effectiveness of the approach local participation, a decentralised strategy being implemented in the management of environmental resources in the Semuliki National Park (SNP). The following were the specific objectives of the study: (1) to explore local community perception of the concept local participation as observed from the Community Protected Area Institutions (CPIs) point of view; (2) to identify the levels of stakeholder participation in decision making; (3) to critically analyse the composition of CPIs in terms of representativeness of the various social strata, the roles CPIs play and the rights of the grass root people over benefits that accrue from the SNP; (4) to examine the existing relationships between the local people on the one hand and the other stakeholders (the CPI, the local government, the Park management or UWA) in the management of environmental resources in the SNP; and, (5) to assess the impact of CPI projects on the general welfare of the communities adjacent to the SNP. The study adopted a case study research design. This was preferred to enable the Researcher examine in depth, the relationship between local participation and effective and efficient management of the environmental resources in the SNP. Both the non- probability, (purposive sampling technique) as well as the probability (simple random), were employed during sample selection for qualitative and quantitative data respectively. Data were obtained from 146 respondents in total these comprised of UWA officials, District and Sub- County staff, CPI members, local community members and their leaders in all respects. A semi- structured interview schedule and an interview guide were the key instruments used during the face- to- face interviews and the Focus Group Discussions with key informants respectively. An observation check list was also used to supplement data obtained by these tools. A multi phase sampling technique was used in locating the geographical units, (the specific areas) from where the study sample was to be selected, down the local government structure- that is from the district to the village level. Findings from the study reveal that perception of local participation by the indigenous people was still very low, only rated at about 3.3%. It was observed that most people virtually knew nothing about what the program entailed and as such a lot of benefits to the grass root people continue to be lost unclaimed. It was also established that a lot of irregularities and flaws inhibit the full implementation of local participation management strategy in the SNP. Irregularities reported in the formation of CPI committees and the way representatives are selected make these committees appear undemocratic. Flaws in the revenue sharing scheme and the highly segregated and uneven methods of benefit sharing coupled with the existing negative relationship between park management on the one hand and the grass root people on the other have posed more challenges. The study recommended that: CPIs be established through democratic procedures which allow full participation of the grass root people in all local participation activities including representation of the marginalized categories like the Pygmies on CPI committees. Also that UWA should intensify mobilization of the local people to create more awareness, implement and closely monitor the program. That UWA should also ensure that flaws in the revenue and other benefit sharing schemes are eliminated and that specific funds be ear marked for the running of CPIs daily activities. It was recommended that the shared revenue be refocused on infrastructural developments and also be controlled at the grass root level, so as to generate impact in the local people’s welfare.