Authors: Edwin Kipkoech, Hellen Ipara, Joseph Koskey
Community involvement is a participatory approach to natural resource conservation that catalyses a win-win situation in conservation by enhancing biodiversity conservation and improving local livelihoods. This study was done in and around Bonjoge National Reserve in Kenya. The Reserve has diverse wildlife some of which escape to neighbouring farmlands destroying property. This has accelerated outright hostility and resentment among local residents, human-wildlife conflicts and poverty due to wildlife destructions. The study assessed the role of local community involvement in alleviating poverty through sustainable natural resource management. Data was collected from a sample of 250 residents living within 1 km from the reserve boundary using questionnaires, focus group discussions, field observations, and interviews. To facilitate selection of respondents, the study area was divided into three strata in relation to their location to the reserve namely the Eastern (Kaptumek), Western (Pemja) and Northern (Kipsartuk) guided by existing administrative boundaries. Data was analyzed using descriptive statistics, chi-square goodness of fit, chi square test of association and independent t-test. There was a significant difference between the views of local residents involved in conservation and those not involved (χ2=18.496, df=1, p<0.005). Incidences of poverty amongst those not involved were more prevalent and higher than those involved in conservation. The difference in prevalence was statistically significant (χ2=21.121, df=1, p<0.005) and a significant association between community involvement and poverty (χ2=5.792, df =1, p=0.016). Individuals involvement in conservation increased access to natural resources benefits (t =2.179, df= 248, P=0.03). It was concluded that Community involvement in conservation has the capacity to alleviate poverty and it is not inevitable to dissociate local communities from conservation. Hence efforts should be geared towards ways of promoting their participation in conservation. Further investigations on the effect of community involvement in areas adjacent to other protected areas in Kenya should be done to compare with the foregoing results on Bonjoge National Reserve.