Date of Award

12-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management

Advisor

Backman, Kenneth F.

Committee Member

Hallo, Jeffrey C

Committee Member

Powell, Robert B

Committee Member

Moore, DeWayne D

Abstract

Volcanoes National Park (VNP) in Rwanda is one of the important protected areas for conservation in the Albertine Rift ecoregion. It inhabits some of the most rare and endemic wildlife species including mountain gorillas. Despite such importance, it continues to be threatened by forest dependence practices of local residents such as, poaching for bush meat and the harvest of non-timber forest products. These practices have been attributed largely to high levels of poverty among park neighboring residents. It is believed that poor residents rely on forest resources to supplement their subsistence livelihoods. The relationship between poverty and forest dependence behavior however, remains unclear. Previous studies have examined the poverty and forest dependence relationship from an economic perspective, focusing on measurable socio-economic variables such as income and assets. Relying on such measures however limits understanding of this relationship because poverty may not only involve quantifiable indicators of poverty. This dissertation addresses this gap by using the Household Livelihoods Security (HLS) framework to conceptualize poverty broadly from its structural context and investigates the relationship between household poverty and forest dependence. In addition, this dissertation investigates whether tourism benefit opportunities at VNP are helping to address the forest dependence behavior of poor residents. Tourism has recently appeared as a tool through which human-induced threats to wildlife can be addressed. The rationale is that if tourism is well planned, it can economically empower residents and provide them with an alternative means of livelihood, thereby reducing the demand for forest resources. However, literature is inconclusive on the conservation effectiveness of community tourism benefits This research addresses this gap by examining tourism benefits that have potential to address forest dependence.

An exploratory sequential mixed method design was used to implement this research in three phases. The initial phase was aimed to inductively build a contextual understanding of research constructs and hypothesized relationships. Results were used to design an instrument that was used to develop a measurement Index in the second phase of this research. In the third phase, a validated measurement index was used to investigate the relationships between household poverty, forest dependence and tourism benefits. The initial findings suggest that forest dependence behavior of the poorest residents neighboring VNP, primarily involves harvests of water, bush meat, bamboo and wood for agricultural use. Multiple stakeholders attributed forest dependence behavior to food insecurity as well as lack of shelter, skills and resources needed to maintain decent livelihoods. Following a systematic examination of hypothesized relationships, this dissertation reveals that food and health insecurity are two primary drivers of forest dependence at VNP. Education insecurity was also found to be a secondary driver of forest dependence at VNP. Surprisingly, physical indicators of poverty commonly used in measuring poverty and forest dependence relationship such as household assets were not found to influence forest dependence at VNP. In addition, it provides empirical evidence to support the view that direct rather than indirect tourism benefits are more likely to address forest dependence behavior of poor residents if benefits are targeted to them.

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Sociology Commons

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