Date of Award

5-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management

Committee Member

Dr. Brett A. Wright, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Robert B. Powell

Committee Member

Dr. Jeffrey C. Hallo

Committee Member

Dr. Patricia A. Layton

Abstract

Greater Virunga Transboundary Landscape (GVTL) is highly known for its abundance of wildlife resources and mostly flagship and endangered species such as Mountain Gorillas. Despite this importance, parks across GVTL continue to face enormous pressure from neighboring communities who harvest park resources illegally. This illegal harvest has sparked off intense park-community conflicts, community resentment and continuous poaching. To reduce them, community conservation enterprises (CCEs) were established across GVTL. The belief was that these CCEs provide and enhance socio-economic benefits to local communities which will in turn improve their household livelihoods. This will ensure that communities, in theory, will be less dependent on park resources, thereby reducing park-community conflicts, resentment and poaching. However, little is known about these CCEs, and how much they have improved community livelihoods and contributed to conservation. This dissertation addresses this lack of empirical knowledge by analyzing the perceptions of resident communities regarding the impacts of CCEs across GVTL. Two sites (Volcanoes and Mgahinga National Parks) out of the three in GVTL were selected for this study. A mixed methods approach was used for this research. This method took a two-phased approach. The first phase, included analyzing Ranger-based Monitoring (RbM) data recorded over a period of nine years (2007-2015). The second phase, included a face-to-face household survey interviews to examine residents' perceptions of illegal activities (bamboo cutting, poaching, wood cutting, water collection, medicinal herbs and forest fires) and household livelihood securities (food, health, education and economic) between CCEs participants and non-participants. Findings regarding the perceptions of residents living adjacent to GVTL suggest that current illegal behavior has decreased compared to the past. However, RbM findings suggest that illegal activities are still a significant problem across GVTL. Further findings regarding the household livelihood security (HLS) suggest that community conservation enterprises have contributed significantly to the overall quality of life and in particular, to the food, health and economic security of residents living adjacent VNP compared to residents living adjacent to MGNP. This provides empirical evidence to support the view that CCEs have the potential to contribute significantly to household livelihood security.

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