The benefits and constraints of participation in forest management. The case of Taita Hills, Kenya
AbstractAlthough they accommodate a wide variety of endemic flora and fauna, the indigenous mountain rain forests of East Africa are being depleted. Some patches remain in Taita Hills of Kenya and benefit from their management as forest reserves,
with limited access to local communities, by the Kenyan government. Recently, through the Forest Act 2005, the government began to grant user rights to forest adjacent dwellers through participatory forest management initiatives.
We conducted this study in February 2007 among groups engaged in forest-related activities and living near the Ngangao, Mbololo, Mwambirwa and Chawia forest reserves in order to offer insights into local people’s perceptions about
benefits and constraints of participation in forest management during the transformation of the forest policy. Our respondents considered efforts to conserve forests for ecological services, namely water catchment and biodiversity maintenance important. Sustainable future use of forest products, especially firewood and medicinal plants were emphasized. However, shortcomings, such as inadequate access to updated information about management practices and legal rights, hampered participation. The respondents viewed this as working without proper tools, which, they stated, may gradually lead to unsuccessful conservation efforts, and felt that the government still prohibits full community participation.