Benefits of Forest Biodiversity: Communities’ Perspectives in Witu Mpeketoni and Awer
Globally, biodiversity is under threat due to an increasing population over the years leading to an increased demand on goods such as fuel, timber and medicine. Involvement of people living in the vicinity of such ecosystems in conservation becomes integral in ensuring that these resources are not only well utilized, but also properly managed. Sustenance of individuals‟ livelihoods is important as well. To elicit attitudes and perceptions of local residents regarding how they benefit from biodiversity, household interviews, literature review, Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) and Key Informant Interviews (KIs) were carried out in Lamu County focusing on provisioning and cultural ecosystem services. The objectives of the study were to establish from these communities the values that they attach to land, how they benefit from biodiversity and threats and opportunities of biodiversity to enhanced livelihoods. Results indicate that these three communities are unwilling to sell, lease, donate or relocate if given an opportunity to. This is true as when asked for opportunities and threats, these communities identified farm related ones. The three areas also exhibited similarities in their sources of food. They also had similarities in the type of energy used for cooking as they mainly rely on wood fuel. Differences however lay in lighting energy. Differences can also be observed in type of construction material used for roofing in the three communities. The study also revealed that traditional medicine is used by all the three communities albeit at different degrees. The study also revealed that biodiversity contributes to cultural services although in the three areas, some cultural practices have faded away with time. Access to the natural resources is a threat that was identified and land conflict although collective action, involvement in nature conservation, sale of NTFPs and participation in the development of a community action plan were seen as opportunities. The study recommends further studies to be conducted for the people in Awer as over time there has been a complete shift in their lifestyle as this study established that the people there in practice farming. The current information about them is outdated and not in line with the current situation yet interventions in this area should be in line with the true picture on the ground.
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