Youth Entrepreneurial Activities and Forest Conservation: a case study of Youth Groups in Kakamega Forest Area of Kenya
This study examines how youth entrepreneurial activities could contribute to forest conservation. It is a case study of youth entrepreneurial activities in Kakamega forest in the western region of Kenya. The study is based on the observation that the youth who are the majority in the population are either, rarely involved or left out altogether in projects that aim at forest conservation, yet studies on environmental conservation underscore the need to incorporate everyone for sustainable results. Thus, the study focuses on : How youths' forestbased entrepreneurial activities are helping in the conservation of the forest, the major challenges experienced by the youth in this endeavour, and the strategies already evolved to enhance forest conservation. The study collected data mainly from Kakamega Educational and Environmental Program youth group and other youths engaged in forest-based entrepreneurial activities around Kakamega forest. A quantitative survey helped in generating the trends on the activities that youth undertake while qualitative approaches augmented and confirmed data from the survey. The study findings reveal that youth's engagement in entrepreneurial activities in and around Kakamega forest has resulted in increased forest cover, minimized logging, and increased awareness among community members on both the need and ways to conserve the forest. Activities such as tree nurseries, bee keeping, and butterfly farming were found to help in conservation because they ease pressure on the existing forest resources. These activities were found to be forest based and required less energy skills as well capital to initiate. The study findings further reveal that even though the youth around this forest lack sufficient physical, financial and human skills required to engage in these entrepreneurial activities, they have developed good knowledge on forest conservation. As a result, the youth have intensified awareness campaigns on forest conservation; diversified their activities, as well as, mobilised resources within and outside the forest to support entrepreneurial activities that lead to effective conservation ofKakamega forest. Based on the study findings, this study concludes that active involvement of youth in forestbased entrepreneurial activities in Kakamega forest has resulted in conservation of forests. These activities provide a mutual process of engagement between the forest ecosystem and the adjacent community. This engagement has provided incentives that ensure that the youth continually and sustainably participate in forest conservation activities. It is worth noting that, intensification of these activities and enhancement strategies adopted by the youth mitigate the challenges they face, such as limited awareness among the youth and poor resource mobilization among others and would increase the number of youths as well as community members who engage in forest conservation activities.