Assessment of factors influencing utilization of forest resources in Kipini Division of Tana Delta district, Kenya
Forest resource utilization poses a major challenge to the balance between fragile ecosystems and impoverished populations. Many developing economies have majority of their populations living in rural areas where they mainly depend on agriculture or on natural resources and ecosystem services for a living. With the increase in population,the demand for the forest resources and the resultant degradation are expected to increase. Many benefits can be derived from forest conservation initiatives including carbon offsets, seedlings sale and reduction in distances covered to access raw material for wooden handcrafts. Yet incidences of forest destruction by local communities are very common. This study examined the awareness of forest benefits, factors that influence utilization of forest products and attitudes of households towards conservation of forests. The analysis was conducted using different regression models. The Zero Truncated Poisson model was used to assess awareness of forest benefits while the Logit and Negative binomial models were used to examine use and intensity of use of forest products respectively. Descriptive and factor analysis methods were used to assess the attitudes of local communities towards forest conservation. The study used data collected from 150 households through personal interviews using pre-tested questionnaires. The study was conducted in Kipini division of Tana Delta district. The division has three types of forest management regimes namely, private conservancy, community and government or, more specifically, the Kenya Forest Service (KFS). The study finds average level of awareness of both direct and indirect forest benefits. Results indicate that awareness of benefits was highest in the KFS regime. The Zero Truncated Poisson regression results show that income, gender, farm size and management regimes influence awareness of forest benefits. The proportion of the respondents using products from the forest was 51%. Logistic regression results show that income, distance to the main road, regime and the occupation of the household head influence use of forest products while results from Negative Binomial regression showed that intensity of use of forest products is influenced by regime, occupation of the household head, income and distance to the main road. Lastly, the results of the descriptive and factor analysis indicate that the local community has negative attitude towards conservation of the forests across the three regimes. The implication of the findings is that forest conservation can be enhanced by; (i)creating awareness of the direct and indirect benefits of forest conservation using easy to understand approaches such as educational tours, introduction of school clubs such as 4K clubs, model/demonstration farms, and promotional products and training (e.g. energy saving jikos); (ii) investing in infrastructure, particularly all-weather roads that will open up the area to investment by other sectors that will in turn create multiplier effects; (iii) investing in sensitization and training on commodity value addition and access to credit for projects from micro-credit institutions and government initiated funds such as youth and women development enterprise fund that will generate extra income (iv) encouraging effective community policing and community forest associations (CFAs) to guard forest borders.