Valuation of forest benefits: The perception of communities adjacent to Mount Kenya Forest
The purpose of this study was to explore the full range of benefits that Mount Kenya forest provides to the forest-adjacent' communities and the linkage of these benefits to their perception of the value of the forest. A field survey was carried out in households surrounding the Mount Kenya forest in three districts, Meru South, Embu and Nyeri, between January 2006 and April 2006. Household interviews were carried out in 300 households (100 in each of the districts) using structured interview schedules. Focus groups discussions and key informant interviews were held to explain the purpose of the study and identify the benefits that are enjoyed by the forest adjacent communities. The study found that the forest-adjacent households attached great importance to the forest benefits that offer environmental services. This is positive as it is an indication that the forest-adjacent communities can participate in the conservation of the forests to preserve these benefits. The high importance placed on the environmental benefits by the forest-adjacent communities gives an important justification for the involvement of these communities in the management and conservation of forests efforts. The policy implication of these results is that any conservation efforts must be geared towards conservation of forests for the enhancement of environmental forest benefits that are derived from the forests by the local or forest-adjacent households. 1 People living within 5 km of the forest edge The study also found that the value that the forest-adjacent households give to one acre of forestland, and by extension the forests is influenced by a combination of many other factors acting together beside forest benefits. The study recommends that any attempt to value forests must first understand the needs and priorities of forest-adjacent communities before the valuation activity is undertaken. This would ensure that the valuation methodologies adopted or developed allow the local communities to define their own forest values within the context of their own perceptions, needs and priories.