Assessment of factors that contribute to forest resource use conflicts: a case of Eburu forest, Kenya
Eburu Forest is a montane forest that forms part of Mau Forest Complex. The aim of the study was to assess factors that contribute to forest resource use conflicts and their manifestation, as well as opportunities for conflict management. Conflicts among stakeholders over access, control or ownership of forest resources are a major impediment to achieving sustainable forest management globally. The study area was stratified into three zones namely Eburu, Kiambogo and Ndabibi. This was based on the size of farm holding, land tenure, population density, ethnic composition, and administrative units. Both secondary and primary data was collected, using a combination of methods that included questionnaire, Focus Group Discussions (FGD), Key informant interviews and field observations. Statistical approach included a combination of descriptive and inferential analysis. Majority of respondents (66.5%) revealed existence of forest resource use conflicts in Eburu Forest. Seven types of forest resource use conflicts were identified and analyzed. The study established that forest resource use conflicts manifest and affect forest management in different ways. Three main ways identified were; contribution to forest destruction, poor relations among stakeholders and less community participation in conservation activities specifically fire fighting. Forest destruction and poor relations among stakeholders arising from forest resource use conflicts featured more in Kiambogo followed by Ndabibi and Eburu in that order. Less participation in firefighting arising from forest resource use conflicts featured more in Eburu (37%), followed by Ndabibi (36%) and Kiambogo (31%). Factors that contribute to forest resource use conflicts, as well as challenges constraining forest management include poor accessibility (26%), corruption (20%), lack of equipment (14%), poor relationship with the community (10%) and understaffing (11%). Inadequate funds and lack of training were also found to be of concern and require urgent attention. The study identified factors that lead to escalation of conflicts, which include; failure to address community grievances in a timely manner, incomplete or contradictory information, and inadequate platforms and mechanisms for ventilating and redress of grievances. Opportunities to address forest resource use conflicts in Eburu include mechanisms to regulate access (forest legislation and rules), presence of partner organizations with on-going programs, and Eburu Forest Electric fence. The study recommends strengthening of community participation in forest management, improving relationships and communication among partner organizations and setting up Forest Level Management Committee to provide a platform for redress of community grievances and ensure harmonious use of forest resources in keeping with Eburu Forest management plan. Further, the on-going review of the forest policy and Act should safeguard customary access rights of the community to forest resources and expressly provide for equity in distribution of benefits among parties involved in forest management. Of immediate priority however is strengthening the organizational capacity of key stakeholders under PFM arrangement to effectively undertake their mandates and promote community development targeting forest adjacent areas to minimize dependence on forest resources for livelihood.