Estimating the economic value of non timber forest products to the adjacent communities of Marsabit forest reserve, Marsabit county, Kenya
Non-timber forest products are biological components of the forest ecosystem that exist in nature and are generally not cultivated and are of great importance to the forest adjacent communities due to their ability to support and sustain their livelihood practices while also contributing to forest conservation. However, understanding of their economic value by both the local communities, market forces, planners, policy makers and implementers is low thus often presenting poor economic signals on their worth. This study sought to avail information on the economic value of non-timber forest products from Marsabit forest which is important for the conservation of the forest ecosystem as a whole and enhancing the efforts of better policy formulation and decision making in the NTFPs sector. The study assessed the major NTFPs extracted by the local communities adjacent to Marsabit Forest reserve. It further estimated the economic value of these resources at the study site and determined the alternatives livelihood options proposed by the local communities to reduce the extraction levels of NTFPs from the Marsabit Forest reserve. Community focus group discussion, household survey using semi structured questionnaires and market surveys were the major tools used during the data collection process. A sample size of 96 households was determined statistically within the radius of 5km from the forest reserve and households surveyed using simple random technique. The quantities of the different products from the households were assigned an economic value by multiplying with their average market prices. The results indicate that NTFPs play an important role in the household economy of the Marsabit forest adjacent communities with key resources extracted being firewood, medicine, forage, building materials, honey, fruits, animal products. From the analysis, the estimated economic benefits accruing across the households from NTFPs extraction is approximately Kshs. 121,394.8/ha/year (US$ 1,214/ha/year) with firewood, plant food products, building materials, medicine and honey being the biggest contributors. It is therefore recommended that the county government and Marsabit forest reserve management regimes give special consideration on formulating a policy that would guide sustainable harvesting of NTFPs from Marsabit forest. Information on the worth of NTFPs from the forest should also be cascaded to the local communities through available local communication mechanisms and awareness creation on how they can still create wealth without necessarily over depending on NTFPs from the Marsabit forest.