Forest communities play a vital role in the conservation of forest resources. Understanding communities’ use, attitudes and perceptions of forests and management measures is significant in attaining conservation goals and reducing forest resource use conflicts. This study sought to assess local community’ forest resources use and their perception towards forest status, use and management. Data was collected through household surveys using semi-structured questionnaires, participant observation, Key Informant Interviews (KII), and Focus Group Discussions (FGD). A total of 112 respondents from three adjacent villages within 5 km from the forest boundary were randomly sampled for the household survey while descriptive statistics were used for data analysis. Most (94.6%) of the households reported using products from forests. These products formed an integral part of the households’ energy needs, construction materials, medicine, income generation and daily dietary needs. Firewood was the most collected product from the forest (76.4%) whereas bush meat was the least (4.7%). There were mixed views on the forest management with more than half (54.5%) expressing dissatisfaction with the current management regime citing insecure land tenure system, inadequate integration of the community in forest management and corruption. There was perceived forest degradation due to illegal logging, illegal grazing, forest fires, climate change and encroachment for farming. For sustainable forest management practice therefore, there is a need for incorporating Indigenous knowledge (IK) in forest management plans and putting in place grievance address mechanisms to cater for the needs of local communities when designing forest policies and implementing forest restoration programs.
Key words: Cherang’any hills, Community Forest Association, non-timber forest products, indigenous knowledge, sustainable forest management, forest restoration.
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