Forest ecosystems are important to ecological, economic and social wellbeing, particularly for the adjacent communities who depend on it. Understanding the socioeconomic dynamics that make households choice to be involved in forest conservation is crucial for sustainable management of natural resources. This study therefore examined the socioeconomic factors that influenced households’ participation in forest management. Multistage probability sampling technique was used to select 202 respondents from households adjacent to Aberdare forest ecosystem. Data collected was analysed using Chi-square test, Spearman’s rho correlation and multinomial logistic regression. The factors that influenced participatory forest management included forest management approach (χ² = 17.551, p < 0.001), distance to the forest reserve (χ² = 29.071, p < 0.001), distance to the national park (χ² = 27.303, p = 0.008), gender of household head (χ² = 10.719, p = 0.002), land tenure (χ² = 34.313, p < 0.001), sources of income (χ² = 31.353, p < 0.001) and importance of the forest ecosystem (χ² = 29.241, p < 0.001). The factors that significantly influenced the regression model were farm size, household size, annual income, forest management approaches (FMA), land tenure, and importance of the forest ecosystem where R2 was 0.703. The study established that, although the proposition that natural resources need protection from anthropogenic destruction is widely accepted, communities are interested in collaborating with resource managers for long-term resource conservation. This study therefore recommends strategies for harnessing this high interest through broadening the economic benefits base on spur community involvement in conservation, a prerequisite for sustainable forest conservation. These include promotion of agroforestry practices, supporting non-extractive benefits and formation and capacity building of community associations to enhance participation in forest ecosystem management.
Key words: Benefit-cost sharing, economic and non-economic benefits, forest ecosystem, forest management approach, forest reserve, national park, livelihoods.
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