Community participation is seen to be the building block for the efficiency of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) project. In order for local residents to cooperate with a reduction of deforestation and forest degradation, they must have a positive perception toward the forest conservation system and positive attitude toward the forest conservation project. This study examined the attitude and perception of the local community toward conservation of the Makira forest, from where carbon credits are intended to be sequestered under the REDD schema. The perception and attitude of the local people were studied in three dimensions: the perception toward the conservation of Makira, the perception of the forest and forest resources, and the perception of the community forestry including cost and benefit. It was assumed that regardless of the dependency of local residents on the forest, the reception of an incentive and participation in the local meetings or participation within the forest conservation and development activities would provide a positive perception toward the forest conservation project. Data were obtained from a random sample of 188 households living within the vicinity of the protected forest. Sixty percent of respondents were found to agree with the idea of Makira forest conservation; however, statistically significant differences were found between the villages in terms of supportive attitudes toward the forest conservation system (p = 0.03) and toward the conservation project (p = 0.04). Nearly half of the respondents held a positive attitude toward the conservation project. However, those highly dependent on the forest to generate income remained reluctant and unsupportive, suggesting that high levels of support toward a conservation project by sections of the community may not translate into conservation success, because the drivers of the deforestation and forest degradation are not supportive. A perception of direct benefits from the project was found to be the main factor of the respondents’ attitudes and perceptions. This study then suggests that to change the perception and attitudes of indigenous people around protected areas, environmental education through sensitization should be encouraged, and then addressing local development needs, encourage broader participation in community forestry if the conservation project wants to win the support of local communities for long-term emission reduction through forest conservation goals.
Key words: Protected area, forest management, community attitude, Makira, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD).
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