von Juni 2007 bis Januar 2012
Leitung: Prof. Dr. R. Bürger-Arndt
Bearbeitung/Kontakt: Raphael Fiagbomeh
Förderer: Evangelisches Studienwerk e.V. Villigst
In recognition of the livelihood needs of local people that undermine non-use conservation objectives, protected areas are now said to have assumed a mandate to go beyond just biodiversity conservation to improving the welfare of local people through the provision of economic benefits across multiple scales. But in order to achieve the new mandate of protected areas, there is a paradigm shift that seeks to promote a model of biodiversity conservation where livelihood activities are not just seen as compatible with biodiversity conservation but that it actually drives and facilitates conservation objectives. Consequently, among livelihood activities that have the potential to provide the necessary livelihood benefits or incentives, ecotourism is thought to be the most appropriate one to better serve this purpose. Ecotourism, when properly developed and managed, can play a mediating role between the interests of protected area management and local people and as well give an exciting nature experience to tourists. However, to achieve this mediating role, ecotourism development in any destination would require appropriate participation of all stakeholders. In essence, there should be a harmonious relationship between the resources (protected area), local people and ecotourism, facilitated by appropriate management strategies.
The ecotourism subsector in Ghana is being vigorously promoted as a means to finance nature conservation and to facilitate local area development. However, like any other venture, there is the need to subject ecotourism development to rigorous evaluation to ascertain whether it is achieving the objectives of the concept. It is believed that apart from the unique features and experience that protected areas might present to the tourist, the prospects of ecotourism will depend on how to: i) sustain the interest of visitors in order to inspire them for future return visits and the ability to attract potential new visitors; and ii) engender the support of local people for conservation by effectively involving them so that they could share in the socio-cultural and economic benefits as a result of protecting the area. This is only possible when there is the right framework for managing the interactions and impacts. The study adopted a theoretical evaluative framework that assesses the impacts of ecotourism. Through the evaluative framework, a site-level evaluation of nature conservation and ecotourism in the Kakum Conservation Area (KCA) of Ghana was undertaken to assess the status and underscore the current relationship between local people, resources and ecotourism in the Kakum conservation area.
The central focus of the study is to evaluate the perceptions of impacts of ecotourism and nature conservation management in the Kakum Conservation Area, Ghana. The ultimate goal is to evaluate the prescriptive potential and the opportunity costs of ecotourism development and protected area management in natural resource dependent communities. With the aim of identifying at the end, strategies to optimise the contribution of ecotourism to protected area conservation and development of destination communities, the specific objectives of the study were to:
1) Determine the host communities’ perceptions of ecotourism, and their values and relationships with the natural resources within the protected area.
2) Determine the change in the economic benefits from the protected areas due to ecotourism and its distribution and impact on the local communities.
3) Offer planning and management recommendations to the destination’s administrative bodies to facilitate conservation and sustainable development initiatives in the local communities.
The study examined the existing relationships in order to provide practical planning directions to park/conservation area managers to will enhance the capacity of ecotourism to generate benefits for both the local communities and the park, and thus contribute to sustainable development efforts in the country.
To ascertain the status of ecotourism and the combined impacts of ecotourism and nature conservation management, the study employed multiple methodological approaches to collect both primary and secondary data for analysis. A survey of tourists was conducted at the visitor centre and a community survey of residents was also conducted in eight communities adjacent to the protected area. Altogether, 423 tourists participated in the survey at the visitor centre while a total of 141 local residents took part in the community level surveys. The conservation area officials and some chiefs and elders of the local communities were also interviewed. Beyond these, group discussions were held in the communities to understand the popular opinions of the local people about conservation and ecotourism activities in Kakum. Subsequently, in order to propose strategic options to facilitate nature conservation and ecotourism management, a hybrid SWOT and AHP analysis was also conducted.
Local People and Conservation:
The community surveys revealed that the current ecotourism and protected area management schemes neglects the traditional institutional structures whose involvement could facilitate and solicit local people’s support for conservation. There is also a communication gap and lack of effective programmes to stress the importance of community level cooperation in conservation. Again, the community surveys confirmed that local people have been denied rights to collect NTFPs on which they previously depended for livelihood support. Thus some livelihood activities in adjacent communities have changed since the creation of the conservation area. In fact, a majority (89.4%) of respondents emphasised that community interests are not factored into the management of the area. Although the local people have lost their access and use rights and also do not benefit from ecotourism, over 97% of respondents appreciated the importance of the protected area while over 88% expressed interest to participate in the management if given the opportunity. In spite of the expressed interest, although law enforcement through day and night patrol has increased, illegal activities still remains high in the conservation area as compared to the acceptable national level.
Local People and Ecotourism:
Ecotourism at the moment does not play any meaningful role in securing the livelihood of the local people and neither is it contributing to the development of the local communities. The study established that there is a weak interaction between local people and tourism as well as local people and resources, due to the apparent neglect by management authorities. Consequently, the study noted that the local people rather have reservations concerning the impacts of ecotourism on their livelihood. Although the majority of household respondents never engaged in any livelihood activity related to ecotourism, they were hopeful of possible benefits they could derive from provision of services and therefore demanded that ecotourism activities be expanded to include tourist visits to their communities. Aside the lack of economic benefits, conservation education which is one of the tenets of ecotourism is also lacking. Therefore 75% of the community respondents were of the view that effective outreach programmes and involvement could motivate resident local people to guard the area and reduce illegal or poaching activities.
Ecotourism and Tourists:
The number of tourists visiting Kakum, according to the visitor records, has progressively increased since the introduction of tourism. The tourist survey on the other hand revealed that Kakum is mainly patronised by first time visitors as indicated by 84% of the survey respondents and they mostly spent less than three hours on site. In spite of the relative short time spent on site, results show that 91.5% of the survey respondents were satisfied with their recreational experience in Kakum. As a confirmation of their satisfaction, the majority (90.5%) of the respondents indicated that they would recommend Kakum as a must visit ecotourism site in Ghana. Nonetheless, over 54% of the respondents expressed disagreement with the restrictions instituted by the management authorities on movements within the park while 67.5% expressed interest in additional alternative activities related to wildlife observation or tracking. At the moment, the canopy walk continues to be the main attraction. Apart from attracting smaller numbers of tourists, the nature walk has experienced a sharp decline in tourist interest since 2004. This makes it important to consider the expressed interest in additional activities. Further analysis indicated that interest in additional activities decreased with increasing age of the respondents. Organised visits to adjacent communities and farms are also valuable options that would expose particularly the curious non-Ghanaian visitors to rural life in Ghana and as well offer opportunity for the local people to be involved in ecotourism and conservation management. Currently, the situation in Kakum is such that there is practically no interaction between local residents and tourists in order to facilitate inter-cultural appreciation as propounded by the ecotourism concept.
In assessing all the interactions indicative of ecotourism, it is obvious that the interaction between ecotourism, resources and local people in the Kakum conservation area is not symbiotic or harmonious. But in considering that in spite of all the challenges the local people still have positive attitudes towards ecotourism and conservation, the study concluded that active involvement of local people in ecotourism activities would solicit much more positive attitude towards biodiversity conservation, aid local area development and ensure a quality tourist experience. Hence, the managers of Kakum Conservation Area need to consider and develop the proposed management enhancing strategies to actively involve the local communities and thereby elicit their genuine support for the area’s protection from “external local poachers” and thus create a win-win ecotourism-protected area management in the Kakum Conservation Area.