Perceived barriers to and drivers of community participation in protected-area governance

Last modified: 
December 18, 2018 - 1:57pm
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2018
Date published: 08/2018
Authors: Caroline Ward, George Holmes, Lindsay Stringer
Journal title: Conservation Biology
Volume: 32
Issue: 2
Pages: 437 - 446

Protected areas (PAs) are a frequently used conservation strategy, yet their socioeconomic impacts on local communities remain contentious. A shift toward increased participation by local communities in PA governance seeks to deliver benefits for human well‐being and biodiversity. Although participation is considered critical to the success of PAs, few researchers have investigated individuals’ decisions to participate and what this means for how local people experience the costs and benefits of conservation. We explored who participates in PA governance associations and why; the perceived benefits and costs to participation; and how costs and benefits are distributed within and between communities. Methods included 3 focus groups, 37 interviews, and 217 questionnaire surveys conducted in 3 communities and other stakeholders (e.g., employees of a nongovernmental organization and government officials) in PA governance in Madagascar. Our study design was grounded in the theory of planned behavior (TPB), the most commonly applied behavior model in social psychology. Participation in PA governance was limited by miscommunication and lack of knowledge about who could get involved and how. Respondents perceived limited benefits and high costs and uneven distribution of these within and between communities. Men, poorer households, and people in remote villages reported the highest costs. Our findings illustrate challenges related to comanagement of PAs: understanding the heterogeneous nature of communities; ensuring all households are represented in governance participation; understanding differences in the meaning of forest protection; and targeting interventions to reach households most in need to avoid elite capture.

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