Forest Resource Utilization and Rural Livelihoods: A Case of Mumbwa Game Management Area, Zambia
Peter Bunonge, Vipak Jintana and Surin Onprom
Forest resource utilization for livelihoods frequently conflicts with conservation, raising challenges of integrating rural livelihood issues into conservation agendas. This study aimed to investigate how unstable livelihoods in Mumbwa Game Management Area are affecting conservation awareness. Data were collected using face to face semi-structured questionnaire interviews with 175 households sampled in Mumbwa Game Management Area. The results indicate that effects of climate change on agriculture, which is the most important livelihood activity among households have forced households to adopt forest-based livelihoods. The drivers of forest resource utilization that were identified included income, food, culture, energy, construction and medicinal use. An interrelationship exists between livelihood strategies and conservation awareness. The study further showed that conservation programs often do not compromise local livelihoods even though most people do usually access required livelihood resources illegally. The challenge to conservation awareness is that even when residents are aware of practices which are detrimental to forest resource conservation (over-harvesting of forest resources) they still go ahead and harvest. Forest resource utilization has become an alternative primary livelihood activity as agriculture is affected by climate change. The study concludes that persistent low diversity in livelihood options intensifies utilization of forest resources by the households. This further, highlights the vulnerability of rural households as well as the need for viable alternatives in times when primary livelihoods are under stress. Findings can be used by policy makers as baseline information to improve community-based forest management activities.