The Role of Parks in Income Generation and Community Development: Prospects and Challenges
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This study sought to investigate the role of the Mount Cameroon National Park in its income generation and community development. To realize this study, primary data was obtained from the communities and management team through questionnaires and interviews. The study made used of a sample of 234 persons, 60 of whom were the management staff of the park and 174 inhabitants of the community. The study found out that the major source of income generation to the park is through tourism but the main source of survival being contribution from the government and other stakeholders. Moreover, both the inhabitants of surrounding communities and the management of the park attest to the fact that the park plays a positive role on the welfare of the communities especially in the domains of governance and information sharing. It was also found out that the role of these touristic activities of the park on education, healthcare, and security of the people, shelter and access to portable water is very limited. At the same time the findings of the study revealed that the park makes use of mostly old facilities which cannot attract and accommodate as many tourists as will be desired. Thus, inadequate facilities were identified to be the park’s key impeding factor to make it more competitive and modern to attract more tourist, raise income and influence rural livelihood. The park management is there for recommended to drastically increase necessary infrastructure if it has to be competitive.
1.1 Background of Study
Every nation and its populace adopt myriads of ways to generate income for survival. Amongst such ways are through the exploitation of natural resources, tourism, industrial manufacturing, and agriculture etc. Amongst the means of raising such income is through tourism in parks and reserves whose emphasis has traditionally been on conservation, but which today witness a shift towards economic sustainability and the uplifting of local communities (Myburgh and Saayman, 2002). However, tourist value or attach more meaning to things provided by nature and which they have never physically seen before such as animals, bird species plants etc. Incidentally, the accelerated rate of disappearance of these species has often led to the creation of reserves in which these species can be found. Such reserves nationally owned are commonly referred to as national parks.
National parks worldwide are well-known for their eco-tourism activities which basically could generate income to stakeholders. According to Chape et al., (2003), National Parks are created to protect the ecological integrity of one or more ecosystem for present and future generations; exclude exploitation or occupation detrimental to the purposes of designation of the area; and to provide a foundation for spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational, and visitor opportunities, all of which must be environmentally and culturally compatible.
National Parks comprise the highest percentage (23%) of the total area covered by protected areas worldwide (Chape et al., 2003). For instance, according to estimates by Colchester (2003), Africa has more than 1,812 National Parks covering a total 3,112,027 km2 of the continent. In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, over 1 million km2 of land out of 23 million km2 (constituting approximately 4%) has been set aside as National Parks (Colcheste, 2003). Within the African context and as noted by Lockwood et al. (2006), the first set of game reserves and national parks were created in remote areas that were unsuitable for agriculture, primarily for the protection of large mammals whose populations were in decline due to hunting and diseases. From the 1930s onwards, the activities of these parks were extended to the provision of environmental, aesthetic and recreational benefits and later for biodiversity conservation (Adejumo et al., 2014). Today, there exist a plethora of parks across Africa and the focus is also drifting towards the economic and social benefits that are associated with the existence of national parks.
As pointed out by Page (2007) tourism (in parks) has the potential of some economic benefits such as the generation of income for the local community; the creation of new employment opportunities; improvements to the structure and balance of economic activities in the locality; and the encouragement of entrepreneurial activity. At the same time, the socioeconomic implications of this transition from the traditional conservation activities of national parks are worth noting given the contribution of these parks to the quality of life of the community (Saayman and Saayman, 2009). Meanwhile, the magnitude of the socioeconomic benefits of these parks depends on their income generating ability and their sustainability over time.
The main income generating activities of national parks as a whole is through touristic attractions they possess such as wild animals, rare birds, rare flora (plants) etc. in the course of the touristic adventures, the tourists extend part of their incomes on accommodation, catering services, hiring of assets, park entries and others. Tourism based upon wildlife has become the leading foreign exchange earner in several countries (Reynolds and Braithwait, 2001). For instance, the highest income generated in the Kainji Lake National Park of Nigeria comes from accommodation, other sources, catering services, park entry and hiring of assets respectively (Ajibade et al., 2013).
According to Adejumo et al. (2014) national parks create a wide range of benefits to society, ranging from the protection of environmental quality and services to various recreational benefits and revenues realized through ecotourism. The incomes generated from touristic activities of these national parks especially those in Africa contribute enormously to sustain some economies giving tourism a pride of place in these economies. For instance, wildlife based tourism rank first in Kenya and second in Tanzania as source of foreign exchange earnings with their achievements being attributed to the abundance of wild animal population and cultural materials protected in a number of national parks and game reserves in the two countries (Ajibade et al., 2013).
The imperative role played by these parks and their touristic activities in economies has often led to the formation of state organs in charged with their functioning as well as the promulgation into law of certain acts aimed at ensuring the protection of these parks. For instance, South African National Parks (SAN Parks) was established as a parastatal through an Act of Parliament as far back as 1927, mandated to establish and maintain a system of national parks throughout South Africa. At the same time, the National Parks Act and the Park Regulations in South Africa is aimed at governing the operations of the Concessionaire in the park together with a comprehensive set of Environmental Guidelines drawn up especially for each of the concessions (Fearnhead, 2003). Similarly, the creation of national parks from forest reserves in Uganda in 1991-1993 was a return to fortress conservation and it happened at a time when the mainstream had accepted community conservation, established by the World Conservation Strategies and acknowledged by the 1987 publication of our common future by the World Commission on Environment and Development (Salomons, 2000).
At the same time, there exists a controversy over conserving a forest whilst creating activities for income generation as this usually pose difficulties in striking a balance between preservation and restricted development of the Park for human discovery and survival.
1.2 Problem Statement
Over 300 national parks exist on the African Continent protecting more than 100,000 species of insects, nearly 4,000 species of birds, more than 2,000 species of fish and over 1,000 species of mammals and as such the conservation of Africa’s wildelife is important to these countries because of the increasing impact tourism has on these nations’ economies through their income generation abilities. Such parks include the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, the Serengeti National Park in northern Tanzania, Chobe National Park in northern Botswana, the Kruger National Park in South Africa, the Etosha Park in Namibia, etc. These parks are easily accessible wildlife haven, renowned as leaders in conservation practices within the African context. These parks generate substantial amounts of incomes in their respective countries thereby improving on the socioeconomic welfare of the surrounding populations while at the same time conserving the natural endowments in them.
In Cameroon, the first national parks were created in 1968 namely the Waza, Bénoué, and Boubandjidah (Mengang, 1998). Given the enormous benefits associated with the establishment of national parks and other forms of reserves especially as they enable the economy of Cameroon to earn local and foreign currencies and also to prevent biological diversity from being destroyed by development and unsustainable land use activities in the country, several other parks have emanated. This has led to the creation of several parks in Cameroon such as the Korup National Park, the Bakossi National Park (BNP), Bénoué National Park, BoumbaBek National Park, Campo Ma’an National Park, Faro National Park, Korup National Park, Lobéké National Park, Nki National Park as well as the Mount Cameroon National Park (MCNP). In fact, 10 national parks were created between 2007 and 2009, namely, those of Kagwene, Mefou, Ebo, Ndongere, Mount Cameroon, Takamanda, TchabalMbabo, Kom, Ma MbedMbed, and Deng Deng and of these parks, Takamanda, Ndongere, Ebo, and Deng Deng National Parks were formerly forest reserves, and Mount Cameroon National Park includes the former Bomboko and Etinde Forest Reserves (Interactive Forest Atlas of Cameroon). Judging from the rapid loss of forests and the consequently observable water shortage, especially in the town of Buea and surrounding villages, it became evidently clear that if the rate of loss of forests is not arrested, rehabilitation measures to restore the ecosystem function will become colossal in future. This thus prompted the creation of the MCNP in 2009 to arrest the situation. The objectives of the MCNP include protection of the remnant biodiversity of the fragile ecosystem of the area, to enable the reconstitution of the wildlife of the area, promote non-consumptive use of the natural resources of the area and reduce pressure on use of the natural resources by introducing and promoting alternative sources of income to the local population. The conservation of nature and protection of the environment is not the only activity carried out in or by contemporary national parks across the globe and in Cameroon as with the Case of the MCNP.
In addition to their conservation activities, these parks act as touristic sites and are capable of generating income which, everything being equal should be capable of sustaining them. In fact, the MCNP is characterized by ecotourism activities which ought to generate incomes both for the park and for the inhabitants around its surrounding.
However, while some of these parks generate sufficient revenue to sustain themselves and their activities and influence the socioeconomic life of the surrounding communities like the case of Kruger National Park in South Africa and other big parks in Africa, local people are given a percentage of revenue generated from tourism activities in some parks like in the case of Pendjari National Park in Benin (Vodouhê et al., 2010), the Mount Cameroon National Park is unable to finance their activities or even to sustain their existence. Rather, it relies on state subvention for their sustenance. This leaves one to ponder on the long term sustainability of MCNP and its ability to positively affect the socioeconomic life of those living around it.
Irrespective of the increasing number of stake holders especially NGOs such as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Wild Conservation Society (WCS), the German Technical Cooperation (GIZ) etc. which play important roles in framing the environmental policy, mobi¬lizing public support for environmental conservation, and protecting the endangered species of forests and animals in the sector of park and ecotourism management especially in the MCNP, the revenue generation ability of the park and the attendant anticipated socioeconomic impact of the creation of the park continually leaves less to warrant its existence. Moreover, forest resources provide vital socio-economic contributions especially for local communities but the activities of the park especially with respect to forest conservation tend to conflict with the goals and achievements of the surrounding communities. This study thus aims to improve and find new sources of income generating activities in order to increase the present revenue which is not enough to defray the management and maintenance expenses of the Park and the ways through which the park’s activities can effectively and positively influence the socioeconomic life of the surrounding communities.
1.3 Research Questions
On the basis of this, this study intends to provide answers to the following questions;
What are the various sources of income available to the MCNP?
What is the socioeconomic role of the Mount Cameroon National Park neighboring communities?
What are the challenges or problems faced by the MCNP in the implementation of its activities and income generation?