That biodiversity conservation depends on the participation of local communities is a common perspective among proponents of community based natural resources management [1
]. The most compelling evidence to support the role of community participation in conservation is that, globally, locals manage about 11% of the conserved forest areas (420 million hectares) [2
]. The ideological basis for lobbying for increased community participation in conservation is that the “fines and fences” approach often criminalizes local consumption in favor of preservationist approaches [4
]. While the fences and fines approach excluded some communities from extracting essential livelihood resources and, in some cases, led to “adversarial relationships” between park authorities and local communities [7
], it was an effective means for conserving some forest resources in other areas [8
In southern Africa, natural resource management evolved from “fortress conservation” to Community based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) in response to political, social, and economic factors [9
]. Colonial governments in Africa relied on the fortress conservation approach to manage wildlife, whereby use of game for commercial and non-commercial use was highly restricted [10
]. Post-independence governments slowly replaced fortress approaches with Integrated Conservation and Development Plans (ICDPs) that emphasized the linkages between conservation and development [11
]. Neumann’s review of ICDPs found that they constituted coercive practices and expanded state authority into rural areas rather than emphasizing benefit sharing and participation [11
]. CBNRM approaches also emerged around the early 1980s in order to increase the flow of benefits from the natural resources to communities and also expanding opportunities for communities to participate in local governance-termed democratization and empowerment [13
]. The CBNRM approach thus brings communities to the fore in managing and benefiting from locally available resources. With the introduction of CBNRM, communities gained resource use rights and varying levels of decision making over the utilization and allocation of these resources [14
CBNRM is premised on giving financial value to local resources and then giving the proceeds as incentives to locals in order for them to participate in conservation activities [13
]. The underlying hypothesis is that if the benefits of participating in conservation activities outweigh the costs, individuals will participate in conservation activities. Based on this assumption, CBNRM initiatives seek to compensate locals with meat, cash dividends, jobs, and infrastructure in order to offset the negative costs of living with wildlife such as crop damage, livestock loss, human injury and death [15
]. While most researchers do not make explicit reference to theoretical mechanisms that link the causal relations between incentives and behavior or attitudinal change, the incentive theory offers possible explanation of how incentives can be used to change both attitudes and behavior [16
]. Incentive theory has its roots in behavioral psychology, which demonstrated how behaviors could be conditioned or shaped through structured reinforcement. CBNRM thus seeks, among other things, to transform individuals’ attitudes to positive and increase local support for conservation, by providing incentives such as meat, cash, jobs, and community infrastructure.
The relationship between behavior and attitude is complex and theoretical studies on the subject have yielded competing explanations. Ajzen’s study concluded that behavioral intent could be predicted with high accuracy from attitudes toward the behavior, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control [17
]. Other studies also noted that while positive attitudes are essential for the success of conservation projects, behavioral changes are required to reduce the threat to natural resources but the link between the two is not straight forward [18
]. In another study, Siex and Struhsaker [20
] found that perceptions of farmers are usually not correlated with actual events on the ground. A more elaborate study of the attitude behavior link was conducted by Bentler and Speckhart [21
] who highlighted the of limits Ajzen and Fishbein model and concluded that “effects of attitudes and previous behavior on subsequent behavior are, to a significant extent, not mediated by intentions (i.e
., a nontrivial portion of behavioral variability is predictable from attitudes and previous behavior with the effects of intentions partialled out).” Based on Bentler and Speckhart’s observation, the paper interrogates the community attitudes toward CBNRM in order to understand part of the factors that influence community conservation behaviors.
Within CBNRM literature, the two perspectives around the relationship between incentives and conservation attitudes and behaviors are that either incentives are correlated with pro-conservation behaviors or not related [22
]. Udaya Sekhar for example notes reports a positive relationship between incentives and attitudes noting that: “There appears to be correlation between benefits obtained by local people from wildlife tourism and other sources, and support for protected area existence, suggesting that benefits impact people’s attitudes towards conservation
]. The link between incentives and attitudes is often mediated by individuals’ level of education and employment in the park [24
]. Mehta and Kellert [25
] found that that people held ambivalent attitudes toward different components of the project. These reported studies reported the positive effect of incentives on attitudes and the specific conditions this relationship can be strengthened, i.e.
, more positive attitudes if people are educated or employed in the park.
On the other hand, several studies also report that financial incentives alone do not motivate individuals to act or affect their attitudes [26
]. Lynne and Rola [26
] reported that financial incentives were not statistically significant predictors of conservation behavior but higher-level cognitive values such as “comfortable life”. Arjuran et al.
], in their work around the Tiger Reserve, also led them to conclude that “providing benefits has not changed the underlying attitudes of the communities” because the magnitude of the incentives did not improve the livelihoods of the poor households. In some cases, researchers have found positive individual attitudes toward the park and wildlife and negative attitudes toward the park personnel [28
]. The two question whether incentives affect behaviors or attitudes can best be answered by synthesizing contextual factors and understanding human behavior within a broader framework of community-conservation feedbacks [28
] rather than simple cause-effect relations such as: incentives translate to positive attitudes [29
The paper uses a survey to examine whether incentives motivate people to support and consequently participate in community conservation programs that seek to conserve wildlife in five communal conservancies in Namibia. At present, a limited number of studies have systematically tested the relationship between incentives and individual support for community conservation. This paper uses logistic regression to test key factors that affect individual support for CBNRM using data from five communal conservancies in Namibia. Additionally, the paper assesses whether support for CBNRM varies by location, gender, age, and general participation in conservancy-related activities. Based on the results, the paper seeks to contribute toward understanding factors that determine whether or not an individual supports local conservation initiatives.
The rest of the paper is as follows: Section 1
discusses pertinent literature. Section 2
describes the methods, study site, and the statistical methods used for analyzing the data. Section 3
presents the results and discussion. Section 4
provides the research conclusions.
1.1. The Development of CBNRM in Southern Africa
In southern Africa, CBNRM emerged out of local experimentation with wildlife policies. The results of such local experiments were various community-based conservation initiatives such as CAMPFIRE (Zimbabwe), ADMADE (Zambia), CBO/Trust (Botswana), Chuma Chetu (Mozambique), and Communal Conservancies (Namibia). These programs were characterized by the following: (a) moving away from the state to “local society,” with possibilities of transferring all management and allocation decisions to these localities or partial rights (co-management) [31
], (b) embracing sustainable use in order to allow communities to benefit from natural resources, and (c) allowing markets to influence people choices and land use options by removing subsidies that distort natural resources values [32
] (especially in marginal rural landscapes where local communities preferred agriculture over natural resources).
1.2. The Development of CBNRM in Namibia
Namibia’s Community Based Natural Resources Management program was developed through collaboration between traditional leaders and local NGOs [33
]. The first communal conservancy to be registered was Torra Conservancy in 1998 following the pilot project in the northwestern region (Kunene) of Namibia that trained local game scouts to patrol community areas to deter poachers [34
]. This pilot project was followed by similar projects across the country and fifty communal conservancies were established between 2000 and 2007.
Communal conservancies are legal entities with clearly defined boundaries, roles, and membership that allow them to derive conservation benefits [35
]. Each conservancy has clearly defined boundaries, which specify the wildlife management areas for a given community. In addition, the community is required to adopt a constitution that clearly specifies the role of its members and elected conservancy committee. The elected members will then manage wildlife and tourism revenue on behalf of the communities.
Namibia’s CBNRM program is guided by the following principles: (a) incentivizing farmers through meat shares from safari hunting, cash dividends from joint venture agreements between communities and professional hunters; (b) providing communal projects such as schools, clinics, and boreholes; (c) employment and training as conservancy guards, lodge staff, tour guides and professional hunters; and (d) compensating farmers for livestock and crop losses.
While CBNRM is a preferred approach for engaging communities in the management of natural resources, it has implementation and equity challenges. Hill noted that the expansion of CBNRM into remote areas of Africa did not provide communities with opportunities to participate in their affairs but provide central state with increased opportunities to exert central control [36
]. In addition Blaikie’s prominent critique also notes the absence of community voices, lack of monitoring and evidence of impact of most CBNRM initiatives [37
]. Similarly, local level evidence also suggests that CBNRM initiatives are prone to local elite capture and can be hijacked for partisan political goals [38
]. The efficacy of CBNRM not only lies in aligning the incentives and costs but also ensuring that governance structures are set up in ways that ensure these incentives are realized at the community level.
Whilst the findings of this study could be used to test the current incentive based conservation programs, their generalizability is limited due to the research design and sampling approach. In particular, the sample is not truly random but convenient based on members of the household that could be located at the time of the interview. Future studies could test the same hypotheses by generating truly random samples and including control cases. In addition, some important variables have not been fully explored—for example, the composition of the household and whether the household head is male or female so that we can understand how the CBNRM benefits are shared at household level. In addition, the data are self-reported measures and could suffer from desirability effects and also suffered for the lack of clearly quantitative measures to measure the reported indicated—at most, these are subjective measures and further research can investigate the incentive hypothesis with less subjective indicators.
The findings of this study indicate that local people that received meat, attended the AGM, and are from a particular conservancy are more likely to rate their level of satisfaction with the conservancy differently. For example, the three models show that a positive rating of the communal conservancy is associated with having received meat and attended an AGM. Communal conservancy members in Wuparo also indicated being satisfied with their conservancy compared to Kwandu (reference group).
The positive effects of meat on communal conservancies have been reported in earlier studies [47
]. As discussed in their work, Lendolvo et al.
also found that most households reported having received meat as a conservation benefit [46
]. In addition to being the most reported benefit, the meat often supplements household consumption; hence, it can be shared by members of the household compared to cash, can be easily withheld by mostly male recipients, and might never reach other members of the household. In communities where opportunities for meat distribution exist, enhanced transparency in the allocation of meat shares will enhance people’s satisfaction with the conservancy. In general, most conservancies in Namibia have not developed robust benefit sharing models [52
] and developing these guidelines can start around meat distribution. If done properly, sharing meat can enforce equity, transparency and accountability, which can, in turn, increase people’s confidence and support for their communal conservancies.
AGM attendance is also a significant predictor on individual satisfaction. Participatory processes have a transformational effect within communities and foster a greater sense of rights and ownership [53
]. Individuals that participate in governance process are more informed of the communal conservancies. Since AGMs represent a premier decision-making platform in the governance of communal conservancies where financial matters, annual plans, and strategic are presented and discussed [54
]. In addition, since participation is voluntary, there are chances that broader social and political factors could influence collective action processes in different communities.
The conservancy variable and indicated that members of the Wuparo conservancy are more likely to rate the conservancy positively compared to individuals from Kwandu. This reported effect requires further research, but qualitative data gathered during the project showed that all the five communities had governance challenges, but only Wuparo community leaders agreed to experiment with new governance structures in order to solve these challenges [56
]. The governance structures in Wuparo were decentralized from three central areas to seven in order to improve project performance and local participation. These changes were resisted by other conservancies, but it also signals some qualitative differences between Wuparo and other conservancies. The available data shows that satisfaction with the conservancy is multifaceted and broader community level factors are important in ensuring that people eventually express their support for the communal conservancies.
The findings in this paper are useful in the implementation and design of CBNRM programs. The findings show that positive incentives motivate individuals to change their attitudes toward communal conservancies. However, in doing so, there is a need to pay attention to the types of incentives, participation mechanisms and community level factors. In conclusion, individual support for conservation activities is multi-faceted and the design of incentive-led conservation approaches should avoid focusing on material incentives while negating participation and governance issues.