WIT Press

Kakamega Forest: Ecotourism And Rural Livelihoods – Linkages And Interactions For The Kakamega Forest Region, Western Kenya


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O. Kambona Ouma & C. Stadel


Increasingly, the scientific community and practitioners have focused their attention on the complexity of ecological, economic social, cultural, and political linkages between protected areas and their surrounding regions. These interactions are complex; in some aspects and cases, they may be beneficial, but very often they are also problematic. This is particularly the case for those protected areas which have been ‘carved out’ from traditional rural livelihood systems by exogeneous actors or agencies. This study will investigate the nature and extent of linkages and interactions between the protected area of Kakamega Forest Reserve and the adjacent densely populated rural regions. The paper will further examine the role of ecotourism in Kakamega Forest and pursue the question whether tourist activities could offer to the local population viable and sustainable economic options. Using structured and semi-structured questionnaires, in-depth interviews and participant observations, data was obtained from the adjacent Forest Community, top management of the Forest, operators of ecotourism facilities and services and selected respondents from the surrounding rural communities. Results indicate that with the creation of the Nature Reserve of Kakamega Forest, the management of the protected area is largely controlled by the central government through Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Forest Service without taking much into consideration the needs and livelihoods of the local population. Traditionally rural populations depended on the multiple resources of the forest as a supplementary environment for their agricultural activities. With the imposition of the Nature Reserve, these alternative resource options of