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Applied Environmental Education & Communication


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Conservation Education and the Attitudes of Local Communities Living Adjacent to Mt. Elgon National Park, Uganda
Joseph C. Oonyu
a a

Department of Science and Technical Education, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda Version of record first published: 09 Dec 2009

To cite this article: Joseph C. Oonyu (2009): Conservation Education and the Attitudes of Local Communities Living Adjacent to Mt. Elgon National Park, Uganda, Applied Environmental Education & Communication, 8:3-4, 153-164 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15330150903269258

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Applied Environmental Education and Communication, 8:153164, 2009 Copyright Taylor & Francis Group, LLC ISSN: 1533-015X print / 1533-0389 online DOI: 10.1080/15330150903269258

Conservation Education and the Attitudes of Local Communities Living Adjacent to Mt. Elgon National Park, Uganda
Joseph C. Oonyu, Department of Science and Technical Education, Makerere
University, Kampala, Uganda
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A study of attitudes of 328 people living around Mt. Elgon National Park showed that more than three-quarters had favorable attitudes toward the conservation of the Parks forest and wildlife resources. They also had favorable attitudes toward the conservation education efforts of various agencies that operated in the area, particularly those of Mt. Elgon Conservation and Development Project and the Mt. Elgon Regional Ecosystem Conservation Program. Peoples attitudes varied form one community to another, and were inuenced by perceived benets of conservation to local people, exposure to conservation education, conicts over the use of the Parks resources and other socioeconomic factors. However, it was concluded that the present positive attitudes of local communities could change if the pressure from the rapidly expanding human and livestock population continues unabated, and if conservation education is not intensied. A multipronged approach involving education, conict resolution, law enforcement, and measures to reduce the rate of population increase in adjacent areas is necessary in order to ensure the integrity of the Park.

INTRODUCTION
Mt. Elgon National Park (MENP)is one of the six forest national parks recently established in Uganda. It was established following the growing realization that the ecologically important Mt. Elgon ecosystem was being destroyed by encroachment from the densely populated huAddress correspondence to Joseph C. Oonyu, Department of Science and Technical Education (DOSATE), Makere University, P .O. Box 7062, Kampala, Uganda. E-mail: joonyu@educ.mak.ac.ug

man settlements in adjacent areas. Encroachment reached a peak in the early 1980s when approximately 25,000 ha of the mainly Tropical High Forest was destroyed for farmland, timber, and other forest products (NEMA, 1996, 1997, 2005). Nearly 150 forest bird species and many rare and endemic plant and animal species have been recorded in the Mt. Elgon area (Howard, 1991, 1995; Reed & Clokie, 2000; UWA, 1998, 2000). Overall, 37 faunal species in the Mt. Elgon area are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN; 1995) as globally threatened, of which nine are endemic, making the Park a priority area for international conservation

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efforts. Mt. Elgon is also an important catchment area supplying water to the River Nile and a number of lakes in Uganda, which are essential to millions of people in East Africa, Sudan, and Egypt. The conservation of the Mt. Elgon ecosystem is therefore very critical in order to ensure sustainable development for millions of people in Africa. The need to establish Mt. Elgon National Park in 1993 was supported by the international conservation agencies and the donor community (UWA, 1998, 2000). Consequently, it became necessary to evict families staying within the Park in order to ensure the threat to biodiversity was halted. Many families were evicted from the previously encroached areas, often using force that was considered by the local people as excessive, leading to antagonism and negative attitudes on the part of local communities toward the Park and its natural resources (Oonyu, 2001). The situation was exacerbated by increased restrictions on peoples access to forest and wildlife resources, and to the culturally important sites. It was, however, soon realized that despite the change in status from a forest reserve to a national park, the local communities in adjacent areas continued to violate park regulations by poaching, grazing domestic animals within the Park, illegal settlements, and destruction of Mt. Elgon forest. Consequently, the IUCN-supported Mt. Elgon Conservation and Development Project (MECDP) was initiated in 1988 to ensure the conservation of the Mt. Elgon ecosystem and to develop a sustainable land-use strategy for adjacent areas in order to reduce pressure for land and other resources in the Park. One of its major objectives was to educate the local people on the importance of conserving forest and wildlife resources of MENP. It also promoted soil conservation, agro-forestry, and the use of energy-saving stoves. In 1994, the Uganda Wildlife Authority-Forests Absorbing Carbon Dioxide Emissions Project (UWA-FACE) was started to rehabilitate the degraded parts of the forest within the Mt. Elgon National Park. At the end of the UWA-FACE Project, another transboundary project known as the Mt. Elgon

Regional Ecosystem Conservation Programme (MERECP) was started in 2003 with the support of the Norwegian Agency for International Development and IUCN with the goal of promoting biodiversity, ecological functions, and intrinsic values of the ecosystem (Vedeld et al., 2005; UWA, 2000; MERECP, 2006). This program has an education component. An important underlying assumption of the education programs of each of these projects is that the Mt. Elgon National Park authorities would be able to raise awareness and encourage the development of positive attitudes toward the Park and its natural resources. Research suggests that positive attitudes of local people living around protected areas (PAs) are signicant in initiating appropriate action to solve conservation problems (e.g., Ineld, 1988; Ite, 1996; Mkanda & Munthali, 1994; Oonyu, 2001). One of the key factors that inuence peoples attitudes toward conservation of PAs is the value they attach to the resources (Akama et al., 1995; Docherty, 1993; UNESCO, 1997; Turyaho, 1999; Turhayo & Ineld, 1993). Other factors include peoples levels of awareness, their relations with the protected area employees, and the services and benets that they receive from the protected area. Negative attitudes are often associated with a lack of public participation in the management of PAs (Newmark & Leonard, 1991; Newmark et al., 1993; Turyaho & Ineld, 1993). In such situations, the perceived restrictions on resource-use tend to outweigh the benets of conservation, and conicts arise between local inhabitants and the eld staff. Because the attitude of local communities living adjacent to a protected area is an important indicator of their willingness to participate in the conservation of its resources, monitoring the attitudes of local resource users would, therefore, help in improving the management of these areas. The managers would be able to put in place strategies that promote peoples involvement in conservation through the development of positive attitudes. This article presents the results of a study conducted among the local communities living

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around MENP to assess their attitudes toward the Parks resources and the conservation efforts that have so far been implemented. The study sought information on: (1) the attitudes of local communities living around the Park toward the conservation of forest and wildlife resources of MENP, (2) the benets they obtain from the Park, (3) their attitudes toward conservation education programs, and (4) suggestions for improving the effectiveness of these programs.

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METHODS
The Study Area (Fig. 1)
MENP has a variety of vegetation types depending on altitude and aspect (Langdale & Brown, 1960). At an altitude of less than 2,400 m, moist tropical mixed forests with tree species such as Olea welwitschii and Khaya grandifolia are common. Between 2,500 and 3,000 m is the bamboo and low canopy montane forest. Above 3,000 m, the vegetation consists mainly of grassland, heather, and moorland (Langdale-Brown et al., 1964). MENP is bordered by 55 parishes inhabited by about 35,000 families in Mbale district, and 5,000 in Kapchorwa district (IUCN, 1990). Most of these people are small-scale farmers with an average farm size of 13 hectares per family. Livestock farming is an important activity in Kapchorwa district.

and two research assistants, a pretested questionnaire was administered between December 2003 and June 2004 in Bushiyi Parish. The rst part of the questionnaire sought information on their background, the benets local people derive from the Park and its resources, and their attitudes toward the Park. The second part sought information on respondents attitudes toward conservation education programs, the perceived benets of these programs, and suggestions for promoting their effectiveness. Questions were made short, clear, and simple as recommended by Le Compte and Preissle (1993). Those respondents who could neither read nor write were orally interviewed and the responses recorded by the research assistants. Data from the questionnaires were analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) Version 11.0. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize the property of the data set, while inferential statistics were computed using the Chi-square test ( 2 ).

Focus Group Discussions


The limitations of questionnaire surveys such as its inability to obtain information in an interactive manner (e.g., Gall et al., 1996) led to the organization of local people into focus groups, one in each parish. Focus group discussions that were conducted from July to September 2004 were aimed at checking and expanding on insights gained from the questionnaire surveys.

Data Collection
A Survey of Attitudes of Local People Toward the Park and Its Natural Resources
A total of 348 household heads from eight randomly selected parishes adjacent to MENP in Mbale and Kapchorwa districts were involved in this study. With the assistance of local leaders

RESULTS
The Benets Local People Derive From Mt. Elgon National Park
Data on the benets local communities derive from Mt. Elgon National Park (Table 1) have shown that local communities were dependent

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Fig. 1.

A map showing the location of the study areas.

on forest and wildlife resources for their livelihood. The main benet of the Park to them was the provision of these resources. These responses varied in the different parishes. In all the parishes except Buwundu and Mutshet, more than half the local people reported that the Park benets them and the greatest benet was forest and wildlife resources (direct benets) (Table 1). Other benets included indirect value benets such as

rain formation and soil erosion control. A few people mentioned employment as another indirect benet. Differences in the responses of local people in the various parishes indicated that the use of natural resources varied from one parish to another. The negative attitudes in Benet and Buwundu parishes were attributed to the resource use conicts being experienced in the two parishes between the local communities and the park ofcials.

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Table 1 The benets of Mt. Elgon National Park to the local people living in adjacent parishes Yes (Positive attitude) Parish n Bubyangu Buwundu Ulukusi Bugitimwa Bumasifwa Kwoti Mutshet Benet % n % 7.6 54.1 26.9 9.8 4.1 15.9 9.1 6.1 (a) Does Mt. Elgon National Park benet you? n = 328 61 92.4 5 28 45.9 33 38 73.1 14 46 90.2 5 47 95.9 2 37 84.1 7 40 90.9 4 31 93.9 2 What is the greatest benet of MENP to you? No (Negative attitude)

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Parish

Forest and wildlife resources (Direct values)

Indirect values (e.g., rain formation, control of soil erosion)

Non-use values (e.g., cultural)

(b) Local peoples views of the greatest benet of Mt. Elgon National Park (% of respondents) Bubyangu 55.6 27.7 16.7 Buwundu 66.7 30.3 3.0 Ulukusi 55.3 44.7 0.0 Bugitimwa 55.3 44.7 0.0 Bumasifwa 61.2 30.6 8.2 Kwoti 50.0 40.0 10.0 Mutshet 46.3 46.3 7.4 Benet 58.1 41.9 0.0

The most sought after plant species in both Mbale and Kapchorwa was the bamboo (Arundina alpina). Bamboo shoots are eaten by local communities in Mbale, and provide building poles and materials for basketry in both Mbale and Kapchorwa districts. The Black and White Colobus monkey and antelopes were hunted for skins and meat, respectively. Although people valued wildlife mainly as a source of game meat and skins for traditional ceremonies, people in both Mbale and Kapchorwa districts hunted the Black and White Colobus monkeys for their skins that are used during cultural ceremonies (non-use value).

Peoples Attitudes Toward Mt. Elgon National Park


In most parishes, the local people felt that the Park was too large and that there was

still plenty of natural forest (Table 2). Using 2 test, no signicant differences (p > 0.05) were established between the responses of the local people, indicating that it was similar in most parishes. Except in Bubyangu parish, most people suggested that they should be given land in the park for agriculture and the grazing of their animals. There were differences in responses of people in the different parishes indicating that not all favored the suggestion. Although the local people felt that they should be given some land in the Park, more than half of all respondents in all the parishes except Benet and Bumasifwa did not favor the abolition of the Park (Table 2). Bumasifwa parish is one of the few parishes where there is a very rapidly expanding population and an acute shortage of land. In Benet parish, the Park authorities failed to resolve the issue of relocating the indigenous Ndorobo community that lived in what is now the national

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Table 2 Local peoples attitudes toward Mt. Elgon National Park, Uganda Positive (Opposed to the suggestion) Parish Frequency % Negative (Agree with the suggestion) Frequency %

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(a) Local peoples attitudes toward the suggestion that Mt. Elgon National Park should be excised for settlement (n = 324) Bubyangu 49 75.4 16 24.6 Buwundu 56 88.9 7 11.1 Ulukusi 41 78.8 11 21.2 Bugitimwa 43 84.3 8 15.7 Bumasifwa 38 77.6 11 22.4 Kwoti 38 86.4 6 13.6 Mutshet 36 80.0 9 20.0 Benet 23 69.7 10 30.3 (b) Local peoples attitudes toward the suggestion that Mt. Elgon National Park should be abolished (degazetted) altogether, n = 171 Bubyangu Buwundu Ulukusi Bugitimwa Bumasifwa Kwoti Mutshet Benet 18 26 23 20 29 16 11 28 27.7 41.3 44.2 40.0 59.2 36.4 25.0 84.8 47 37 29 30 20 28 33 5 72.3 58.7 55.8 60.0 40.8 63.6 75.0 15.2

park, when it was still a Forest Reserve. The Ndorobo community strongly feels that they should not be relocated from their present ancestral home. This implies that there are differences in what people consider to be the solution to the land shortage around the Park due to differences in the extent of land shortage in the different parishes. People in most of the parishes also suggested that they be allowed greater access to these resources. Differences in the responses of local people from various parishes on the access of resources varied. Restrictions on resource extraction in areas near the Park that were formerly severely degraded are probably greater than in less damaged places. Peoples opposition to the suggestion that the Park be abolished indicates that local communities value the Park and its resources, and have positive attitudes toward its conservation. Pressure for forest resources is on the rise and could change these values and attitudes.

Peoples Attitudes Toward the Conservation Programs In and Around Mt. Elgon National Park
Evaluation of attitudes of local communities and their perceived benets of the conservation programs (Fig. 2) showed that three quarters of those living within the vicinity of MENP have favorable attitudes toward the programs. Attitudes of local communities in Mbale toward the conservation education programs were signicantly different (p < 0.05) from those in Kapchorwa District. More people in Mbale (92%) supported the programs than in Kapchorwa District (76%), although the difference was small. This is because of the unresolved problem of the Ndorobo settlers in Kapchorwa district who fear an impending eviction from the Park. The major benets reported by the local people from these conservation education programs were increased environmental awareness and acquisition of conservation skills, which was reported by 4050% of the

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Table 3 Inuence of socioeconomic factors on the attitudes of local communities living around MENP toward the conservation education programs (n = 348) Whether Conservation education programs are necessary (% of respondents) Factor Category Age (Years) <20 2030 3140 4150 >50 Male Female Farmer Teacher Other None Primary Secondary Tertiary 14 58 >8 Yes 71.4 94.1 92.7 93.2 94.9 83.0 88.1 84.1 80.0 86.7 73.1 85.1 85.5 82.6 85.8 87.0 77.1 No 28.6 5.9 7.3 6.8 5.1 17.0 11.9 15.9 20.0 13.3 26.9 14.9 14.5 17.4 14.2 13.0 22.9 Statistic 2 = 6.38 df = 4 p = 0.172 2 = 4.80 df = 1 p = 0.028 2 = 7.21 df = 2 p = 0.001 2 = 6.81 df = 3 p = 0.078 2 = 6.89 df = 2 p = 0.076

Sex Occupation

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Educational background

Household size (No. of people)

people in each of the two districts. Other benets included income-generating projects and conict resolution skills.

Inuence of Social Background on Attitudes of Local Communities Toward the Conservation of Forests and Wildlife Resources
Attitudes toward conservation education programs varied with gender, occupation, educational background, and family size of the respondents (Table 3). Although age did not signicantly (p > 0.05) inuence peoples attitudes toward the ongoing conservation education programs, more of the older people (>30 years) indicated that the programs were necessary. There were also no signicant differences in the needs of females and males for conservation education programs. More females (88%) than males (83%) said the conservation education programs were necessary, perhaps because the programs have involved more females than males so far. Females were more willing to par-

ticipate in the programs than their counterpart males. Occupation signicantly inuenced the appreciation of conservation education programs of the MECDP and UWA-FACE projects (p < 0.05). For example, more farmers (84%) than teachers (80%) said the benet of the program was the involvement of the local people in conservation. The response suggests that farmers were more concerned with their participation in conservation activities in order to acquire skills to restore the agricultural lands that have been degraded by over-use and lack of terracing. Agricultural expansion into MENP still remains the single activity most actively competing against conservation measures. More than three quarters of the local people had positive attitudes toward the programs of MECDP and UWA-FACE projects. The differences in their attitudes were not statistically signicant (p > 0.05). However, respondents with higher formal education were more positive toward the education and conservation programs. Interviews with the local communities further revealed that the more educated and the younger members of the local

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Large families need more land for farming and do not support conservation very much.

Suggestions for Improving the Effectiveness of Conservation Education Programs


In order to increase the effectiveness of the conservation education programs and ensure continuity (Fig. 3), most people in Mbale and Kapchorwa suggested regular reviews of their needs, use of participatory approaches, involvement of more women, increase in incentives, and such measures as conict resolution. More people in Mbale (56%) than Kapchorwa (35%) felt there was a need to incorporate local demands for fuel wood and farmland among other needs into the programs through regular needs assessment. It was also noted that land shortage was a more serious problem in Mbale than in Kapchorwa. Although the communities in both districts felt that there was a need for use of participatory approaches to enhance the effectiveness of conservation programs, the need was higher in Kapchorwa (38%) than in Mbale (24%). These responses indicate that there is a growing awareness among local communities of the need to mobilize local resource users to participate fully in any conservation programs. In order to ensure sustainability of the programs, the majority of people in both Mbale (64%) and Kapchorwa (56%) suggested conict resolution, which would lead to more effective conservation education programs. Conict resolution is one of the major challenges facing conservation efforts in and around Mt. Elgon National Park.

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Fig. 2. Local communities attitudes and support for conservation education programs in Mt. Elgon National Park.

communities valued the park resources for their direct economic benets. It was also revealed that household size signicantly (p < 0.05) inuenced local peoples perceptions of the need for programs of the MECDP and UWA-FACE projects. Respondents with small households said the projects were necessary and advocated for the greater involvement of the people in conservation programs. This observation is due to differences in the demands for forest resources by families.

DISCUSSION
The study has revealed that local people living around MENP greatly beneted from the

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Fig. 3. Local communities suggestions for strengthening conservation education in areas adjacent to Mt. Elgon National Park and ensuring program sustainability.

Parks forest and wildlife resources, and had positive attitudes toward their conservation. The attitudes were, however, inuenced by the socioeconomic characteristics of the community. Other studies conducted on attitudes of

people living around protected areas in Africa (e.g., Docherty, 1993; Ineld, 1988; Mkanda & Munthali, 1994; Oonyu, 2001) indicate more positive attitudes were recorded among people who greatly valued and beneted from the use of the resources. This study has also shown that in MENP, the local communities greatly depend on the forest resources for their livelihood. The forest provides food, medicine, building poles, fuel wood, and timber. This dependence might have been partly responsible for the greater environmental awareness among these communities reported by Oonyu (2001), and their positive attitudes toward the conservation of the Parks resources. People who are aware and understand the implications of resource destruction on their livelihood generally have positive attitudes toward the resource (Ite, 1996; Hughes & Flintan, 2001; Howard et al., 2000; Chhetri et al., 2002; Igoe, 2002). This observation has a signicant bearing on the conservation of the Park because it indicates that local people would be willing to participate in the management and rational use of the resources. However, for resource dependence and appreciation to be translated into awareness and conservation of the resource, deliberate programs must be designed to enable the people to reect on the value of the resource, to give insights into the possible alternatives available to them, as well as to provide them with the necessary conservation strategies. The role of effective conservation education programs is therefore critical in sustaining positive attitudes and in empowering local communities to actively participate in conservation. It is evident, however, that not all communities living around MENP had positive attitudes toward the conservation programs being carried out by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. For instance, the local people in Benet Parish in Kapchorwa District had negative attitudes toward conservation programs due to the unresolved problem of the Ndorobo indigenous people who were evicted but remain in the Park. It would therefore be important for the management of the Park to integrate

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conict resolution into the overall conservation and education program. Conict resolution would require leaders of both the local community and the Park to continually clarify on the causes of conicts, negotiate and identify solutions together, and to collaborate in ensuring that the resolutions are followed through. Benet sharing should be part of the negotiations. Compromises will be necessary on both sides in order to ensure that in the long run, the ecological integrity of the Park is sustained. The Park Management Advisory Committees (PMAC) initiated earlier to perform such functions are no longer active and should be reactivated. Apart from the people in Benet Parish, local people in the remaining parishes generally had positive attitudes toward the conservation of resources of MENP. Their continued dependence on the Parks resources may create management problems. This is because as human populations expand, their increasing demands for resources will increase the conicts between MENP and the surrounding local communities. Conicts between the local communities and the Park staff would lead to negative attitudes among the communities toward conservation of the Parks resources. Clearly, local people living around Mt. Elgon National Park use forest and wildlife resources, and their attitudes inuence the use of these resources. It was also noted that younger respondents, who were often better educated, valued the Parks resources because of their direct economic benets. This nding is contrary to that of Parry and Campbell (1992) who found that peoples level of education had no effect on attitudes toward conservation of wild animals in Chobe National Park, Botswana. This difference is because the most important factor that inuenced attitudes of local communities in Chobe was problems from wild animals, whereas in MENP, local people are more concerned with expansion of their farmlands and the extraction of non-animal forest resources. From the ndings of this study, people with low or no formal educational background were generally farmers who sought to

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expand their farmlands and to have access to the forest resources. As a result, many, particularly those in the parishes with conicts, perceived the conservation programs as a threat to their activities. Ones attitude is directly related to his or her behavior. As such, good knowledge of local peoples behavior would facilitate the understanding of how they use forest and wildlife resources. This aspect is crucial in planning the management and conservation of protected areas. The conservation education efforts should be made an integral part of the management of the Park.

CONCLUSIONS
This study has provided evidence of positive attitudes of local communities toward the conservation of forest and wildlife resources in Mt. Elgon National Park, which were strongly inuenced by the perceived benets of conservation to the local communities, exposure to conservation education programs, and conicts over resource-use with the Park ofcials. The local people value Mt. Elgon Forest because it provides fuel wood, building poles, fruits, honey, bush meat, and the skin of the Black and White Colobus monkey. This continued dependence on the Parks resources by the local communities for various forest products will continue to create management problems in MENP because much of the resource extraction by the local communities is no longer sustainable due of the rapid population growth in areas around the Park. No major study in MENP that addresses the sustainability of resource extraction by local communities living around Mt. Elgon National Park has been undertaken. A number of communities living around the Park were found to have negative attitudes toward it, mainly due to the restrictions imposed on resource extraction, land shortage, and inability to effectively resolve conicts.

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These communities face a lot of pressure arising from rapidly growing populations leading to land shortage. Although the conservation education programs have been fairly effective in raising awareness among the local communities regarding the importance of conservation, they are often ill-prepared to inuence attitudes and the conservation practices of the local people. These programs should cultivate an appreciation among local people of the Park and its resources as a major theme in their plans.

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living around the Park so as to reduce the demand on the resources. Secondly, the programs must be designed to meet specic and unique needs of the different communities living adjacent to the Park and people within these communities. In this way, peoples values and attitudes toward the resources of MENP and their conservation would continue to be positive. Lastly, conict resolution should be made an integral part of these programs. The park ofcials need to be trained in conict resolution so as to ensure that there is harmony in the conservation efforts of both the local communities and the park ofcials.

RECOMMENDATIONS
Because the socioeconomic characteristics of local communities inuenced their attitudes toward forest and wildlife resources in MENP, it will be important to investigate how these factors relate to sustainable use of resources in the park. An investigation into resource use patterns of the different members of the local communities living adjacent to the Park should be undertaken. Because no major study has been conducted in MENP to address the sustainability of resource extraction by local communities, this urgently needs to be done. As a short-term measure, local community exploitation of forest resources needs to be limited to clearly designated zones so that resource use does not conict with the conservation objectives of the Park. Because negative attitudes toward the conservation of the resources of MENP stem from restricted access to resources in the Park, the principal focus of conservation education programs being carried out should be to establish permanent dialogue between the park managers and local people. These programs should address local concerns, and effectively communicate the resource management objectives and values of the Park. First, these programs need to be made part of a larger strategy to manage the population of local communities

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