, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 841-857
Date: 07 Nov 2012

Making hard choices: balancing indigenous communities livelihood and Cross River gorilla conservation in the Lebialem–Mone Forest landscape, Cameroon

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This study evaluates the choices indigenous communities living adjacent areas of conservation interest face when the resources are under conservation consideration. These resources have been their main source of livelihood for decades, and it is often a hard decision to accept access restriction to what has previously been a common pool resource. Using the proposed Tofalla Hill Wildlife Sanctuary (THWS) in Southwest Cameroon, we evaluate in what ways the conservation of the critically endangered Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli) has affected local livelihood and vice versa. Data for this study were collected through questionnaires, interviews, focus group discussions and field observations. Descriptive and inferential statistical methods were used to analyse and explain quantitative data while content analysis was used to analysed qualitative data. The results revealed that strong ancestral and cultural attachment of indigenous communities to forest and forest resources makes it difficult for them to welcome activities that will restrict access to forest resources. Further analysis also shows that forest-dependent activities had an added value to local livelihood when combine with off forest activities. The added value that off forest activities contribute to local livelihood presents an opportunity for conservationists to design innovative solutions that balance conservation objectives and the livelihood aspiration of the communities. This could be a reasonable entry point to address existing negative local perception on gorilla conservation approaches in the THWS.