Evaluating Local Benefits from Conservation in Nepal’s Annapurna Conservation Area
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Protected areas are integral to the global effort to conserve biodiversity, and, over the past two decades, protected area managers have begun to recognize that conservation objectives are next to impossible to achieve without considering the needs and concerns of local communities. Incentive-based programs (IBPs) have become a favored approach to protected area management, geared at fostering local stewardship by delivering benefits tied to conservation to local people. Effective IBPs require benefits to accrue to and be recognized by those experiencing the greatest consequences as a result of the protected area, and those likely to continue extractive activities if their livelihood needs are compromised. This research examines dispersal of IBP benefits, as perceived by local residents in Nepal’s Annapurna Conservation Area. Results reported here are based on questionnaire interviews with 188 households conducted between September and December 2004. Results indicate that local residents primarily identify benefits from social development activities, provisions for resource extraction, and economic opportunities. Overall, benefits have been dispersed equally to households in villages on and off the main tourist route, and regardless of a household’s participation in tourism. However, benefits are not effectively targeted to poorer residents, those highly dependent on natural resources, and those experiencing the most crop damage and livestock loss from protected wildlife. This article provides several suggestions for improving the delivery of conservation incentives.