Coupling Community Heterogeneity and Perceptions of Conservation in Rural South Africa
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Concerns about the impacts of national parks and protected areas upon local populations have generated significant interest in community conservation initiatives that attempt to include local knowledge and participation in natural resource decision-making. While there has been much interest in the institutional frameworks and livelihood impacts of community conservation, emerging research is documenting the various factors that shape local perceptions. This paper uses a case study of the Mahushe Shongwe Game Reserve in South Africa to examine the key variables shaping community perceptions of community conservation. We employ multinomial logistic regression models to understand views of the benefits and future direction of the reserve. These models are coupled with information collected from semi-structured interviews that assists in providing a detailed, and more complex, understanding of the diverse ways that community conservation is perceived by local residents. The paper demonstrates that multiple factors, particularly household history, education, and gender contribute in shaping views of the reserve. While these variables are often identified in the academic literature as important, we argue that the combination of qualitative and quantitative methods helps reveal the interplay between them in shaping perceptions of community conservation.