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Citation Information

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Master of Environmental Management
Title Effects of National Development and Conservation Strategies on Rural Livelihoods Around Makokou, Gabon
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2017
URL https://dukespace.lib.duke.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/10161/14208/FinalMP_AKovach.pdf?sequence=1
Balancing development and conservation is a struggle that all countries face, but is
especially difficult in tropical, developing nations. Development activities in these nations often
rely on extractive industries to diversify the economies and increase employment, while
conservation activities aim to curb deforestation and protect biodiversity. Both activities can
positively and negatively affect rural communities that depend upon forest resources to sustain
their livelihoods. Development activities offer local employment opportunities, but can pollute
or reduce the availability of natural resources. Conservation activities can secure and sustain
customary use of natural resources, but can also restrict access to natural resources through
regulation. As extractive industries grow throughout the tropics, development and conservation
increasingly collide. It is important, therefore, to identify the approaches that most effectively
secure the objectives of each, while respecting and benefitting rural, forest-dependent
communities. This study seeks to compare and contrast the effects of development and
conservation activities on the livelihoods of rural communities in Gabon, a tropical nation
committed to balancing development with conservation, and to help guide decision-makers in
the development of socially just and effective approaches.
This study was conducted in 15 rural villages around the city of Makokou in the OgooueIvindo
province of northeastern Gabon. The primary development activities in Gabon consist of
logging and industrial agriculture, while conservation efforts are focused around national parks.
To determine the independent effect of these activities on rural communities, I classified
villages into a respective land-use category based on whether the national park (n=4), logging
(n=4), or industrial agriculture (n=3) had the greatest influence on them. I also included villages
not affected by any activity, that were dependent only on subsistence agriculture (n=4). To
assess the effect of these activities on livelihoods, I conducted a household level survey,
consisting of approximately 80 questions regarding demography, health, social capital and
cohesion, natural resource use and consumption, asset wealth, and income, as well as
perceptions towards each development and conservation activity. I surveyed approximately 9
households per village, for a total of 135 households (park households: n=35, logging
households: n=36, industrial agriculture households: n=30, subsistence households: n=34).
Survey data was analyzed using categorical data analysis in R Statistical Software.
I found that land-use activity most strongly affected household livelihoods through
income generation, the consumption and use of natural resources, and food security.
Subsistence households generated the least amount of income and had fewest employment
opportunities, followed by park, logging, and industrial agriculture households. Income was
inversely related to commercial resource exploitation, predominately bushmeat. Overall, park
households had few employment opportunities and were not able to supplement their income
with hunting, probably because hunting pressure from Makokou depleted the resource base
and because park villages have relatively small hunting territories that are limited in size by
their proximity to park borders. As a result, park villages contained the highest proportion of
food insecure households. I found that logging concessions positively affected local livelihoods
because they provide both direct employment and the opportunity to supplement income
through the commercialization of bushmeat. Logging villages had the highest level of bushmeat
exploitation, indicating that commercialization may need to be monitored to prevent
overharvesting and wildlife depletion. Industrial agriculture, on the other hand, provided
significant employment opportunities and seemed to be limiting household level natural
resource exploitation. However, industrial agriculture involves deforestation for plantation
creation, so sustainable practices must be employed to optimize land use and prevent the loss
of biodiversity. These findings highlight the importance of integrating development and
conservation activities to secure the livelihoods of rural, forest-dependent communities as well
as the long-term viability of species and ecosystems. These initiatives may be most effective if
they provide economic incentives for participation in conservation activities and involve the
creation of partnerships between local communities, government, and private industry to
manage the common natural resource base.

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