Development and gorillas?
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Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park are two afromontane forests considered as extremely important biodiversity areas, with global significance, due to their population of highly endangered Mountain Gorilla. Threats to the two parks include uncontrolled exploitation of forest resources as well as fire damage and the indirect pressures of demand for land. Legal establishment through an Act of Parliament (gazettement) of the parks in 1991 caused high levels of conflict and resistance from the surrounding communities, seriously threatening the ability of the protected area authority to manage the parks. In response to these conflicts and threats, a range of ‘integrated conservation and development’ (ICD) strategies have been applied in and around Bwindi and Mgahinga. This report summarizes the findings of a study, conducted between 2001 and 2002, which aimed to test the effectiveness of these strategies in reconciling biodiversity conservation and socio-economic development interests, in particular through interventions that both improved livelihoods and resulted in increased support for biodiversity conservation, in terms of the attitudes and behaviors of local communities. Due to the transfer of a number of the key persons involved in this study to other positions, organizations and countries, the findings of the study were never published internationally. However, following support from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), momentum was re-established, the findings were updated in 2009 and written up in this report. Despite the fact that much of the data is now a little dated, the findings and conclusions remain just as, if not more, important than they were in 2002. Six ICD strategies were selected as priority research areas. Multiple use, tourism, revenue sharing and a local conservation trust fund aimed to provide communities with sustainable benefits derived from the parks; while sustainable agriculture programs and on-farm substitution aimed to reduce demand for park resources. For each of these strategies, conceptual models were developed in collaboration with the various project implementers who had designed the initiatives, in order to elucidate and define the mechanisms by which each was expected to have a combined development and conservation impact. Key research questions were developed according to the critical linkages and assumptions identified in these conceptual models. The linkages included the impact of each strategy in improving community attitudes to conservation and cooperation with park authorities, and reducing illegal resource exploitation (both in terms of a behavioral change resulting from improved attitudes, and a direct reduction in need for forest resources). Data were collected from a range of sources, including previous socio-economic and ecological research, questionnaire interviews of almost 600 households, focal group discussions targeted at key groups of people from local communities and from organisations implementing ICD, and surveys of human impact in the parks. l