Biodiversity conservation, ecotourism and rural liverlihoods in protected areas. Case study : the Mount Cameroon National Park
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- Master's theses (INA) 
This study was carried out in the South West Province of Cameroon, specifically in the Mount Cameroon Region which encompasses the Mount Cameroon National park and its surrounding villages. The aim of the study was to assess how ecotourism is used as a tool to conserve the rich biodiversity of this area while improving the livelihoods of the local people and fostering development in the local communities. Focus was on the activities of the Mount Cameroon Inter-communal Ecotourism Board (Mt. CEO), which is the main NGO operating in the area and responsible for all ecotourism activities in the area. A two-month fieldwork was carried out in five villages (Woteva, Bakingili, Bova 1, Bokwango and Bonakanda) around the Mount Cameroon protected area. The main stakeholders identified were the Government, Mt. CEO, the local people, and tourists. Household questionnaires and different semi structured interviews were administered to 119 households, the 5 local chiefs of the different villages, the 5 Village Ecotourism Committee (VEC) members in the different villages and to the management and staff of Mt. CEO. The livelihood framework was used to explain the socio-economic characteristics of the local people. Findings revealed that land, Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP), wildlife and water resources were the main assets of villagers. In addition, access to the above assets was limited and varied in the different villages. The creation of the protected area was identified amongst others by villagers as the main constrain to livelihoods. The coping strategy adopted to this constrain by most households was by agricultural diversification or by getting involved in multiple livelihood activities amongst which are hunting, collection of NTFP, fishing, provision of hired labour and petty trading. Field findings also revealed that, Mt. CEO is using the fortress approach of conservation and depriving local people of their user rights. This in contrast to the participatory approach to conservation encouraged by the Cameroon legislation in protected areas within community forests. Furthermore, in order to understand the role, benefits and perceptions of the different stakeholders towards conservation and ecotourism as well as conflicts between the stakeholders, the stakeholders analysis framework was used to analyse the rights, responsibilities, returns and relationship of the different stakeholders. Findings revealed that most of the local people perceived ecotourism and conservation as a positive venture but have a negative relationship with Mt. CEO and the park because they are not involved and do not benefit from these activities. This has thus, let to conflicts between local people and Mt. CEO. The main causes of conflict that threaten the biodiversity in this region are the lack of access to park resources, lack of community involvement in conservation and ecotourism management, the lack of trust, poaching, limited opportunities and poverty. The main solutions to these problems as proposed by the local people are to involve them in conservation and ecotourism activities, aid in cash and kind, as well as give them some access to resources in the park. The absence of government monitoring the activities of Mt. CEO as well as poor law enforcement is also potential threat to the biodiversity in the region. At the moment, there are no available statistics on the changes in biodiversity since ecotourism was introduced in the area in 1998. However, information gathered from the informal interviews suggests that there has been an increase in species abundance due to increase in crop destruction by animals from the park and the frequent encounters with animals formerly rarely seen. Nevertheless, this supposed success is at the expense of local peoples livelihoods.