FACTORS INFLUENCING AWARENESS OF FOREST BENEFITS AND ATTITUDES TOWARDS CONSERVATION IN KIPINI DIVISION OF TANA DELTA DISTRICT, KENYA
Many benefits can be derived from forest conservation initiatives. Yet incidences of forest destruction by local communities are very common. This study examined the awareness of forest benefits and attitudes of households towards conservation of forests. The Zero Truncated Poisson model was used to assess the factors affecting awareness of forest benefits. Descriptive and factor analysis methods were used to assess the attitudes of local communities towards forest conservation. Data on forest use, rules and regulations of product harvesting, awareness of forest benefits, attitudes on forest conservation and household socio-economic characteristics was collected from 150 households in Kipini Division of Tana Delta District, Kenya. A pre-tested questionnaire was administered to each of the households through personal interviews. The division had three types of forest management regimes i.e. Kenya Forest Service (KFS), community and private conservancy. The results showed that households had average level of awareness of both direct and indirect forest benefits with means of 12, 11 and 9 for KFS, community and private conservancy, respectively. The model results showed that income, gender, farm size and management regimes influence awareness of forest benefits. Though education did not affect awareness of the number of forest benefits, Wald test results for education combined with income had statistically significant effect (p<0.05). Descriptive results indicated that the Likert scale mean score of the respondents was 54, 10, 56 and 34% of the respondents had scores above, on the borderline and below the Likert scale mean score respectively. Respondents with scores on the borderline and below the mean were deemed to have negative attitudes towards conservation and were grouped together. Thus only 10% of the respondents had a positive attitude. Hence it was concluded that the local community has negative attitude towards conservation of forests. Factor analysis produced five factors that accounted for 75.2% of the total explained variance. The first factor was education and knowledge of conservation which accounted for 28.7% of the total explained variance. The other factors were interaction and application of knowledge (15.7%), social and economic commitment (11.4%), personal initiative (10.8%) and consultation & goal achievement (8.4%). These results imply that forest conservation can be enhanced by creating awareness of direct and indirect benefits of conservation by use of easy to understand approaches. Formal education raises awareness of benefits of conserving the environment while the informal education can greatly change households’ attitude towards forest conservation.