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1.1    Background of the Study

Conservation practices all over the world are changing from the traditional management approach with emphasis on managing natural resources in a way that ensures greater flow to all stakeholders especially local communities. The shift in emphasis is informed by the fact that the local communities are inextricably tied to their cultural resources based whether used as a source of food, medicine, fuel or for maintaining ecological balance (Bisong, 2001) Thus, Sustainable management of natural resources requires a more comprehensive approach which include strengthening the organization and technical capabilities of rural communities, as well as engendering support for sustainable resources use from larger community group (Food and Agricultural Organization, 2005).

The rapid loss of natural resources in developing countries has become a subject of increasing international and National Concern. This is reflected in the substantial increase in the interest accorded to environmental conservation by various governments, donors and conservation agencies. The level of interest in conservation as an environmental and   development problem requires practical action (Flint, 1990). the justification for community participation in natural resources conservation as viewed by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 1990 provides that human culture must be based on a respect for nature and that the present generation have a social responsibility to conserved Nature for the welfare of future generation. The view recognizes that mankind is part of nature and that all species have an inherent right to exist regardless of their materials value to humans.

In recent times, the development communities in African have moved from “top-down” approach towards more participatory “bottom up” approaches. The shift in paradigm has occurred in recognition of the fact that local cooperation, participation and management are crucial to achieving both short term development result and long-term sustainability. Along the same lines, the conservation community is beginning to appreciate the necessity of incorporating local participating in environmental conservation Efforts. (Bamberger 1986).

The development, community participation may be viewed as a process that serves as instrument of empowerment, building beneficiary capacity, increase effectiveness desire to share cost, improve efficiency in relation to project (Paul, 1987).

To maximize the chances of sustainable conservation initiatives, rural communities need to be involved in both the concept and approach. This means that participation in decision-making process and in the evaluation, monitoring and management of resources and the environment is crucial.

This inclusiveness is more likely to build a conservation ethics where people understand that their livehood depends on healthy maintenance of the environment.

Many studies have shown community participation to be one of the critical empowerment of success is irrigation, livestock, water, forestry and agriculture projects (Sharp, 1984) community participation has become therefore very important to scholars, organizations and Nations. For instance, Ajake (1998) remarked that participation has been used to justify the extension of state forest control as well as the building of local capacity and self-reliance. It has been used to justify decision imposed by external agencies as well as describe the process of developing real power and decision making.

Experience has shown that participation grows more out of practical than normative considerations. One of the most expensive forestry programmes with community participation is that operated by village forestry associations in South Korea (AHN 1978; Eckholm, 1979) and the afforestation sub-project in Nepal (World Bank, 1975). Other experiences include community conservation in Tsavo West National park, Kenya where the local communities are involved and have benefited from conservation of protected areas. A reforestation project in Senegal gained impressive results as Senegal forest service works in rural community and councils providing them with inputs, while the village councils contribute labour to plant trees. Income generated from the sale of wood was used by the council according to its own priorities (Uphoft, 1986).

The need for communities to invest in natural resources conservation and to reduce the effect of environmental degradation is indisputable in Nigeria and particularly in Akamkpa Local Government Area of Cross River State. The people in the study area are highly dependent on forest ecosystem for its diverse and abundant Natural wildlife, land, food and water resources. The importance of these resources has caused indigenous people to diverse way of managing them sustainably. But evidence has shown that the activities of the rural people are not given consideration. In research and government policies and decisions on the management of Natural resources neglects their activities in the study area. 

  1. Theoretical Framework

The following theories are considered relevant to this research.

Socio-cultural theory

Administrative Management theory

Citizen participation theory

Socio-mobilization theory

  1. Socio-Cultural Theory

The socio-cultural theory of sustainability has some underlying assumptions such as “that any location of a group of people (village, hamlet, town or city etc) is a social system with interrelated subsets or social components (such as human beings, forest, water bodies, with all their faunal compositions. That ethnical values beliefs and institutions should develop with socio-cultural systems to meet human needs.

Developing sustainable social and cultural practices to help manage natural resources is major challenge confronting socio-cultural systems. This is obvious as most socio-cultural systems over the world have come to realize the need to no longer neglect the issues of intra-generational and intergenerational equity.

The socio-cultural theory of management recognizes the participation of the social actions and their institutions in sustainable use and management of natural resources National resources management practices must be “Socially constructed” to take cognizance of community participation that relies on the ethics, values, belief and traditional institutions insuring sustainability of the environment. The socio-cultural theory does not specifically offer a pathway to sustainability of natural resources rather, the theory encourages the formation of poise-modus operandi-which could point the ways to attaining the much desired sustainable use of natural resources.

More so, since the theory emphasized the inter-relationship between human beings and the resources of their environment, it will enhance the understanding of the interaction of the main variables of the study such as community participation in land, water and forest resources conservation, as well as the people’s attitude towards the natural resources management practice.

1.2.2 Administrative Management Theory

The theory was an offshoot of classical scientific management theories of Henri Fayol, et al. The theory describes efforts to define the universal functions of managers of resources and principles that contribute to good management practice. It concentrates on issues of formal structural principles, determination of objectives, group activities, delegation of authority responsibility and establishment of formal relations amongst works. According to the theory, all mangers perform five management function such as plan, organize, command, coordinate and control.

The emphasis of this theory is the determination of objectives which is recognized as a primary role of any community, organization, institution and association. This is because such determination will facilitate the consideration of organizational and managerial priorities, which a community can adopt especially in key areas, roles and activities.

Furthermore, the theory recognizes division of labour as the basis of efficiency. This means that emphasis should be placed on the most effective management grouping of specialist functions in natural resources management. The principles of division of labour imply that where necessary the whole set of job specifications, formulate blueprints, standing operation procedures including large number of statements that specify the conditions under which the activity will be performed, have to be issued by management.

The administrative theory has been applied in several studies (Silas, 2007: Iheijiamaizu, 1996). It is relevant to this study of natural resources management, particularly in the use of hierarchy principles of grouping or division of labour, specification as well as delegation of responsibilities for effective implementation and management of the various resource considered by the study. This theory calls for holistic approach to natural resources management by ensuring that all stakeholders of a particular environment (such as traditional people, timber dealers, non-timber products extractors, women, children, government and all its agents, among others) are made to be conscientiously involved in the effective implementation of management strategies or programmes.

This theory emphasized the principle of balance, stability and flexibility this suggest that the communities where the management activities are carried out would experience development in proportion to its contribution to the overall success of the objectives of resources management. The government, non governmental organizations (NGOs) and communities who are stakeholder of environmental resources should ensure that authority and responsibilities should be shared amongst them. This will enhance understanding of the interrelationship of the components on natural resources management options.

1.2.3 Citizen Participation theory

        Citizen participation theory was propounded by Kreitlow in 1960. The theory stipulates that the local people should take part in the planning, execution, utilization and assessment of social amenities or facilities designed to improve their welfare. This theory is deeply rooted in the very concept of community which enjoins that whatever is done to improve the welfare of a people must Endeavour to elicit the enthusiasm and participation of such a people.

        The theory of citizen’s participation emphasized on greater equity and democracy and ownership of and responsiveness towards community projects. It also describes the act of allowing individual citizens and groups within a community to take part in the issues that affect their community.

        Citizen participation emphasizes the initiative of the people as a mean of stimulating the active participation of all citizens in the work of community development. This implies that the stimulus needed for the success of environmental conservation projects has to come both from the people themselves and from government authorities or donor agencies.

        It is the development of democratic participation within the community that enables the people to appreciate the spirit of self-help in the execution of their programmes.

        Citizen participation creates faith in common understanding it enhances the possibility of success in the execution of projects designed for better living in communities. This theory is most relevant since it gives the people greater opportunities to be included in decision making, planning and implementation of decisions on management of natural resources available in their communities.

  1. Social Mobilization Theory

The theory of social mobilization was postulated by Oduaran in 1989. It involves the pooling of resources for an effective operation. Oduaran (1989) postulated that mobilization primarily consists of movement of drives or campaigns specifically designed to activate the people into accelerated process of change. According to Akin Pele (1988), mobilization is an essential Ingredient in the conception and implementation of any programmes tailored to development.

        The theory of mobilization in its literal Usage has a military connotation. An army, for example, has to mobilize for a military campaign. This entails the mustering and coordinating of all the resources that can ensure success of the operations with a view to getting them combat ready.

        The implication of the theory of mobilization for participation in environmental conservation development is that the involvement of the people themselves in the planning and execution of any enterprise affecting them, whatever size and scope, should be sought. This is necessary because in any such enterprise whether it involves a mass campaign or a small-scale programme. Opportunities must be provided for the people themselves to learn. Social mobilization cannot succeed with mere symbols or slogans. It must involve structural changes in the pattern of life of the people. It’s success cannot be measured by any amount of sentiments put into it, rather social mobilization has to be measured in terms of the actual activities it may have generated towards improving the welfare of citizens.

1.3    Statement of the Problem

Rapid degradation of natural resources globally, nationally and locally has continued to be a subject of concern and uncertainty among scholars. For instance, the rate of forest destruction has accelerated, significantly since the turn of the century. This is most critical in the tropics where over 2.5 billion people depend on forest resources for a variety of services (Park 1992; Sharma, 1992; Tyani, 2007).

Cunningham and Cunningham (2004) report that an estimated 12.5 million Km of tropical forest lands were covered with closed canopy forest a century ago and 9.2million ha or 0.6 percent of the remaining forest is cleared each year. However the rate of forest lost at the global level is not significantly different from the current trend in Nigeria and Cross River State. Nwoboshi (1987) reported that forest clearance in Nigeria is put at an average of 400,000 ha per annum, while afforestation has only 32,000 ha annually.

The cumulative effect of these is that the country has lost 50 million of forest in less than 100 years. Ajake (2008) observed in Cross River State that between 2000-2005, about 20,000ha of reserved areas were converted to agricultural plantation. Natural resources conservation may be facilitated by the application of the existing knowledge of rural communities on the sustainable use and management of forest, wildlife and water resources. This knowledge can be supplemented by research initiative to fill crucial gaps in understanding the system linkages.

In recent decades it has been recognized that conservation regimes have failed to manage resources in a sustainable way because of their rigidity and have deprived local communities of the motivation to use and manage resources in a sustainable way. This may be attributed to the non-recognition and participation of indigenous communities whose livelihood depends on such resources and are the custodian of the natural landscapes.

1.4    Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to determine the extent of community participation in environmental conservation in Akamkpa local Government Area. Specifically this study is undertaken to:

1.     Examine the extent of community participation in the conservation of forest and wildlife resources.

2.     Investigate the level of community participation in land resources conservation.

3.     Determine the extent to which the community participates in water resources conservation.

1.5    Research Questions

          In line with the purpose of this study, the following questions were raised to guide the investigation.

1.     To what extent do members of the community participate in forest resources conservation?

2.     To what extent do members of Akamkpa Community Participate in wildlife conservation?

3.     To what extent do members of the community in Akamkpa participate in land resources conservation?

4.     To what extent do members of Akamkpa community participate in water resources conservation?

1.6    Statement of Hypotheses

        The following Hypotheses were formulated to further the study:

1.     The level of participation does not significantly influence forest resources conservation.

2.     Communities involvement does not significantly influence wildlife conservation.

3.     There is no significant influence of communities’ participation on land resources conservation.

1.7    Significance of the Study

          The study will be beneficial to

1.      Government

The findings of this study will assist government to evolve an integrated management policy, where all stakeholders will be involved in the planning and management, of protected area and coordinate conservation activities.

2.      Communities

To the community, this study will aid in reducing conflict by eliminating mutual suspicion and it will enhance confidence and mutual trust among stakeholders. It will also empower the local people in the community economically because, they more have access to forest resources

3.      Students

It will also educate students and the communities on the importance of conservation and sustainable management of it’s resources.

4.      Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

 To the Government both federal and state, donor agencies and non-Government Organizations (NGOs), the study will provide information that will influence policies that will ameliorate environmental problem in AKamkpa local government area and the state.

        Generally, this research will serve as a means of offering useful suggestions and recommendations to government, donor agencies and (NGOs) on strategies for effective resource management.

1.8    Delimitation of the Study

          The study is on the level of Community participation in the conservation a natural resources in Akampka local government area of Cross River State.

        The study is further delimited to a sample of 250 respondents drawn from 5 communities in the local government. Individuals were relied upon for information. Findings from the sample were generalized on the population.

1.10           Definition of Terms

1.     Community: A group of people living in a particular local area, who share boundary such as common interest, values, customs and traditions.

2.     Conservation: This is an occurrence of improvement by virtue of preventing loss or Injury or other change, it is also the presentation and carefully management of the environment and of natural resources.

3.     Community participation: This is procedures whereby member of a community participate directly in decision-making about development that affect the community.       

4.     Forest Resources: These are resources and values associated with forests and range including, without limitation, timber, wildlife, recreation, botanical forest products, forge and biological diversity.

5.      Land Resources:  These are natural resources in the form of arable land.

6.      Wildlife Resources:  These are all wild birds, all wild animals, all fish found in inland fishing waters, including migratory salt-water fish all Inland game fish: all Uncultivated or undomesticated plant and animal life inhabiting or depending upon Inland fishing.

7.      Water Resources:  Water Resources are source of water that are potentially useful to humans. Uses of water include agricultural, industrial, household, recreational and environmental activities. Virtually all of these human uses require fresh water.

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