Villagers' Participation in Conservation of Village Woodlands: A Case of Korean Villages

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"People have been in close relationship with forests in Korea. Forests are acknowledged to provide villagers with various services including prevention of natural disasters, shade, and aesthetic value among others. In general people have been allowed to access to village woodlands and thus village woodlands are considered as a public area. The most of village woodlands were established and managed by villagers. The village woodlands usually correspond to history, religion, and culture of its village as they are a part of the village. Because the village woodlands manifest the relationship between nature and human cumulated in a long time, stories of its village’s history and tradition. However, village woodlands are currently in danger of loss or degradation. The underlying cause of village woodlands’ loss are not simple. Abrupt interventions by colonial gov’t and privatization are considered as the main factors which forced the village common woodlands turn over to private hands or state. Ownership change during the Japanese colonization, Korean War, and Christian religion’s expansion are considered to have induced the loss of village commons in Korea. Recently the demand for ecosystems services of woodlands in the villages, especially in urban areas, is increasing. The increasing demand provides the basis for people’s participation in nature conservation. The authors postulated that sustainable management of village woodlands could be possible only if there is active participation of people in the decision making of woodlands management. The purpose of the study is to identify the factors that affect participation of the villagers in the conservation of village woodlands. Six villages located in Gwangyang city, Korea where maintained common woodlands are selected for case study. Residents of the six villages were interviewed face to face. We collected information on the villages and villagers’ demographics including sex, age, property, frequency of use by villagers, belief of shamanism, length of residence, ownership of village woodland. We employed the theoretical framework of social ecological systems proposed by Ostrom and applied dichotomous logit model to estimate the probability of villager’s willingness to participate in the conservation of village woodlands. The result of analysis shows that the factors increasing the villagers’ willingness to participate in conservation of village woodlands are ownership, shamanism, and frequency of woodlands use. The result of analysis also shows that factors increasing the villagers’ willing to pay for conservation of village woodlands are land ownership, belief of shamanism, and frequency of use, distance from the residence to the village woodlands. In order to increase villagers’ participation of conservation of village woodlands, the institutional arrangement of village woodlands needs to be renovated. The proposed elements of new institutional arrangement include facilitation of frequent use of village woodland and monitoring by villagers, and change of land ownership. Villagers and the government need to negotiate to make village woodlands as commons. The stories and history of village and village woodlands needs be documented and interpreted to the people, whoever visit the village woodlands."
community participation, conservation, social-ecological systems, willingness to pay