Assessing the Impacts of Conservation and Commercial Forestry on Livelihoods in Northern Republic of Congo

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"Researchers often attempt to understand the social impacts of conservation interventions in isolation of broader socioeconomic, political and institutional change. However it is important to understand the variety of forces structuring livelihood impacts, and to identify how different social groups respond and adapt to changes. This article uses a case study from northern Republic of Congo, where rural livelihoods are shaped by a combination of conservation and commercial forestry activities, to understand the differential livelihood impacts of these activities on the two principal social groups, the Aka hunter-gatherers and Kaka and Bondongo farmer-fishers. The study results indicate that livelihood change is most striking in conservation-forestry villages compared to control villages, and this change is most evident among the Aka. Although commercial forestry is the principal driver of livelihood change, the enforcement of conservation regulations reduces households' access to natural capital and alters social relations. In this context the impacts of conservation were exacerbated due to the dramatic transformation of the livelihood space into which people were either economically displaced or chose to move to. Conservation interventions in similar contexts should involve people in the project design and initiate context-specific livelihood assessment and monitoring prior to and during the intervention."
livelihoods, conservation, forestry