Beth Kaplin, PhD
Department of Environmental Studies
The aim of this project was to determine the amount of damage caused to farms around Cyamudongo Forest by crop-raiding and livestock predating animals, and to assess local attitudes about conservation and ecotourism efforts in the park. Data were collected through interviews with members of faming households in three villages around Cyamudongo from April to July, 2007. I predicted that farmers were experiencing significant losses to crop-raiding and predation, and in turn had developed negative attitudes about nuisance animals and the park as a whole. I also predicted that support of ecotourism decreased from farmers who experienced crop-raiding or livestock predation. Finally, I predicted that farms that are located close to the border of the forest would be more at risk for crop-raiding and predation that those situated farther away. I found that farmers reported significant problems with wildlife, which resulted in high social and economic costs. Households with fields closer to the forest border reported more net damage from raiders that those far away. Livestock predation was more balanced, with a slight trend toward more losses to predation farther from the forest. Attitudes toward nuisance animals appeared to correspond with each animal's reported role as a raider or a predator. Though choice of favorite animal was not related to reported crop or livestock damage, least favorite animal was related. Attitudes toward conservation and tourism were generally positive, though there did appear to be a slight trend toward lower approval ratings as losses to raiding or predation increased. Farmers' concerns were particularly evident in comments solicited in open-ended sections of the questionnaire and in community meetings, in which many people expressed frustration with the Rwandan tourism board and local conservation officials for not having yet provided a solution to peoples' problems. People expressed the desire to work with authorities, but had concerns about their livelihoods and the timeliness of effective response.