Effectiveness of community involvement in delivering conservation benefits to the Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal
Community-based approaches to decision-making in the management of protected areas are increasingly being implemented in many areas. However information on the outcome of these approaches for conservation is often lacking. In this study, the effectiveness of community-based approaches for conservation of biodiversity was examined in Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA) (Nepal) through a combination of ecological assessments and social surveys undertaken both within and outwith ACA. Forest basal area and tree species diversity were found to be significantly higher inside ACA than in neighbouring areas outside. The mean density of cut tree stumps was significantly lower inside ACA, associated with a decline in use of fuelwood as an energy source over the past decade. Social surveys also indicated that wild animal populations have increased inside ACA since the inception of community-based conservation. Observations of animal track counts, pellet counts and direct observations of selected species such as barking deer (Muntiacus muntjak) and Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus) indicated higher abundances within ACA. The community-based management has been successful in delivering conservation benefits in ACA, attributable to changing patterns of resource use and behaviour among local communities, increased control of local communities over their local resources, increased conservation awareness among local people resulting from environmental education, and the development and strengthening of local institutions such as Conservation Area Management Committees (CAMC). However, these positive achievements are threatened by the current political instability in Nepal.