Protected area management and wildlife protection play key roles in assuring the integrity of large areas of undisturbed habitat. Although many governmental and non-governmental organizations are performing these activities adequately, the people living in and around the protected areas often undermine protection efforts because they do not benefit from these intact and rich habitats. These local communities, which are often excluded from the benefits of their traditional natural resources are often impoverished due to their isolation from commercial opportunities and large urban centers, necessitating time intensive reliance on small scale farming, hunting and gathering by the entire family to meet their basic nutritional needs. In these rural communities basic services such as education and health centers are often lacking and community members often don’t have time or means to take advantage of them when they do exist. This lack of economic benefit and social services often puts community members in opposition to conservation and protection efforts, and threatening the long-term viability of large conservation units.
Local communities will support conservation efforts if they place a value on the integrity of their natural resources. This means that communities need to see wildlife as more than a consumable resource, protecting the living animals and environment they live in. SPAC has adopted an approache to help communities value their resources in this way.
SPAC is working with park managers in Odzala to provide communities with access and management rights to tourism concessions within the park. In partnership with the Odzala-Kokoda Foundation, SPAC is supporting two community conservation projects that will allow communities to develop ecotourism activities that will provide sustainable livelihoods from ecotourism in Odzala.
Communities developing ecotourism not only generate revenue direct employment, and secondary markets catering to visitors, but it also generates a sense of pride for the populations who often are favorably impressed that international, regional and national people would want to come visit their natural heritage, something that provides additional value to the park.