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COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION IN CONSERVATION: A PATHWAY TO TOURISM DEVELOPMENT IN PROTECTED AREAS
Bola Olusola Adeleke
Department of Transport and Tourism Studies, Redeemer’s University, Redemption City, Ogun State, Nigeria
Nigeria is blessed with great tourist potentials due to the variety of culture, tradition, religion, beliefs festivals and ceremonies, wildlife and other natural and man-made attractions. Community participation is imperative to sustainable development of tourism in the protected areas.
This study examines participation of community residents in conservation of cultural resources at Sukur Kingdom through traditional methods and in wildlife resources at Yankari National Park through modern methods. A relationship exists among community cultural resource management, conservation and tourism. Good community natural resource management ensures that tourism and conservation complement each other. Attempts to address natural resource management in Africa must seek to satisfy these three concepts and encourage the sensitive blending of traditional method, modern method with sustainable tourism practice.
Key Words: Conservation, Community Participation, National Park, Tourism, and Wildlife
Nigeria falls within the tropical forest zone in the West Africa sub region. Nigeria community is heterogeneous with an estimated 250 ethnic groups and a population of about 140 million people. The Nigeria’s natural and cultural resources are unique and it provides the country with beautiful historical significance that is linked to the national identity and the pride of the country and her people.
Nigeria is endowed with abundant natural resources at different ecological zones in the country. There are eight national parks, over 36 game reserves, cultural attractions, museums and monuments, zoological and botanical gardens, conference and business tourism, sport tourism and other attractions. All these establishments are potential centres of tourism which should be developed. “National parks, game reserves and zoological gardens are sources of tourism from which huge amount of revenue are obtained in countries like Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Although tourism occupies an important position in the economy of some countries, in Africa, it is still at its infancy in Nigeria. One of the major causes of the economic crisis in Nigeria is the sole dependence on crude oil. Tourism is one of the viable options for bailing the country out of the ailing economy” (Adeyemo, 1995).
Protected areas cannot coexist in the long term with communities that are hostile to them.
Butler (1992) explained that some of the purposes of tourism development are to avoid a confrontation between tourists and community residents and to provide residents with a reasonable chance of being involved in the industry.
In recent years, the concept community participation as a tool for both conservation and tourism development has been increasingly recognized by government, business, private and community sectors. The emergence of community participation in tourism can be placed in the context of two developments: which are recent worldwide activities that promote sustainable and responsible forms of tourism and, the emergence of alternative approaches to protected area management and conservation efforts that link biodiversity conservation with local community development (Adeleke, 2004)
According to Hiwasaki (2003), community participation in tourism can be explained by four objectives:
Community residents’ participation encourages an awareness of natural and cultural resources of the community and at the same time enables the community to be proactive in promoting what it sees as unique in terms of developing an appropriate tourist strategy for the area. The successful management of a natural resource site involves sensitivity to the requirements of both the natural resources and the community of which they are a part as well the demands of either short-stay or long-stay tourists.
Geographical Indices of Yankari National Park and the Sukur Kingdom
Yankari National Park lies in the southern part of the Sudan Savanna grassland with well-developed patches of woodland. It is a region of rolling hills, mostly between 200m and 400m. Kariyo Hill is the highest point at 640m. Annual rainfall in the park is between 900mm and 1,000. The rainy season is from May to September. During the dry season the harmattan wind blows from the Sahara, often bringing dusty skies and night temperature fall as low as 120C. The hottest period falls in March and April when temperature can rise above 400C in the day.
The Park’s main entrance is at Mainamaji village, about 29km from Dindima. The Park is located within the Duguri, Pali and Gwana Districts off Alkeri Local Government Area, Bauchi State. The Local Government has a population of 208,202 people occupying land area of 7,457.78km2
Sukur Kingdom is located in the Northeastern part of Nigeria.
Tourists’ Attractions In Sukur Kingdom And Yankari National Park
The Sukur Kingdom has rich heritage and cultural resources. It provides cultural features such as Hidi’s Palace, stone walls, gates, paved ways, agricultural terraces, unique vermicular architecture, shrines, tombs, and smelting furnaces. In addition, Sukur Kingdom incorporates sacred natural areas within which the Mudumum, Farnaihi and duvdoi shrines are located. The main feature of the Sukur cultural landscape is the Hidi’s Palace located on a hill approximately 3,500 meters above sea level and dominating the villages below the terraced fields and their sacred symbols. The cultural landscape is exceptional as “a form of land use that marks a critical stage in human settlement and its relationship with its environment”, and an eloquent testimony to a strong and continuing spiritual and cultural tradition that has endured for many centuries. Hidi is a traditional title given to persons who ascend the sukur throne. The Hidi has immense powers and controls the political, social and religious affairs of Sukur society. Once enthroned, the Hidi is expected to relocate and reside in a palace which is a political and cultural complex. The Hidi is considered a priest king whose religious authority is recognized by ethnic groups in the region and far beyond. An ingenious arrangement of stone seats for the chiefs of various ethnic groups signifies the political authority that the palace once wielded. Paved ways from the north and the east within the palace complex are made of carefully selected stones, methodically arranged to facilitate climbing and minimize erosion. “The paved way exhibit the ingenuity of ancient surveyors and labourers who without modern instruments or tools tamed the steep terrain and provided access routes in a mountainous region” (Ali, 2005).
Festivals are vital components of Sukur cultural heritage. The most prominent of the festivals are Zoku and Mbur sakun. The Zoku festival is celebrated at the end of every September to drive away evil spirits from the community and to appease the gods. The Mbur sakun festival is celebrated every two years to mark the initiation of young boys into adulthood.
Shrines, tombs and altars are important features in Sukur kingdom. Shrines are located in dense forests and other inspiring places characterized by solemnity, quiet and fear which suggests the presence of something out of the ordinary. The shrines deities are said to have the power to inflict serious hardship on anybody in Sukur kingdom that does evil. Community residents also believe that calamities and misfortunes could be suddenly arrested when oracles are consulted and the wishes of deities are complied with.
Altars in Sukur kingdom are used for sacrificial purposes. Before the planting season in April and May sacrifices are offered on Mungwalai Mountain by the chief priest to the gods while blessing the fruits of the harvest. The highest sacrificial spot is Muwa Mountain which serves as the sacrificial spot for the Hidi and the entire village. Other sacrificial altars are Mulrih Mountain, Liags-Mbathavai Mountain and Tangwurah Mountain. Sacrificial animals commonly used among the Sukur are chickens, rams and sometimes bulls, depending on the financial capability of the person offering the sacrifice.
Iron smelting sites constitutes the most attractive tourists’ destination in Sukur kingdom, where tourists interested in traditional smelting have opportunity to witness smelting processes and techniques. Smelting furnace is located on agricultural terrace or at the margins of residual forests to ensure easy access to fuel. At Sukur, the fuel supply could have been a critical factor in the smelting process than the provision of ore. Smelting consumes substantial amount of wood and undue exploitation of timber can lead to wind and rain erosion which can negatively affect plants, domestic livestock production and wild habitats (Okpoko and Okonkwo, 2005).
Tourists prefer traditional foods and drinks such as riwad (millet), thiebur (maize), glan (beans), and indanburu (bambara nut) cooked in ceramics (Okpoko and Okonkwo, 2005).
Yankari has rich wildlife resources. The park is an important refuge for over 50 species of mammal including African Bush Elephant, Olive Baboon, Patas Monkey, Tantalus Monkey, Roan Antelope, Western Hartebeest, Lion, African Buffalo, Waterbuck, Bushbuck and Hippopotamus. It also has a large and diverse freshwater ecosystem around its freshwater springs and the Raji River.
According to Olekesusi (1990), there are over 350 species of bird found in the Park. Of these, 130 are resident, 50 are paleartic migrants and the rest are intra-African migrants that move locally within Nigeria. These birds include the Saddle-billed Stork, White-rumped Vulture, Guinea fowl, Grey hornbill, and the Cattle egret. Yankari is recognized as having one of the highest populations of elephants in West Africa, estimated at more than 300 in 2005.
Due to underground geothermal activity, Yankari National Park also features four warm springs. The camp is known after the most well known of these, the Wikki Spring. The Wikki warm spring is the largest spring and is about 13.0 metres wide and 1.9 metres deep. It daily flows 21,000,000 litres of clear, spring water into Gaji River. The spring has a constant temperature of 31.10 C through the year, both day and night. The Wikki warm, which has been developed into recreational tourism site, is open for swimming 24 hours a day.
Other tourist sites which include the dukkey wells consist of 139 wells with interconnected shafts representing an elaborate water storage site in the past. Also the marshall caves were discovered by P.J Marshall in 1980. This consists of 59 dwelling caves dug into sandstone escarpments. A number of animals including Lion, Warthog, Porcupines, Bats, and snakes use the caves. The shau-shau iron smelting site has about 60 standing shaft furnaces, which are believed to be the largest historical industrial complex of its time in the West Africa sub-region.
JORIND (7) 1 June, 2009. ISSN 1596 – 8308. www.transcampus.org., www.ajol.info/jorind
The museum in the park is well stocked with variety of skins, tusks, bones and fully mounted stuffed game from the park. It is educational while acting as a conservation center, displaying hunting gear and traps taken from poachers (Odunlami, 2000). Other tourists’ site include the geographical site like Kalban Hill where tourists are given complete view of the park, Kayo Hill which serves as a beautiful picnic ground for tourists, and Tolong Gorge which is a scenic gorge with associated hills.
Accommodation in Yankari consists of the executive suite which is the presidential villa. This has two annexes, one for the President and the other for the Vice President and senate President. Apart from the Presidential villa, there are Luxury suites, V.I.P chalets, Studio suites, Luxury double chalets and Students’ hostels. All these are furnished to meet the taste of different categories of tourists. The park also provides restaurant, bar, conference centre and recreational centres.
Conservation Methods in Sukur Kingdom and Yankari National Park
Conservation practice in Sukur kingdom is approached in traditional manner where local culture has greatly influenced conservation methods. The Sukur kingdom conservation strategy mainly rests on community solidarity, customary practices handed down from generation to generation and taboos.
Also many areas are conserved through sacred sanctions, taboos and cultural laws. For example, farming or cutting down trees in a certain forest will attract the wrath of the deity and the invasion of the kingdom of leopards. Deities oversee other areas meant for grazing cows. Locusts are believed to be attracted into the land when used unduly.
Conservation practice at Yankari National Park comprises of the Park management committee and boundary demarcations. The park management committee has come up with a viable conservation programme through the Community Support Zone Development Programme. The aims of this programme are to motivate the Community-Based Organisations in campaigning against anti-conservation acts, empower the community residents by employing and training jobless members of the community as rangers, mechanics, electricians, gardeners, and so on. Also the Park management committee through the Local Economic Empowerment Programme to train community residents to acquire skills in some identified areas and support positive list programmes. “The rangers are responsible for daily patrol of the park system. The rangers are also responsible for erecting gates and stopping all poaching and other illegal activities. Poaching activities are closely monitored daily by the rangers through sophisticated trucks and helicopter. The rangers also monitor illegal farming and grazing of cattle on park land” (Adeleke, 2004). The park system management committee is responsible for the general welfare of the whole park.
The rangers are continually trained and equipped with modern techniques of park management. They make arrest of offenders and sometimes hand them over to law enforcement agency. Tourists are usually guided of some safety tips while on park viewing and generally while in the Wikki Camp.
In the Wikki camp, boundaries are marked with tree lines to prevent illegal entering by villagers and poachers. These boundaries are seriously monitored by the rangers.
Conservation education is often organized through the extension officers for the community residents through the leaders of the Community Based Organisations. Also conservation education is regularly given in neighbouring secondary and primary schools. Conservation lectures are often arranged for tourists in the conference hall to intimidate them with conservation rules and regulations while in the park. The Park system in attempt to cushion the effect of restrictions of communities from the park set up a buffer zone where community residents might farm and rare cattle.
Integrating Traditional and Modern Methods in Conservation
Scholars increasingly recognize the need in protected areas to integrate modern and traditional practices in natural resources. Some researchers have stressed the need for integrating relevant aspects of indigenous and foreign techniques in solving social, cultural and economic challenges. According to Shackley (1996), in order to ensure maximum benefits for tourists and the visited alike, local people have to be involved both in strategic planning and subsequent management.
Having assessed the conservation methods employed at the two sites and their advantages and disadvantages, the goal is to integrate the methods and harness their potential for sustainable conservation and tourism development. Traditional practices alone may not provide adequate protection from the negative effects of development, such as deforestation, depletion of wildlife, dilution of culture and disruption of social life in the Sukur kingdom.
A modern approach should be integrated into sukur traditional practices. Patrol guards could be employed to work hand in hand with the age-grade associations to make arrests of illegal activities and erect boundaries. The patrol guards could cooperate with the Hidi and officers to develop regulations to guide its operational activities in line with laws and regulations while being cognizant of local laws, taboos, and sanctions.
The two sites discussed in this paper are invaluable to tourism development in Nigeria.
Community participation through modern and traditional methods brings a vital linkage of people’s participation to tourism (Adeleke and Ajayi, 2004). Sukur kingdom exemplifies the role of community participation through traditional methods in natural resource management, while Yankari’s emphasis is mainly through modern methods. Understanding the value of culture and nature as embodied in traditional customs and beliefs is a good step towards integrating traditional and modern initiatives.
The integration of traditional and method methods of conservation promises to generate sustainable natural resource management practices in Nigeria. While government agencies and private organizations are encouraged to explore and exploit the benefits of this approach, all should understand that sustainable tourism practice at protected areas require a significant commitment. Individuals, businesses and organizations must be aware that the benefits are long-term, and should not expect to reap them as soon as integrated methods are implemented. Harnessing the value inherent in this approach requires policy, legislation, long-term planning, training, and capacity building programmes that emphasise the influence of cultural factors and sustainability in Africa and how cultural factors can be integrated into modern initiatives.
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Sukur Kingdom at http:// www.sukur.info.htm