In developing countries, national parks are not to be blamed for poverty, reveals study.
To explore the relationship of parks, poverty and biodiversity conservation, Lisa Naughton, a professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and colleagues began monitoring 252 families living within three miles of Kibale National Park in Uganda in 1996.
The general trend during 10 years was toward greater prosperity, as measured by access to clean drinking water, ownership of more livestock, and living under an improved roof rather than the traditional thatch.
But 10 percent of the families in the original study sold or lost their land and moved away, which indicates severe poverty, says co-author Jennifer Alix-Garcia, an assistant professor of agricultural and applied economics at UW-Madison.
Although one finds a disproportionate presence of the very poor at the park edge today, more of their very poor counterparts who lived further away were forced to sell or give up their land, Alix-Garcia says.
And that suggests that the park is unlikely to explain the increased poverty among its close neighbours.
"If you are concerned about the welfare of the people who live around parks, don't assume that it is the park that is trapping them in poverty. Instead of only looking at the park, turn around and look in the other direction. Land is becoming scarce and most public forests have been cleared or privatized. There are many other factors, it's not just the park," Naughton says.
The study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.