Over the last 20 years, governments and influential donor organizations have come to realize that the long-term integrity of protected areas in low-income nations depends critically upon the support of rural communities that live adjacent to them. Despite the recognized need for understanding the opportunity costs of conservation borne by rural communities adjacent to protected areas, there exist few quantitative analyses of the local effects of protected area establishment. Using a unique household data set from southeastern Madagascar, I estimate the opportunity costs borne by residents resulting from the establishment of the Ranomafana National Park in 1991. I conservatively estimate the present value of the opportunity costs to be $3.37 million. The costs are not distributed evenly across households around the park. The average present value of costs per household in four zones around the park ranges from $353 to 1316. These values translate into annual costs per average household of $19 to $70 over a 60-year horizon. The paper also characterizes other costs that were not amenable to empirical estimation. Relative to household incomes in the region, the opportunity costs of conservation are substantial. Relative to the national and global benefits from protecting the rain forests of Ranomafana, however, the costs are quite small and the analysis offers hope that government agencies and international donors can design conservation plans that benefit both endangered ecosystems and the welfare of local communities.
Ecological Economics – Elsevier
Published: Dec 1, 2002
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