This paper estimates the opportunity costs of biodiversity conservation in Kenya from the potential net returns of agricultural and livestock production, and compares them with the net returns from tourism, forestry and other conservation activities. At the national level, agricultural and livestock production in the parks, reserves and forests of Kenya could support 4.2 million Kenyans and generate gross annual revenues of $565m and net returns of $203m. These forgone net returns of $203m, some 2.8% of GDP, represent the opportunity cost to Kenya of biodiversity conservation. The current combined net revenues of $42m from wildlife tourism and forestry are quite inadequate to cover these opportunity costs to land. The government of Kenya is clearly subsidising conservation activities whose chief values are all indirect and external to Kenya, and their ability to continue doing so will be a function of growth and modernisation in the Kenyan economy. Dependency on land will increase if the economy stagnates and rural populations continue to grow, and while the government of today may not consider degazetting parks and reserves, the situation could be quite different in 25 years when rural populations have doubled yet again. In contrast, dependency on land will fall only once the economy grows and modernises and rural populations are drawn off the land and into industrial and service sectors. Given the global nature of the benefits from Kenya's conservation efforts, it is quite inappropriate that so much of the cost is born by Kenya. The present scale of subsidies should instead form the basis for international negotiations to transfer funds to meet all or part of them. At present the global environment facility (GEF) is the only operational programme through which such contributions can be channelled to meet the incremental costs of biodiversity conservation, but situations such as the one described here for Kenya were never envisaged when the GEF was designed. If the developed world expects a country like Kenya to maintain conservation estate on its behalf, then it must be prepared to contribute substantially towards these costs until such time as Kenya can afford to carry the burden itself.
Ecological Economics – Elsevier
Published: Feb 1, 1995
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