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Beliefs about the Potential Impacts of Exploiting Non-Timber Forest Products Predict Voluntary Participation in Monitoring

Dantas Brites, Alice, Morsello, Carla
Environmental management 2017 v.59 no.6 pp. 898-911
adults, behavior change, environmental impact, forests, gender, harvesting, households, monitoring, nontimber forest products, people, prediction, surveys, trade, volunteerism, Amazonia, Brazil
Harvesting and trading non-timber forest products is advocated as a win-win strategy for conservation and development, yet it can produce negative ecological and socioeconomic impacts. Hence, monitoring exploitation outcomes is essential, and participatory monitoring has been suggested to be the most suitable approach. Among possible approaches, participatory monitoring is preferred because it is likely to increase people’s awareness and beliefs regarding impacts or potential impacts, thus inducing behavioral changes, although the evidence in this regard is contradictory. We therefore evaluated whether people’s beliefs about the potential ecological and socioeconomic impacts of non-timber forest product exploitation increased their likelihood of volunteering to monitor. We studied a community of forest inhabitants in the Brazilian Amazon who harvested and traded a commercially important non-timber forest product. Two methods of data gathering were employed: (i) a survey of 166 adults (51 households) to evaluate people’s beliefs and their stated intention to engage in four different monitoring tasks and (ii) four pilot monitoring tasks to evaluate who actually participated. Based on mixed-effects regressions, the results indicated that beliefs regarding both types of impacts could predict participation in certain tasks, although gender, age and schooling were occasionally stronger predictors. On average, people had stronger beliefs about potential socioeconomic impacts than about potential ecological impacts, with the former also predicting participation in ecological data gathering. This finding reinforces the importance of monitoring both types of impacts to help achieve the win-win outcomes originally proposed by non-timber forest product trade initiatives.