The local community's perceptions and attitude towards ecotourism development in Busitema Forest Reserve in Busia district
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The study aimed at Analyzing the Local Community’s Perceptions and Attitude Towards Ecotourism Development in Busitema Forest Reserve in Busia District. Specially three objectives guided this study and these were; 1). To examine the potentials of Busitema forest reserve as an ecotourism destination, 2). To assess the local residents’ perceptions and attitudes towards Ecotourism development in Busitema forest reserve and 3). To assess the requirements of transforming Busitema forest reserve into an ecotourism destination. The study involved different categories of respondents who were; local people, tourists, and the local leaders. Data was collected using questionnaires and interview guides and was then analysed using SPSS. Results revealed that the potential s of the forest reserve were tourist attractions which are baboons, monkeys, birds, hilly escarpments and activities carried out in Busitema forest reserve included bird watching, forest walks, watching wild animals and editing films from the forest. The socio-demographic characteristics that influenced the level of awareness on ecotourism were age, education. The findings also revealed that most of the respondents were less or not familiar with the concept of ecotourism which is pinned to factors such as low levels of education among the local communities, misunderstanding of the concept. Strategies highlighted to transform a forest reserve into an ecotourism destination were; advertising the forest reserve as an ecotourism destination, including all stakeholders in the management of the reserve, enhancing community sensitization on ecotourism practices, demarcating the forest boundaries to lessen conflicts, building good accommodation facilities to increase visitor stay, improving available activities, stopping bush burning, stopping deforestation, marketing the destination, planting more trees, stopping over speeding vehicles and introducing more ecotourism activities. The study therefore recommends that Forest reserve management should ensure that biodiversity resources are protected from human activities such as deforestation and poaching and as well from diseases that are likely to threaten their existence. Regular sensitization of tourists about the cultures of the local community during the briefing moment so as to prevent bad community practices such as cultural erosion should be made. Lastly local communities should be involved in all management plans to be implemented by the forest reserve management so as ensure local community ownership of the forest development agenda participation in ecotourism.