Factors that limit positive impacts of ecotourism on the local communities living around Mt. Elgon National Park
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Ecotourism has presented opportunities for spreading and maximizing socioeconomic benefits sustainably in villages, remote areas and communities living adjacent to National Parks. However, this is only possible when government policies aim to have more ecotourism activities in these areas and local people given opportunity to participate in the process. When carefully planned and operated, ecotourism sites especially, if it is village based and includes local community participation is able to provide direct benefits that might offset pressure from other less sustainable activities that make use of natural and cultural resources. There are several factors that limit the positive impacts of ecotourism to communities living adjacent to protected areas. This study was conducted in one of the communities living adjacent to Mt. Elgon National Park in Kapkwai, Kapchorwa District in Eastern Uganda. The main objective of this study was to assess the factors that limit full realization of ecotourism benefits in Mt. Elgon National Park by adjacent communities. Both qualitative and quantitative methods were used to collect data from sixty two respondents, self-administered questionnaires were administered to simple randomly selected respondents in the area, face to face interviews were used as instruments for data collection. The data was organized, coded and analyzed using SPSS to produce figures, percentages and tables. The results obtained met the two research objectives and answered the research questions that were set. For objective one, to identify and profile ecotourism activities carried out in and around Mt. Elgon National Park, the activities highly participated in according to the results are nature and community walks, birding, filming and nature photography followed by mountain climbing and hiking, camping and cottages, research and less participated in activities are swimming and rafting, caving and rock climbing, game viewing, art and craft shows. For objective two; to identify the factors that limit sharing of ecotourism benefits to the local communities, the factors were broadly categorized into three; First operational and institutional factors which include poor governance in terms of formulating and implementing policies, centralized decision making, economic leakage, lack of an efficient and transparent mechanism of equitable sharing of benefits. Secondly, structural factors such as lack of expertise in ecotourism industry, elitism or elite domination and lack of trained human resource. Thirdly, cultural factors such as inefficient capacity building structures and systems, apathy, low quality products, lack of awareness due to ignorance and knowledge deficit, lack of qualifications and no organized means of receiving socioeconomic benefits.