Religion and perceptions of community-based conservation in Ghana, West Africa.
Adapting community-based protected areas to local context and evaluating their success across a range of possible socio-economic and ecological outcomes depends, in part, on understanding the perceptions of local actors. This article presents results from a mixed methods study that focuses on how and why religious identity, a prominent aspect of Ghanaian culture, is related to perceptions of the performance of several Community Resource Management Areas (CREMAs). CREMAs are a form of Ghanaian protected area that emphasizes community participation and a range of socio-economic and ecological objectives. Using importance-satisfaction analysis, large-scale survey results show that respondents that identify as Christians consistently assign greater importance to CREMA outcomes than do those that identify with Traditional religions. Education and whether respondents were native to an area (both of which were correlated with religious identity) were also systematically related to perceptions of CREMA importance, with those that are educated and non-native to an area tending to assign higher importance to CREMA outcomes. Follow up focus group participants from the Avu Lagoon CREMA suggest that the patterns result from differing 'openness' to new ideas, relative dependence on natural resources, acceptance of Traditional practices associated with conservation, and a sense, for some, that ecological conditions are divinely ordained. Christianity, education and non-nativity are associated with much larger performance gaps, particularly with respect to socio-economic impacts. The article concludes with a discussion of the implications for conservation interventions and the use of perceptions in assessing protected area performance.
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