Current conservation debates place high emphasis on the need to integrate the views and needs of local communities in conservation processes. Understanding local community perceptions of forest management and the factors that influence these perceptions is important for designing management policies that are sensitive to their needs. However, more often than not local communities’ perceptions do not receive as much attention as they deserve.
This study investigated the perceptions of communities towards three existing forest management approaches in the Kakamega forest in Kenya and further analysed factors that influenced these perceptions. The three management approaches are: a state-led incentive-based approach, a state-led protectionist approach, and a quasi private, incentive-based-approach. Data was obtained from a random sample of 376 households living within a radius of about 10 km around the forest margin. The results showed that local communities’ perceptions were expressed through three common underlying components across the three management approaches. In order of relative importance, these components are: a) involvement in decision-making processes, b) forest extraction and other mitigation measures c) conservation incentives offered. Regression results showed that these perceptions were influenced by different factors across the three management approaches. These factors included: membership in social groups, distance from the forest, farm size, distance from market center, livestock ownership and dependency on forest for extraction. The results provide information that can be applied by forest managers to better address local communities’ needs in forest conservation.