Abstract: Conservation programmes of recent decades aimed to adopt an approach that addresses biodiversity conservation goals through socio-economic tools and to better integrate the human dimension into biodiversity conservation. Yet, to analyse this complex conservation-development nexus, studying conservation perceptions of local populations are crucial to understand the dynamics and establish sound conservation-development management policies. Therefore, we aim to identify the key determinants of conservation perceptions in the Central African context in order to implement successful local and regional conservation strategies. Conservation perceptions of two national parks’ adjacent populations were examined through household surveys, adapted from the Poverty-Environment Network (PEN), in Rwanda and Republic of Congo. Outcomes were statistically analysed to identify the most important factors affecting perceptions about conservation measures. Using a nonlinear canonical correlation analysis, we found that economic factors (e.g. salary, savings, cattle size) and education positively affect onservation perceptions while ecosystem-dependent factors such as hunting and gathering other nontimber forest products have negative effects. Though, we identified a significant difference between two sites, whereby, conservation perceptions are negatively affected by bushmeat factors in Republic of Congo, and NTFP in Rwanda. In addition, our study showed that resource use and rights play a major role in communities’ perceptions and that revenue-sharing projects have a key impact on the perceptions. To ensure sound conservation and development measures, revenue-sharing schemes focusing on material benefits and alternative livelihoods may provide the best approach if participation of communities in the decision-making process is ensured. In this optic, improving education levels will raise awareness and positive perceptions of conservation measures. Development measures should target poor households as they appear to be more conservation-adverse. We conclude that in depth research on local demands for ecosystem products, relationships among stakeholders and community decision power are crucial factors to understand the complexity of the conservation-development nexus.
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