Introduction of Participatory Conservation in Iran: Case Study of the Rural Communities’ Perspectives in Khojir National Park

Document Type: Original Research Paper

Authors

1 Graduate School of Informatics, Kyoto University, Kyoto, 606-8501, Japan

2 Organization of Jihad-e-Agriculture of Razavi Khorasan, Mashhad, Iran

3 Department of Forestry, Faculty of Natural Resources, University of Tehran, Karaj, Iran

Abstract

Participatory conservation, as bottom-up management, is currently the most acceptable model
for management of protected areas across the world. Social context is a central issue in the sustainable
management of conservation areas. It is also crucial to introducing participatory conservation. The new
approach therefore recognizes rural communities as key partners in biodiversity management and seeks their
participation in social development and biodiversity conservation. This paper examines the opinions and
perceptions of local residents towards conservation, ecotourism, and Khojir National Park (KNP) in Iran. A
questionnaire and informal interviews were conducted in five villages in or around the park. A comparative
analysis of community participation and its barriers among the villagers were also employed. A model was
developed to study attitudes of the local people and how they affect conservation and ecotourism development.
The results revealed a moderate general knowledge about KNP and environmental issues, the lack of interaction
between local people and government authorities, eagerness to participate in the activities of KNP, general
support for the conservation cause, and important differences among the villages. Furthermore, the majority
of respondents were classified as supportive of biodiversity conservation and neutral to ecotourism development,
which may indicate a coexistent relationship. The research clearly identifies the need for devising strategies
and initiatives appropriate to specific local groups for optimizing their input in conservational issues. The
optimization process of participatory conservation in Iran should be undertaken to create a congruent, sitespecific
model with the best possible results based on world experiences.

Keywords