Session 52

L4 Mixed Methods Use in Conservation Outcomes and Local Governance Assessment in Sustainable Forest Management

Globally, forests are valuable natural resources providing vital ecosystem services and associated benefits at multiple scales; social, ecological and economic benefits at local, national and global levels. In the tropics, they play a crucial role in contributing to the well-being of local communities especially forest-dependent rural households in different ways. For instance, they support current consumption, act as a safety net during periods of crisis (e.g. drought), provide regular cash income and potentially offer a pathway out of poverty for poor forest-dependent households (FAO, 2010; Angelsen and Wunder, 2003). As a result, forests have been shown to contribute a significant proportion of income to local communities in the tropics, approximately 21-28 percent of total household income (Angelsen et al., 2014; Vedeld et al., 2007), with rural poor households relying more heavily on forests for subsistence needs (e.g. fuel wood, wild foods, medicinal herbs) than wealthy households. Strong local governance is paramount in the effective management of forest resources in order to provide continuous supply of ecosystems goods and services especially to communities highly depended on forest resources. This is because strengthening local institutions and governance, as well as provision of benefits has been shown to be effective in achieving conservation objectives (Pagdee et al., 2006; Ribot, 2002). Thus, improved conservation objectives goes hand in hand with strong local governance which can be enhanced through regular assessment of forest governance at the grassroots level to identify areas of weakness, devise and implement suitable local governance responses. To assess conservation outcomes and forest governance, there is need to incorporate effective methods of research to collect quality data to facilitate sound decision making. Mixed methods incorporating both qualitative and quantitative methods can be used to give quality data in the assessment forest governance and conservation outcomes. However, many studies use either of the methods (qualitative or quantitative methods which may result to lack of sufficient data and or low quality data thus, hindering quality findings and sound decision making. To collect quality data in forest outcomes and governance, use of mixed methods incorporating elements of both qualitative and quantitative approaches (Creswell, 2014) is paramount. The mixed method approach allows the combination of methods (e.g. observation, interviewing, focus group discussions, use of documents and surveys) from different data sources to allow cross validation and strengthening of evidence, thus overcoming limitations of using only one method (Patton, 2002; Schoonenboom and Johnson, 2017). This proposal promotes the use of mixed methods in forest management research for improved and quality data important for sustainable forest management and will present and share experiences on the advantages of using mixed methods in assessing forest outcomes and governance at the local level.