Enhancing natural resources management and livelihoods in Zapatera Archipelago National Park, Nicaragua : an action research study with residents of two communities in Zapatera Island
Abstract: Zapatera Island is the second largest island of Lake Cocibolca or Nicaragua and the heart of Zapatera Archipelago National Park in Nicaragua. The park was created in 1983 by the Sandinista Revolutionary Government after the seizure of land from big land owners. Today, land conflicts in the island still persist and illegal logging by mafias are rampant. Illegal hunting, fishing and other nature resource based extractive activities are the base of the livelihoods of more than 1000 inhabitants of the island. Moreover, the plundering of archaeological remains continues, despite the efforts of Nicaraguan authorities to find solutions to the problematic situation in the island. Using elements of Soft Systems Methodology, Action Research, and Participatory Rural Appraisal, the present study seeks an answer for the question: How could natural resource management and livelihoods of people in Zapatera Island be enhanced?The study found that there are considerable differences between communities, households and individuals in terms of access to different forms of capital, and that the control of the Environmental Ministry has created even more livelihood insecurity and environmental damage. At the same time, Action Research and other iterative processes created the conditions that brought some changes to the current state of affairs in the island, by promoting knowledge creation and exchange, and community empowerment. The study also helped different stakeholders to identify issues of concern regarding natural resources management. Among these, land tenure was considered the most urgent issue to be addressed. Finally, the study suggest that natural resources management in Zapatera Island can be improved by addressing the issue of poverty among local communities; and by increasing the cooperation in research between local communities, environmental authorities, practitioners, researchers and donors.
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