ATTITUDES AND PERCEPTIONS OF THE LOCAL COMMUNITY TOWARDS YAYO COFFEE FOREST BIOSPHERE RESERVE, ILU ABBA BORA ZONE OF OROMIA NATIONAL REGIONAL STATE
Yayo Coffee Forest Biosphere Reserve is part of the Afromontane rainforest in south-western Ethiopia, and it is the center of origin for the most popular wild populations of Arabica coffee (Coffee arabica). The forest was designated as UNESCO biosphere reserve to conserve coffee genetic resources and overall biodiversity of the forest. The coffee forest is, however, threatened by different factors. The major objective of the study was to collect data on attitudes and perceptions of the community towards the biosphere reserve in general and threats to it in particular. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews held with 212 (N = 1479) household heads selected randomly from 3 of the 5 gandas (ganda, in the local Afan Oromo language, is the lowest level of administrative body below district) which are considered by UNESCO as the most important transition zone in the biosphere reserve. Data were analyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively using descriptive statistics. About 51 % of the respondents supported the establishment of the Biosphere Reserve. The respondents recognized the forest values like as home of wild coffee (100 %), source of fuel wood 99.6 %) and construction materials (95.7 %) and because of these values, 57.7 % of them agreed that the community has the responsibility toprotect the forest from threats. All the respondents were aware of the presence of large-scale development projects like Yayo coal mining industry and Yayo fertilizer factory which were legally established around the forest, Gaba Hydropower Dam, road construction and electric transmission line established legally inside the forest, and coffee plantation carried out illegally inside and around the forest (27 %) which have adverse effects on the biodiversity of the area if not properly managed. Ninety-one percent of the respondents mentioned that there were conflicts between the management bodies of the biosphere reserve and the local community over timber logging (100 %), charcoal production (45.1 %), expansion of coffee plantation, and gain of no benefits/incentives form the government (92.5 %). Understanding the main source of conflict is critical to the resolution of conflict. Understanding the perceptions of the local people as they relate to forest value and attitudes towards the reserve is a key to gaining a better understanding the central issue of the conflict between community development and nature reserve management.