The Kenya rangelands are characterized by low income, poverty, low and unreliable rainfall and conflicts. Pastoral communities in these areas have developed land use diversification and livelihoods mechanisms to help them cope with these challenges. Ecotourism is one of the strategies these communities engage in with the aim of conserving the environment as well as generate income. However, there has been no empirical study done on issues about attitudes and perceptions of local communities, especially pastoral communities. This study was conducted in Laikipia County, which is a well-known tourism destination with facilities owned by the community and private developers. The main objective of the study was to assess the attitude and perception of local community towards ecotourism. The study used a sociological survey research design with 232 community members and 20 stakeholders. The research relied on primary and secondary data for information from which the analysis was conducted and conclusion generated. Primary data was collected through one-on-one interviews within households using structured questionnaires and focused group discussions using checklists. Quantitative data from questionnaires was analyzed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS), Ms Excel and MINITAB. Findings suggested that there was a positive attitude among pastoral communities towards ecotourism in Laikipia as supported by 73.7% of the respondents while 79.3% of them perceived it as beneficial. The study also showed that there was an association of community members and stakeholders in ecotourism, given that all the stakeholders interviewed worked with the community with 73% providing employment to locals. Results also suggested that, generally, ecotourism positively affected the livelihoods of local communities, as pointed out by 93.7% of the respondents. The main conclusion of this study is that community’s attitudes and perception towards ecotourism are positive. As awareness and education level continue to improve, more community members begin to understand the importance of ecotourism and are willing to get involved. The success of community ecotourism business depends largely on the cooperation of the different stakeholders in the industry. Ecotourism has contributed positively to some community livelihood aspects like education, infrastructure and income. The findings of this study contribute to the knowledge of community perception towards ecotourism, and will help in understanding the roles of the different stakeholders in the industry.

Background to the study
Ecotourism is responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education (Blangy & Mehta, 2006). It emerged in the late 1980s as a result of the need for sustainable forms of tourism (Kiss, 2004). It is one of the few opportunities for the poor to support and promote sustainable development (Goodwin, 2009). Community-Based Ecotourism (CBET) was introduced as a social dimension of ecotourism and it describes the role of local communities in the development and sustainability of tourism (Denman, 2001). It is also a development tool that conserves biological and cultural diversity, promotes sustainable use of biodiversity and shares benefits equitably with local communities (Fennell & Butler, 2003). The local communities are the principal stakeholders whose participation is in line with substantial control and involvement in the development and management, with the major portion of the benefits remaining with them (Kibicho, 2004; Neto, 2002).

Ecotourism was developed from tourism, which is one of the fastest growing industries and major income generating activity in Africa. It is an important source of income, employment and wealth in many countries where international tourism accounts for a larger share of foreign exchange and export earnings than any other industry in the world (Neto, 2002). It is an important tax base for governments and influences a considerable investment in infrastructure which triggers positive externalities in other sectors; making it the most promising driving force for the economic development of the less developed countries and in regions endowed with areas of natural beauty (Neto, 2002).

Tourism being an economic venture, its sustainability dependents on the state and integrity of the natural environment, especially in the African rangelands. However, tourism has negative impacts and has, in turn, contributed to pollution, contamination of societies, alienation and exclusion of communities (Tudor & Williams, 2003). It has led to depletion of natural resources, environmental degradation and undermining the local ecosystems, more so in pastoral areas. Ecotourism has led to poverty in destination areas where local community livelihood resources are contaminated while the apparent exclusion of tourism attractions deny them access to traditional assets (Sindiga, 1999).

In Kenya, tourism accounts for 12 % of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and accounts for 9%of total wage employment in the country hence a major source of government revenue (Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, 2006; the Republic of Kenya, 2007). CBET activities have emerged, mainly in the rangelands of the country which are drier regions that are traditionally inhabited by pastoral communities and are habitat for a variety of wildlife (Ramser, 2007). Despite Kenya being among world leaders in this sector, poverty and marginalization of communities still dominate major tourist destinations in the rangelands (Akama & Kieti, 2007; Sindiga, 1999).

In Laikipia County, CBET activities have been introduced with the goal of improving livelihoods and conserving the environment. This is particularly so in Community Group Ranches, which were formerly utilized for pastoral activities. However, it has emerged that some group ranches have succeeded in the business while others are still struggling (Ramser, 2007).

Statement of the Problem
Ecotourism has been introduced among pastoral communities in Laikipia County as an income generating activity, environmental conservation strategy as well as mitigating the effects of poverty among the community members. However, there has been no empirical study done on issues about attitudes and perceptions of local communities, especially pastoral communities. Literature reviews on related issues showed that ecotourism has not been beneficial to local communities. Despite this, the literature reviewed further, revealed that since local communities are often sidelined in benefits sharing and decision making (Smits, 2013), this often impacts on their attitudes and perceptions towards ecotourism development yet they are key partners and primary stakeholders in ecotourism. Most of the literature discuss the degree of participation in which the terms are informing, consulting and active participation are frequently found (Southgate, 2006). Informing is known as a one-way relationship, consultation is a two-way relationship where an opinion is sought after, and active participation acknowledges a higher level of involvement compared to consultation alone (Sustainable Tourism, 2008). Community involvement in decision-making and residents’ receipt of benefits from tourism is expected to play a vital role in ecotourism as well as preservation and conservation of biodiversity according to the researcher, socioeconomic benefits for the local communities have been very limited (Stone & Wall, 2004). As a result, this study was carried out to determine attitudes and perception towards ecotourism of pastoral communities and its effects on ecotourism success.

Research Objectives
Broad objective
The broad objective of this study was to assess the attitudes and perceptions of pastoral communities in Laikipia County Kenya towards ecotourism so as to provide information important for the success of community ecotourism business within pastoral community areas.

Specific Objectives
The specific objectives of this study were:

i. To assess the attitudes and perceptions of the pastoral communities towards ecotourism.

ii. To assess the roles of stakeholders in community ecotourism.

iii. To determine the effects of ecotourism on the livelihoods of the pastoral communities and how it provides decent work.

Research Questions
1) What are the attitudes and perception of the pastoral communities in Laikipia County towards ecotourism?

2) Who are the stakeholders, and what are their roles in ecotourism within the study area?

3) What are the effects of ecotourism on the livelihood of the pastoral community?

4) How does ecotourism provide decent work to pastoral communities?

Significance of the Study
Laikipia is currently occupied by a large number of people who have migrated from other parts of the country. Originally, the county was home to indigenous pastoral Maasai community. The large population has changed the traditional land use activity of nomadic pastoralism to a more sedentary form. About 50% of the County is under private wildlife conservation and ranches while the drier regions in the north are inhabited by the pastoralists (Mati et al., 2000). It is in these drier areas that the community owned ranches exist and have started community ecotourism enterprises (Harrison, 2001; Southgate, 2006). In Kenya, group ranches were established under the Land Act of 1968 with the purpose of promoting commercial ranching while conserving traditional land uses and the rangeland resources (Lenaola et al., 1996).

However, from the 1970s, most group ranches underwent sub-division as a result of demands for individual ownership such that communal holdings were disrupted (Rutten, 2002). By conducting an assessment of attitudes and perception of local people towards ecotourism, the study findings will develop a databank that forms a reference point for policy makers, stakeholders in the tourism industry and local community-based groups seeking to develop similar projects. By identifying the non-community stakeholders and assessing the ability of ecotourism to provide decent work to the locals, the findings of this study point out the viability of CBET as a resource management strategy in marginalized and fragile areas in the rangelands. The findings of this study also provide information for integrated conservation and CBET as an avenue for local community involvement in the tourism sector (Njogu, 2004; Sindiga, 1999).

Scope and Limitations of the study
The study was carried out in Laikipia County, which is one of the tourism hotspots in the country. It is also one of the areas where ecotourism within community ranches has been established with the aim of benefiting the community and utilizing resources. The study focused on pastoral communities in Laikipia County who take part in the ecotourism to assess attitudes and perceptions towards ecotourism, and on the non-community stakeholders in ecotourism to assess their roles. The limitations of this study ware language barrier and low literacy levels which required a face-to-face questionnaires administration. The study area was also generally remote, desolate, and arid, characterized by a poor road network, thus difficult to access most parts of the region. However, to ease the process, services of guides and research assistants familiar with the terrain and understand the local language was engaged.

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