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Purpose of the study: The majority of Ethiopian are engaged in agricultural activities that contributed to natural resource degradations. Ecotourism is an alternative option while achieving the conservation goals of protected areas. This study was conducted with the objective of identifying ecotourism development opportunities as a tool for future environmental conservation and its implication to community livelihoods in Sheka Biosphere Reserve.
Methodology: using survey questionnaires, document analysis, and field observation. To that end, information was collected and analyzed from 120 household heads living around the Biosphere reserve using a structured questionnaire. In addition, focus group discussions and key informant interviews were used. Field observations were held for recording ecotourism potentials using digital camera and GPS. The data collected by the above methods were analyzed using SPSS version 21.
Main Findings: The findings revealed that Sheka Biosphere reserve is endowed with attractive landscape scenery, fauna and flora and indigenous culture of the local community, which are the existing potentials for ecotourism development in the area, whereas, the current status of ecotourism development is at the lower stage as compared to its potentials. Soil fertility reduction, market problems, and the absence of ecotourism activities were the major socio-economic problems of the local community.
Social Implications/Applications: Ecotourism development as a tool for sustainable environmental conservation and its implication can be useful for community livelihood.
Novelty/Originality of this study: This study has shown that introducing ecotourism and development of infrastructures are central strategic directions for sustainable management of the Biosphere Reserve.
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