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Causes of human population growth near protected areas have been much debated. We conducted 821 interviews in 16 villages around Budongo Forest Reserve, Masindi district, Uganda, to explore the causes of human migration to protected areas and to identify differences in forest use between migrant and nonmigrant communities. We asked subjects for information about birthplace, migration, household assets, household activities, and forest use. Interview subjects were categorized as nonmigrants (born in one of the interview villages), socioeconomic migrants (chose to emigrate for economic or social reasons) from within Masindi district (i.e., local migrants) and from outside the Masindi district (i.e., regional migrants), or forced migrants (i.e., refugees or internally displaced individuals who emigrated as a result of conflict, human rights abuses, or natural disaster). Only 198 respondents were born in interview villages, indicating high rates of migration between 1998 and 2008. Migrants were drawn to Budongo Forest because they thought land was available (268 individuals) or had family in the area (161 individuals). A greater number of regional migrants settled in villages near Lake Albert than did forced and local migrants. Migration category was also associated with differences in sources of livelihood. Of forced migrants 40.5% earned wages through labor, whereas 25.5% of local and 14.5% of regional migrants engaged in wage labor. Migrant groups appeared to have different effects on the environment. Of respondents that hunted, 72.7% were regional migrants. Principal component analyses indicated households of regional migrants were more likely to be associated with deforestation. Our results revealed gaps in current models of human population growth around protected areas. By highlighting the importance of social networks and livelihood choices, our results contribute to a more nuanced understanding of causes of migration and of the environmental effects of different migrant groups.

Original publication




Journal article


Conserv Biol

Publication Date





547 - 556


Conservation of Natural Resources, Developing Countries, Emigration and Immigration, Environment, Humans, Population Dynamics, Population Growth, Socioeconomic Factors, Surveys and Questionnaires, Transients and Migrants, Uganda