The Desa'a forest in Tigray is a national forest priority area managed by the government. Government authorities grant access to local communities as the forest is the source of income for many households. To allow the forest to provide such economic needs and ecological functions, its sustainability needs to be ensured. We studied the effect of a demand-relevant economic attribute and two policy–relevant ecological attributes to examine preference for alternative forest management mechanisms. We find positive preference for the supply of forest products and soil and water conservation. Marginal WTP is higher for the most sustainable levels, indicating households' preference to forest management mechanisms that ensure supply of forest products for longer periods and significantly reduce soil erosion and water loss. On the other hand, observed heterogeneity implies differences in preferences and tradeoffs between economic benefits (forest products) and ecological improvements (soil and water conservation). Overall, the positive preference for these important attributes emanates both from realizations of economic benefits and ecological services from the forest, suggesting the importance of incorporating such competing preferences (interests and needs) in forest management plans.
•Forest-benefits induce preference for more sustainable forest management strategies
•Mixed crop-livestock farmers are more likely to prefer soil and water conservation
•Mixed crop-livestock farmers value ecological functions of forests more
•WTP emanates from realizations of economic benefits & ecological services of forests
•Meeting economic needs & ecological sustainability is crucial for sustainable forest management
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